Travel & Outdoors

Navigating the Rio Grande’s Remote Lower Canyons

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.


Tags: Travel, Ben Masters, Border, Border wall, Lower Canyons, Rio Grande, The River and the Wall


  • Caroline Schlenker

    Great to have adventuresome explorers navigating the Rio Grande. But just as the Rio Grande has two sides, you have two different stories and views between Texas and Mexico. There is a reason that the American side does not have the amenities along the River for the Public as the explorers observed on the Mexican side. Each person interested in the facts should go see for yourself.