Rio Grande - 06. Quartzite River Access to County Line River Access


Rio Grande, New Mexico, US

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06. Quartzite River Access to County Line River Access (Pilar or Racecourse)

Usual Difficulty III (for normal flows)
Length 4.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 12 fpm

big rock at high water


big rock at high water
Photo by curtis verploegh taken 05/15/96 @ 5000 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
RIO GRANDE BLW TAOS JUNCTION BRIDGE NEAR TAOS, NM
usgs-08276500 250 - 2500 cfs III 01h12m 172 cfs (too low)


River Description

This is the standard intermediate roadside run on the Rio Grande with a short shuttle and good access making it a favorite for all craft types. This section can be divided into two runs: Orilla Verde and Racecourse (aka Pilar).

Orilla Verde: Taos Junction Bridge to Quartzite Access

Here the Rio Grande flows for approimately 6 miles characterized by class II whitewater through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area within Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. This reach has seven campgrounds, two group shelters, boat launches, picnic tables, grills, drinking water, and restrooms offering plenty of options for a base camp when exploring the watershed. A visitor center is located in Pilar, at the intersection of NM 570 and NM 68.The reach starts at Taos Junction Bridge, the confluence of the Rio Pueblo with the Rio Grande and the take-out for the Lower Taos Box section of the Rio Grande. The easier whitewater makes this section popular for beginners or those who want a longer trip that continues down the Racecourse section.

Please observe the Pilar Quiet Zone through the village of Pilar that comes at the end of this segment.

Racecourse (aka Pilar): Quartzite Access to County Line Access

Many paddlers just start their run on the Racecourse section that has approximately 5 miles of intermediate class III whitewater at flows below 1000 cfs. The name for this segment comes from the annual Mother's Day Race.

The action starts to pick up above 1000 cfs with 2000 cfs considered a solid level. At flows above 3000 cfs, Alberts is a mandatory scout due to a large river-wide hole and the run is generally considered class IV. Depending on your craft, you may also find inadequate clearance under Glen Woody Bridge requiring a portage. At high water, everything is pretty continuous with big random holes and waves, except for Big Rocks, which washes out on the right channel. Souse can be easily avoided at any level as long as you hug the left bank. The most popular playspot is between Big Rocks and Souse, called Sleeping Beauty. It plays better river right of the stack.

Excellent description of Orilla Verde and Pilar sections representing the two segments of this reach at SouthwestPaddler.com.

Logistics: The standard take-out is at County Line River Access (the Taos County and Rio Arriba County border) at Hwy 68 mile 24.0. An intermediate access, that divides the Orilla Verde and Racecourse segments, is available at Quartzite at NM 68 mile 28.2 for a short run. For the full run continue upstream to Pilar and at NM 68 mile 28.8 turn on to NM 570 that continues up river left. You will enter the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and find several BLM Campgrounds that include Rio Bravo, Arroyo Hondo, Lone Juniper, and Petaca. At mile 6.0 on NM 570 you will reach the Taos Junction Bridge. River access on the downstream river left side of the bridge and camping on river right.

Other runs in the area:

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+).

 


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-11-04 03:15:18

Editors

Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Quartzite River AccessN/APutin Takeout Access Photo
0.2Surf or DieIIPhoto
0.8Saddle RockII+Photo
1.0Albert FallsIII+Photo
1.1HerringboneII+Photo
1.3Eye of the NeedleIII+Photo
1.4NarrowsIII+Photo
1.5Boulder FieldIIIPhoto
1.6Dead Foot FallsIIIPhoto
1.7Final DropIIIPhoto
1.9Cheese GraterII+Photo
2.3Glenn Woody BridgeN/APortage Hazard
2.4Big RocksIII+Photo
2.6Baby HueyN/APhoto
2.9After FiveIIAccess Playspot Photo
2.9Sleeping BeautyIIIAccess Playspot Photo
3.3Souse HoleIIIAccess Playspot Photo
3.4Last ChanceII+Photo
4.4County Line River AccessN/APutin Takeout Access Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Quartzite River Access (Class N/A)

Quartzite River Access

Quartzite River Access
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 05/03/15 @ 460 cfs


Surf or Die (Class II, Mile 0.2)

Surf or Die

Surf or Die
Photo by stewart243 taken 05/16/15 @ 660 cfs

Rocks appearing in the middle of a riffle just down stream of Quartzite River Access. Easily missed on the right. At high enough water the rocks form a nice to hole to get an good initiation splash before continuing downstream.



Saddle Rock (Class II+, Mile 0.8)

Entrance of Saddle Rock rapid

Entrance of Saddle Rock rapid
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

Enter Saddle Rock left of center. At lower flows the river channelizes on the left and currents push boats into the large rock in the center (slightly submerged in the photo above).



Albert Falls (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

Albert Falls

Albert Falls
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

Purportedly named for Albert Einstein in the 1950s by kayakers who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.



Herringbone (Class II+, Mile 1.1)

Herringbone Rapid

Herringbone Rapid
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs


Eye of the Needle (Class III+, Mile 1.3)

Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs


Narrows (Class III+, Mile 1.4)

The Narrows

The Narrows
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

Beginning of a long stretch of whitewater. At moderate to high flows large standing waves make this a rollercoaster ride. At low flows the river channelizes nicely but the typical line swings from river right to river left and them returns to center leaving some tight weaving between rocks.



