Rio Grande - 06. Taos Junction Bridge to Embudo Station Restaurant

Rio Grande, New Mexico, US


06. Taos Junction Bridge to Embudo Station Restaurant (Pilar or Racecourse)

Usual Difficulty III (for normal flows)
Length 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
usgs-08276500 250 - 2500 cfs III 00h39m 155 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

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: 2017-10-21 23:23:23


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Quartzite River AccessN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 27 2013 (1945 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 (4416 days ago)
x (1)
Watch out for sals [Souse (Hole)] at high water

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