This stretch of the Rio Grande does not have much in the way of whitewater, but Boquillas Canyon is one of the most scenic river trips in the country. It can be done as a 3-day trip, but a longer, 5-day trip affords more time for hiking and exploration. The normal put-in is at Rio Grande Village, although some choose to combine Boquillas Canyon with upstream reaches, such as Mariscal Canyon and Hot Springs Canyon. 150 cfs or higher is recommended for rafts and kayaks, but the river is known to be navigable at flows below 100 cfs on the Rio Grande Village gauge.
Camping is not permitted along the 5.4 river miles between Rio Grande Village and the Boquillas Canyon entrance. For this reason, as well as strong winds that sometimes blow across the open terrain upstream of the canyon, an early start is recommended on Day 1. Once inside Boquillas Canyon, there are plenty of options for camping, including gravel bars and floodplain terraces. The river exits the national park and enters private land a few miles below the mouth of the canyon, but when the river is relatively low, there are several islands in the stream that provide legal camping options along the last 8 river miles above the takeout. The canyon itself stretches for 17 river miles, providing stunning scenery and numerous opportunities to explore side canyons. The Marufo Vega Trail offers additional options for extended hiking through the desert landscape (Marufo Vega is a loop trail, so it is accessible from both the river and the park road.)
See also Planning a Float Trip, provided by Big Bend National Park.
See also the descriptions in Southwest Paddler.
Distances and gradient measured using GIS tools in 2018.
This legal border crossing allows Big Bend National Park visitors to take a rowboat across the Rio Grande and visit the Mexican border village of Boquillas del Carmen. The crossing was closed after 9/11 but reopened in April of 2013. It is popularized in the Robert Earl Keen song "Gringo Honeymoon."
No paddler access
This quaint Mexican border village at river right subsists primarily on tourist income from Big Bend National Park visitors. It became practically a ghost town after 2002, when the Boquillas Port of Entry was closed due to post-9/11 security concerns. Since the reopening of the port of entry in 2013, the village has rebounded.
A parking area at river left gives Big Bend National Park visitors a scenic view of the entrance to Boquillas Canyon. A short (1.5-mile round trip) trail leads from the parking area to the canyon entrance.
The Marufo Vega Trail crosses the draw at river left. Marufo Vega is a 14-mile round-trip strenuous-- and often poorly-marked-- loop trail that leads back to the Boquillas Canyon Overlook. The trail provides a convenient way for paddlers to explore the desert. However, it is always recommended that you bring a GPS when hiking in the desert, as trails can become faint due to underuse, or they can become confused with game trails, arroyos, and other natural features. Always bring plenty of water and salty snacks when hiking in the desert as well. Dehydration and hyponatrumia are the leading causes of avoidable fatalities in Big Bend.
Large, normally dry arroyo at river left
The land at river left is private from here to the takeout.
The Stillwell family, who owned a ranch on the Mexican side of the river, formerly kept a barge here and used it to access their ranch.
Below 1,000 cfs, boulders are exposed that can flip canoes.
Abandoned international crossing, built in the early 1960s by Dow Chemical in conjunction with the (also now abandoned) fluorspar plant at river right (fluorspar, AKA "fluorite", is the mineral form of calcium fluoride.) The bridge was named for Carl Gerstacker, the CEO of Dow Chemical at the time. Fluorspar was mined in the mountains on the Mexican side, processed at the plant, and shipped via truck to the railroad in Marathon.
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La Linda Fluorospar Plant
Arroyo del Veinte Rapids
Riffle Near Stillwell Crossing
Exit of Boquillas Canyon
Arroyo Venado Rapids
Marufo Vega Trail
Boquillas Canyon Put-in
Boquillas Canyon Entrance
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