Rio Grande - 6. Boquillas Canyon: Rio Grande Village to La Linda (34.5 miles)


Rio Grande, Texas, US

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6. Boquillas Canyon: Rio Grande Village to La Linda (34.5 miles)

Usual Difficulty I-II (varies with level)
Length 34.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 4 fpm

Boquillas Canyon Entrance


Boquillas Canyon Entrance
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Rio Grande at Rio Grande Village, Big Bnd NP, TX
usgs-08375300 200 - 3000 cfs I-II 01h12m 314 cfs (running)
Low boatable.


River Description

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.)

Logistics:

  • Prior to putting in, you must obtain the appropriate permits for river and backcountry access from the park headquarters at Panther Junction.
  • The normal put-in is at the river access point in Rio Grande Village, located near the group campsites.
  • The preferred takeout these days is at Heath Canyon Ranch at La Linda. Access is available on the downstream river left side of the abandoned Gerstacker Bridge, across from the fluorospar plant on the Mexican side. Arrangements must be made with the caretaker of the ranch (Fred) before arriving at the takeout. If you are driving in from Marathon to do this trip, then it is easiest to stop by the takeout first.  Fred can shuttle you up to the put-in, so your vehicle will be at the takeout when you get there. He charges a small landing fee ($10/person as of this writing), as well as a vehicle storage fee ($10/day) and additional fees for overnight camping and shuttling. A solo paddler reported, as of this writing, paying $160 total for a four-day canoe trip.  Other shuttle options (reportedly more expensive, as of this writing) are available through the outfitters in Terlingua.
  • For those looking to extend the trip, you can put in higher upstream or continue on past La Linda and through the Lower Canyons.

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.

 


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-05 16:28:54

Editors


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Rio Grande Village River AccessN/APutin Photo
2.1Boquillas Port of EntryN/A
2.9Boquillas del CarmenN/APhoto
5.1Boquillas Canyon OverlookN/A
5.4Boquillas Canyon EntranceN/APhoto
5.6End of Boquillas Canyon TrailN/A
12.6Marufo Vega TrailN/APhoto
22.4Mouth of Boquillas CanyonN/APhoto
22.6Heath Creek ConfluenceN/A
26.5Exit Big Bend National ParkN/APhoto
28.8Stillwell CrossingN/APhoto
31.9Arroyo del VeinteIIPhoto
34.4Gerstacker BridgeN/APhoto
34.5Heath Canyon RanchN/ATakeout Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Rio Grande Village River Access (Class N/A)

Boquillas Canyon Put-in

Boquillas Canyon Put-in
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs


Boquillas Port of Entry (Class N/A, Mile 2.1)

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



Boquillas del Carmen (Class N/A, Mile 2.9)

Boquillas Village

Boquillas Village
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

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.



Boquillas Canyon Overlook (Class N/A, Mile 5.1)

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.

No paddler access



Boquillas Canyon Entrance (Class N/A, Mile 5.4)

Boquillas Canyon Entrance

Boquillas Canyon Entrance
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs


 



Marufo Vega Trail (Class N/A, Mile 12.6)

Marufo Vega Trail

Marufo Vega Trail
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

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.



Mouth of Boquillas Canyon (Class N/A, Mile 22.4)

Exit of Boquillas Canyon

Exit of Boquillas Canyon
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs


 



Heath Creek Confluence (Class N/A, Mile 22.6)

Large, normally dry arroyo at river left



Exit Big Bend National Park (Class N/A, Mile 26.5)

Adams Ranch

Adams Ranch
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

The land at river left is private from here to the takeout.



Stillwell Crossing (Class N/A, Mile 28.8)

Riffle Near Stillwell Crossing

Riffle Near Stillwell Crossing
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

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.



Arroyo del Veinte (Class II, Mile 31.9)

Arroyo del Veinte Rapids

Arroyo del Veinte Rapids
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

Below 1,000 cfs, boulders are exposed that can flip canoes.



Gerstacker Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 34.4)

Gerstacker Bridge

Gerstacker Bridge
Photo of Harry House by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs

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.



Heath Canyon Ranch (Class N/A, Mile 34.5)

Take-Out

Take-Out
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 02/23/14 @ 80 cfs



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