Generally this is the paddle out for the Upper Box or Red River reaches. Access is very difficult for those who just want to paddle the II/III. See the descriptions of this run at SouthwestPaddler.com and at New Mexico Bureau of Land Management Rivers Page.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+).
Ran this on June 11, 2011. Gauge (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?08263500) reported about 650 cfs. There is plenty of flat water, but this is not a class II run. As a local expert noted, "there are a couple stout class 3 rapids on the stretch."
Boaters putting in at the bottom of Little Arsenic Trail will immediately encounter three class II to II+ rapids. Shortly thereafter is the La Junta rapid, visible from the Little Arsenic Campground on the gorge rim. It is hidden around a bend to the left, so be heads up. A commercial guide advised running generally river left, but while river scouting, I did not see a clear line. Due to the length and technical nature (longer than Albert Falls and more technical than The Narrows on the Racecourse stretch), I'd rate this a III+. Scouting is advised for first timers.
The second class III came about halfway through the run. You can hear the very short, but steep and powerful Garapata from a distance. The horizon line is easy to spot, and the slow pool makes for an easy scout (we scouted from river right). The riverbed constricts and drops sharply. To avoid a hole on the left and "funny" water on the right, run straight down the tongue into the rooster tail, then charge hard left to avoid the large boulder at the bottom. Plenty of flat, slow water follows in the event carnage recovery is needed.
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