Travel & Outdoors

Navigating the Rio Grande’s Remote Lower Canyons

In this second of three installments, we follow a team of filmmakers and adventurers as they travel along the border river.

river and wall
The team made good use of an Aoudad sheep skull found on an island in the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. Ben Masters

Last month in the first of a three-part photo series, Texas Monthly introduced readers to a team of five Texans and immigrants who set out December 1 from El Paso to travel the entire 1,200-mile length of the Rio Grande via mountain bikes, horses, and canoes. Filmmaker and horse trainer Ben Masters, wildlife biologist Heather Mackey, Nat Geo Wild star Filipe DeAndrade, conservationist Jay Kleberg, and Guatemalan American river guide Austin Alvarado are exploring the area—from the wildlife to the border communities—before further construction of a wall for a feature documentary called The River and the Wall. 

After riding mountain bikes from El Paso to Presidio and then taking horses 200 miles through Big Bend Ranch State Park to Boquillas, which we covered last month, the team was ready for next phase, all by canoe. It took them two weeks in January to complete the 83-mile stretch of the Rio Grande’s Lower Canyons between Heath Canyon Ranch and Dryden Crossing. They spent another two weeks making their way toward Falcon Lake State Park. The section of the Rio Grande that runs through the Lower Canyons, which gets only about 1,300 visitors a year, is protected by the national Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; the act marks its fiftieth anniversary in 2018.



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