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Difficulty I-II
Length 34.5 Miles
Gauge Rio Grande at Rio Grande Village, Big Bnd NP, TX
Flow Range 200 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 49 minutes ago 176 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/05/2018 4:28 pm

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.

 

Rapid Descriptions

Rio Grande Village River Access

Class - N/A Mile - 0

Boquillas Port of Entry

Class - N/A Mile - 2.12
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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 - 2.86

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 - 5.07
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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 - 5.36


 

End of Boquillas Canyon Trail

Class - N/A Mile - 5.64
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Marufo Vega Trail

Class - N/A Mile - 12.63

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 - 22.42


 

Heath Creek Confluence

Class - N/A Mile - 22.61
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Large, normally dry arroyo at river left

Exit Big Bend National Park

Class - N/A Mile - 26.5

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

Stillwell Crossing

Class - N/A Mile - 28.8

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

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

Gerstacker Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 34.4

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

Comments

Summary of Gauge Readings

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Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
Rio Grande at Rio Grande Village, Big Bnd NP, TX
AW Gauge Info
176 cfs ℹ️ 00h49m
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Directions Description


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Alerts

News

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