The one major thing you have to watch out for on this run are the sieves, they are everywhere! Some are much worse than others. Don't be fooled by the gradient. This river is the definition of pool-drop and doesn't waste any of its' gradient on easy rapids in between the big rapids. In general the rapids are long technical boulder gardens with lots of sieves. The riverbed is composed of large angular basalt rocks that have fallen from the cliffs above. Keep in mind that this is not Gore Canyon, keep the playboat at home! In fact, this run is always a good solid grade higher in difficulty that Gore at similar levels. The 3 mandatory scouts are NCO, Hell Hole, and Big Arsenic. These rapids have big drops at the entrance, and currents that push hard into sieves below. Swimming is not recommended! Fortunately there is ample opportunity to scout and portage as the cliffs are located high up on the rim, not at river level.
For many the run is defined by the takeout. You have 2 less than appealing options. You can float out on 9 miles of flat water, or take a 45 minute hike to the rim at Little Arsenic Trail. Although the Little Arsenic takeout is by far preferred, it does climb 750 feet up in .8 miles. The best camping is at the end of the takeout trail.
The reaches of the Taos Box area are...
Ute Mountain (Class II),Razors (Class III/IV),Upper Box (Class V/V+),Lower Box (Class III/IV),Pilar (Class III/IV),Otowi Bridge (Class III),Red River (Class IV),Rio Pueblo (Class V+), andRio Embudo (Class V+).
1.) It is possible to put in at Bear Crossing, the trail is steeper and you will miss the class III warm up section. I don't recommend it.
2.) NOC and Hell Hole, scout, portage left.
3.) Boulder Fan, scout left. Might be a good idea to set safety 2/3's of the way down on river left hand side by the obvious sieve. Possible to portage on the left but, hike is brutal and takes a lot of time.
4.) Big Arsenic portage right above the big boulder on the screen field. Easiest portage on the river if done correctly.
5.) Little Arsenic, ran this on river right mostly. Eddied out and portaged the tail end of the rapid as it really starts to sieve out near the end. It is possible to take out sometime after Little Arsenic on river left and follow a trail to the trailhead for the Little Arsenic / recommend take out.
6.) Wear long pants as Poison Ivy is everywhere!
300cfs to 800cfs is V-
800cfs to 1500cfs is V
Greater than 1500cfs is V+ 1500 to 2000 is generally considered the most dangerous level as the rapids are very pushy with big holes, but the sieves haven't been covered up yet. Above 2000 the holes and waves are huge, but the sieve factor becomes non-existant
This reach gets dam release water from Colorado, which uses up most of it. The river will often start running in March or April and shut off just when it starts to get to a good level. Only in big snow years will there be a lot of water in here
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Room of Doom
Little Arsenic Rapid
Hell Hole Sieve
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