Pecos - 01. Cowles to Pecos

Pecos, New Mexico, US


01. Cowles to Pecos

Usual Difficulty II-IV (for normal flows)
Length 20.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 45 fpm
Max Gradient 80 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-08378500 150 - 400 cfs II-IV 9y209d18h18m 379 cfs (running)
Ideal per NM State Parks guidebook

River Description

In April 2003, the Forest Service proposed a ban on all boating in the Wild and Scenic Corridor. Three months later, the Forest Service rejected this notion based directly on comments from American Whitewater. As a result of our work, and the work of our volunteers, boating will continue to be allowed on the Pecos.

The upper Pecos reaches flow through wooded high mountain canyons; the lower reaches flow through barren tablelands with bluffs and rugged rock formations. One of the best means for visitors to enjoy this scenery is by floating down the river on a raft, kayak, or canoe.

In his description of the river, American Whitewater member, Tom Robey said, I have kayaked this section several times. It is a fast moving class III+ usually runnable in May. It is unusual for New Mexico because it is forested with clear water. It's character is more like what would be expected of a Colorado creek. They have done quite a bit of modification at the beginning of the run with wing dams to create pools for fisherman. Below Terrero there is private property and fences. I have heard of problems but my experience with landowners is that we have been very welcome and fences are directed towards fisherman.

The Environmental Assessment for the Pecos Wild and Scenic River Forest Plan Amendment and Management Plan was released in 2003, thirteen years after its Wild and Scenic designation. The proposed plan banned all boating in the Wild and Scenic Corridor with the suggestion that it "can only be done in short sections along the river during periods of high water flow, which commonly does not occur. Prohibiting floating would therefore not be expected to displace many users and it would enhance fishing within the corridor."

Tom Robey (River Runners for Wilderness) noticed the public comment period for the management plan and Tim Scofield (Adobe Whitewater Club) discovered the prohibition on boating. Enlisting Jason Robertson's help at American Whitewater they undertook a campaign during Memorial Day weekend to send in comments.

In Robertson's response for American Whitewater he wrote, "This proposal appears inconsistent with Forest Service Policy, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Management Act (WSR), the National Environmental Policies Act (NEPA), and New Mexico's navigability laws. Many of our members have had the pleasure of rafting or kayaking on the Pecos through the National Forest, and we strongly encourage the Forest Service not to prohibit the use of rafts, boats, or other conveyances to float down the river but to continue to allow the use of rafts, kayaks, and canoes on the Pecos.

It is not Forest Service policy to ban recreational boating. At present there is only one recreational boating closure on a Wild & Scenic River. That closure is on the headwaters of the Chattooga River. American Whitewater is taking legal action to rectify this decision, which was made outside of NEPA and was based on undocumented social issues related to fishing. The decision is also being reviewed concurrently by the Agency and is expected to be resolved to allow seasonal boating access. There are a handful of other limited seasonal closures on Wild and Scenic Rivers, which are based on clearly defined and researched issues related to protection of threatened or endangered species. The decision to recommend a complete ban on boating on the Pecos does not meet the Agency policy to protect recreation and traditional historic access to America's rivers and streams; nor is it warranted for any identified environmental reasons.

The complete text of AW's comments, in which we also described the state's navigability laws and standards, are available at:

American Whitewater convinced the Forest Service that the Pecos River was in fact navigable and would remain open. District Ranger, Joseph Reddan, stated "We agree with your position that the Pecos River is a navigable river and thus open to boating and floating." Reddan continued, "Therefore, we will be revising both the Environmental Assessment (EA), and the Wild and Scenic River Management Plan (W&SRMP) to not prohibit boating use."

As a result, the first item of the Decision Notice issued July 31st stated: "Revised the provision to allow floating use. The Standard now reads, 'The use of non-motorized rafts, boats, or other conveyances to float down the river is permitted. No additional facilities (put-ins, parking areas) will be constructed to facilitate floating'".

Thank you Tom Robey for looking out for the boating community!

A brief description of this reach and other NM streams can be accessed at



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-07-15 03:54:44

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Cowles putinPutin
4.0Elk Mtn Rd putin/takeoutAccess
6.8Tererro AccessAccess
9.4NM Rt 63 bridge access 1Access
10.2NM Rt 63 bridge access 2Access
12.0J Bar 4 Lane crossingAccess
13.3Forest Rd 158 crossingAccess
14.1NM Rt 63 bridge access 3Access
20.6NM Rt 63 Bridge Access 4Takeout

Rapid Descriptions

Cowles putin

Access is located off  of Forest 121 Rd. Proceed west from the intersetion of NM Rt 63 and Forest 121 Rd. The average drop from this putin to the next access is about 90 fpm.

Elk Mtn Rd putin/takeout

Access to river is located west of the interaction of intersection of NM Rt 63 and Elk Mountain Rd. Taking out at this point my avoid issues regarding landowners and a cross stream fence between this access and the one near Tererro. The average drop from this access to the next access is about 55 fpm.

Tererro Access

Access is located just to the west of the intersection of Forest 122 Rd and NM Rt 63.


Tererro General Store is located near the access.


Accessing the river at this point should avoid problems with a fence and access issue discussed in the reach's comments.


At 7.5, 8.4 and 9.1 miles are bridges, crossings, etc. that may provide access to the river.


Average drop between Tererro and downstream Rt 63 bridge is 63 fpm.

NM Rt 63 bridge access 1

Rt 63 crosses reach at this point thus providing a possible access point.

NM Rt 63 bridge access 2

Rt 63 also crosses the reach here; thus providing a possible access.


The valley within the reach flows between the two Rt 63 bridge is tightier than the part just upstream with little development.


Average drop between the two bridges is about 80 fpm.

J Bar 4 Lane crossing

Possible access.


River is located about 0.1 miles east from the Macho Creek Church. Church is located on the west side of NM Rt 63.


There are several crossings, drives, bridges in the area of the J Bar 4 Lane crossings.

Forest Rd 158 crossing

Possible access.


Turn east on Forest Rd 158 from Nm Rt 63.

NM Rt 63 bridge access 3

NM Rt 63 crosses reaach at this point provifing a possible access point.


Average drop since last upstream bridge on Rt 63 is about 58 fpm.

NM Rt 63 Bridge Access 4

Rt 63 is also called North Main St at this point.


Other possble access is located about 1 mles downstream at NM Rt. 223 bridge. Travel east on Rt 223 from the intersection with Rt 63 in Pecos area.


Average drop since upstream Rt 63 bridge is about 42 fpm.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 30 2016 (864 days ago)
From a user on the StreamTeam Message board: "We tubed the Pecos from "NM RT 63 bridge access 3"
for about 3 miles at 17cfs, late June. It was really too low but very challenging and exciting,
with some logs blocking channels. I'm experienced in white water canoeing. The website descriptions
were helpful but inaccurate regarding barbed wire fences. We crossed about 6 fences in this
stretch, any of which would have been extremely hazardous to a kayaker at higher levels."
February 2 2007 (4330 days ago)
Christopher ThomsonDetails
There is a tall and tight razor wire fence across the river at the Jacobs Fishing Camp 3 miles
upstream from Terrero. In spring 2004 a friend and I kayaked from Cowles to Santa Rosa Dam. This
was the only section of this spectacular 135-mile run closed. After a streamside confrontation with
the caretaker he agreed to drive us around the disputed section. I hear law enforcement is backing
the landowner. Is the Pecos a navigable river? How can we get this re-opened?

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