Difficulty V
Length 6 Miles
Flow Range 300 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 35.4 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 04/24/2019 5:24 pm

River Description

This is truly one of the classic runs in the west. The Taos Box is actually where the Rio Grande has fallen into one of the largest rifts on earth. The entire Taos Box is almost 100 miles long. The Upper Box refers to the 6 mile Class V run from the Chiflo Trail to the Little Arsenic Trail. There is no access at all in between these two points so make sure to bring spare paddles and rescue gear as a hike out in the middle is not an option.

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+), and
Rio Embudo (Class V+).

Rapid Descriptions


Class - IV Mile - 0
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The hike is what is rated class IV, a 350 foot descent down Chiflo Trail. The whitewater is going to be mostly pools with scattered Class III for the next 1.5 miles.

Powerline Rapid

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.5
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The first major rapid, directly under the powerlines spanning the gorge.


Class - 5.0 Mile - 2
A steep entrance drop that pushes left, into multiple sieves, in the runout. It is possible to set safety to prevent someone from getting stuffed.

Hell Hole

Class - 5.1 Mile - 2.25
A large ledge with a large undercut rock center right, and the main current pushing hard left into a mean sieve. Safety is very difficult to set.

Long Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 2.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Long and technical boulder dodging, sieves but not as bad as the previous rapids.

Pleasure Plunge

Class - IV+ Mile - 3.5
Highly fun boofs to be had in the center and right channel.

The Great Calm

Class - I Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Long stretch of placid river

Boulder Fan Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 4.5
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Long and technical boulder dodging, keep an eye out for those sieves!

Freight Train

Class - IV+ Mile - 4.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Big wave train leading into a large hole, boof hole on left side.

Big Arsenic Rapid

Class - 5.1 Mile - 5
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Sieves, mank, and steepness. Mandatory scout

Little Arsenic Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 5.5
Long and technical boulder dodging with an abundance of sieves.

Little Arsenic Rapid Junior

Class - 5.0 Mile - 5.75
Long and technical boulder dodge rapid, with the infamous "Room of Doom" seive.


Class - III Mile - 6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The takeout for Little Arsenic Trail is notoriously ambiguous. The whitewater will obviously mellow out, look for the trail on river left, takeout about a 1/4 mile after when the trail climbs up and on top of a bench and is no longer next to the river. I look for a large dead tree with the top broken off, it's probably about 40' tall, it has been dead for a while and has no bark. The hike to the rim is 750 foot up in .8 miles and will take about 45 minutes. Your only other option is to paddle 9 miles of Class I. The pain is unavoidable.


default user thumbnail
8 years ago

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!

Gage Descriptions

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

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



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Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1208102 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1212014 04/24/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1191018 08/10/05 n/a n/a