Boulder Field (Class III, Mile 1.5)

Boulder Field

Boulder Field
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

Shallow section of river where the typical run is left of center during moderate flows. At low flows boaters move from river left to the center of the river down the channel that slips between the two rocks called the Horns (a.k.a. the Fangs).



Dead Foot Falls (Class III, Mile 1.6)

Entrance to Dead Foot Falls

Entrance to Dead Foot Falls
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

At low flows a short pool separates the Boulder Field and Dead Foot Falls. The rapid is entered right of center to center, and the typical line slides to left of center and left of the Fang (a.k.a. Nemesis Rock) that's in the center of the river (pictured on the left edge of the image). The current pushes boats into this rock!



Final Drop (Class III, Mile 1.7)

Final Drop

Final Drop
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

The last rapid in the sequence of class III rapids sometimes collectively called the Narrows. At high water (above 2500 cfs) this is the bottom of Mile Long Rapid, the stretch of continuous class IV whitewater starting at Saddle Rock rapids. Final Drop is usually ran down the middle at all flows, with a slight right of center exit at low water. At the bottom of the run out be alert for the huge boulder jutting out from the right shore into the center of the river. Final drop is easily scouted from the road.



Cheese Grater (Class II+, Mile 1.9)

Cheese Grater

Cheese Grater
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ low runnable level

Named for the rocky shallows that make-up this rapid, and the potential swim that almost certainly is less like slipping down a water slide and more akin to sliding down a cheese grater. The rapid is usually ran down the middle. At low flows, about halfway down the rapid some weaving to the right and then back to the center, is usually needed. As with any rapid, in Cheese Grater take precautions to avoid foot entrapment if you find yourself swimming. Cheese Grater is easily scouted from a pullout along the road.



Glenn Woody Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 2.3)

Old, dilapidated bridge purportedly build by a commune that lived at the site of the Glenn Woody mine town on river right. Beware of possible fishing lines with hooks still attached that might have been accidentally snagged and dangling from the bridge. At high water the river rises very close to the bottom of the bridge and the bridge must be portaged on left bank.



Big Rocks (Class III+, Mile 2.4)

Big Rocks rapid, Racecourse, Rio Grande

Big Rocks rapid, Racecourse, Rio Grande
Photo of The Ledge, the Slot, and the Toilet Bowl by stewart243 taken 05/18/15 @ 670 cfs

Big Rocks at moderate to low levels. The Ledge is on the far right and the Slot between the Ledge and Thunderdome Rock (a.k.a. The Big Rock) in the middle. To the left of Thunderdome is the tight pushy drop Toilet Boil (with it's recirculating hole at the bottom). The set-up eddy is bottom left. At moderate to high flows most boaters run the Ledge on river right; at low flows boaters squeeze through the center middle channel called the Slot (don't forget to lowside your raft towards Thunderdome). Toilet Bowl is the pushy left drop (considered class IV). The hydraulic at the bottom can hold rafts that without enough momentum to get free.



Baby Huey (Class N/A, Mile 2.6)

Baby Huey boulder

Baby Huey boulder
Photo by stewart243 taken 05/18/18 @ 670 cfs

Massive boulder that fell from the canyon rim in 1991, punched a large hole in the highway, shattered a riverside boulder making Baby Huey bounce and land on the otherside of the river.



After Five (Class II, Mile 2.9)

After Five

After Five
Photo by stewart243 taken 05/18/15 @ 670 cfs

A great playspot for kayakers with a nice pool at the bottom. A steep, sagebrush-packed trail winds from the road down to the pool.



Sleeping Beauty (Class III, Mile 2.9)

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

A drop into a big reversal wave. At low water the drop is usually ran down the channel along the right shore; at moderate to high flows preference for how much splash a boater wants determines how the drop is ran; boats without sufficient momentum to punch through the reversal might be in for a surf and a flip! Be mindful of the large boulders at the bottom of the rapid coming off the right shore. This is a favorite surf playspot for kayakers. A trail runs from a pullout alongside the road down the river bank to the rapid. At lower levels Sleeping Beauty becomes a fun surf for rafts. The rapid is easily scouted from the road.



Souse Hole (Class III, Mile 3.3)

Souse Hole

Souse Hole
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

One of the more famous rapids on the run. At low to moderate flows Souse is ran usually down the left channel. Rafts can surf the hole at the bottom of the last drop at low flows. At high flows the rapid creates a near river-wide massive hole renowned for flipping boats. Boaters looking to avoid the huge wave can sneak the rapid along the left shore. At all flows be mindful of currents coming off the left shore that may push your boat too far into the center of the river. A trail comes down from the road to the pool at the bottom of Souse. The rapid is easily scouted from the road.



Last Chance (Class II+, Mile 3.4)

Last Chance

Last Chance
Photo by stewart243 taken 02/08/15 @ 540 cfs

This rapid is created by the island in the middle of the river just downstream from the pool below Souse Hole. At moderate to low levels the right channel is usually the only channel deep enough to navigate. Near the bottom of the island the river swings left; stay alert for the wrap rock near the right shore at the bottom of the run out.



County Line River Access (Class N/A, Mile 4.4)

County Line Access

County Line Access
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 10/21/16 @ too low to run



User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 27 2013 (1999 days ago)
david brauerDetails
There is a takeout on river left after Souse Hole. The river makes a sweep left hand turn after
Souse Hile. At the end of this turn is where the takeout is. Taking out at this point eliminates
about a mile with little gradient.
August 21 2006 (4470 days ago)
x (1)
Watch out for sals [Souse (Hole)] at high water


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