This last section of the Pecos is spring fed, so it has low but boatable flows throughout the year. Many of the rapids will need to be lined or portaged by typical paddlers. Experienced whitewater paddlers may want to wait till the rapids clean up with high flows during the spring or during rains. However, extremely dangerous, high flow, flash floods, can also occur.
Put-in is approximately 1580' elevation. Take-out is approximately 1117' elevation. Therefore total elevation change is approximately 463'.
Other Information Sources: Austin Traveler articleOutside Magazine, Aug. 2011Texas Escapes article - 2001Pandale, Tx Wikipedia articleSouthwest PaddlerPaddling.netFlatwater Paddling in the last 15 miles
The warnings about abrasive rocks are pretty much spot on. One trip at moderate flows wore through the vinyl outer skin of a "old Royalex" boat that was in pristine condition. An XP-10 didn't seem to wear much at all, though friends report that they wore through a rec boat on this run.
This isn't what I think of as a technical run, but there's a lot of weird stuff. A few rapids tap into Class III range, but we had to line a couple of those due to rocks blocking the channel and then reenter in the current. Much of the river bed is mostly "undulating" limestone that has been plated with travertine. The river was up, so we just rubbed in places, but people have had to jump from channel to channel when the river is down. There's also about a mile where the river runs over dead flat rock and is only a few inches deep. Weird stuff.
The run is remote, but it's not totally isolated. There are roads off to the east and the west. According to Emilio Hinojosa, there is cell service once you get out of the canyons (I even texted someone one night.) We also saw a flashlight one night. It's likely that either Emilio or a landowner was checking on us.
Relatively speaking, the lake was one of the bigger challenges. Once you get into Lake Amistad the canyon walls are steep and there aren't any good places to get out. Besides, all that flatwater is a drag and would have been more so if the wind had been blowing (upstream.) Arms and knees were sore, and we were nursing a couple of injuries. A friend of Emilio's towed us out from the high bridge. This cost more than the shuttle but it was worth it.
Upstream dams remove most of the water from the Pecos before it gets to this section. However, natural springs provide flows in the 200 cfs range in this section, allowing low water boating all year round. Most of the springs are downstream of the put in so expect to scrape bottom till enough springs increase the flow. Flows at the gauge in Garvin will add to the base flow of 200 cfs.
NOAA gauge page for Pandale gauge (at put in)USGS Pecos at Garvin may give indication of seasonal flow patterns
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Rivers once promoted by the New Mexico State Parks Division in their publication “New Mexico Whitewater - A Guide to River Trips” are now being blocked by private landowners with barricades, cables and No Trespassing signs. This includes upper Chama and Pecos river segments. Privatizers have filed additional applications that would close several other river segments in New Mexico, and their lawyers are threatening an “immense wave” of constitutional “litigation” in the event that “any action by the Court, the Legislature, the Department, or the Commission… restrict[s] landowners’ rights to prevent the public from using their streambeds underlying public waters.” American Whitewater has been working with our local partners in New Mexico to ensure that this new Rule is rescinded. We need your support to win this battle. If you’re in a position to contribute, doing so will help us with legal expenses for our partners and outreach.
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