Springtime River Rafting

Catch the Best Water in the Early Season

The Rio Grande, the river that snakes through the bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge, offers thrill seekers the chance to ride the watercourse throughout the spring and summer – and if the snow melt is significant, sometimes into the fall.

It’s easy to be fascinated by the Rio Grande, imagining the surprise of Native Americans and subsequent settlers, first confronted with looking down from the rim of the Gorge to the river itself, 600-800 feet below. In 1968, the tectonic chasm was among the first eight rivers the US Congress designated into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System to protect the Wild Rivers area in the north and the Orilla Verde area in the south, to protect the wildlife and the opportunities to enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, and camping in the area.

The Rio Grande has two main sections for rafting near Taos; The Taos Box and Racecourse Run. The Taos Box, a dramatic, deep canyon, is famous for its technical Class IV rapids, while the Racecourse Run is a Class III stretch better suited for first-time river rafters and families.

A whitewater rafting boat passing underneath an arched bridge high above in a canyon

There are so many options for adventure on this famed river that it’s essential to take a guided tour. In the spring as snow melts, the flow of the river increases, making some stretches difficult to navigate without the experienced assistance of a rafting professional.

Group of river rafters in whitewater rapids with their paddles up in the air.

First, think about how much time you’d like to spend on the river – a full day or half day. Remember that you will be exposed to the elements and there is physical participation required on your part. Once you’ve picked your tour, be sure to familiarize yourself with the directions to your designated departure point. Chances are that you will not have cellular signal when you get down into the Gorge. A screenshot or printed copy of directions might be handy.

You’ll want to wear clothing (including footwear) that you can be comfortable in while wet, since a “refreshing” splash of water is highly likely. Grab your sunglasses and be sure to put on sunscreen before your tour – the sun is intense at our altitude and the water will be reflecting the sunlight. There is no storage on rafts, so you’ll want to leave anything valuable locked up and out of sight in your vehicle. Sunglass “leashes” and waterproof protection for phones is highly recommended.

A family smiles on a whitewater rafting trip
 ©Michael DeYoung/Far Flung Adventures

Your river guide will give you initial and continued safety instruction as they tell you about the famous features of the Rio Grande; wildlife, amazing rock features, and ancient petroglyphs all while coaching you safely down the river. Your guide, who has likely gone down the river more times than they can count, will tell you when to paddle and when to stop to best ease the raft over technical parts. There is typically some swim time in the deeper parts of the river, when you can enjoy a dip into the refreshing cool water. 

At the end of your trip, if you had a good experience, you are not obligatied to tip your guide, but it's guaranteed that you will make their day if you do! 

Don’t wait to contact one of the member Whitewater Rafting Tour providers listed below to book your spring or summer ride; they often sell out, especially on holidays or weekends. Otherwise, you might be like those ancient people that first looked down upon the river from the Rio Grande Gorge rim, with no way to cross it or tame it, let alone ride it!

Far Flung Adventures
Los Rios River Runners
New Mexico River Adventures