Like all of the canyons of the Rio Grande, Colorado Canyon and Dark Canyon are incredibly scenic. Because this section of the river has good access (via FM 170, which follows the river for most of the route), it is popular for day trips. This section is beginner-friendly at low levels (< 1000 cfs), and rafts can run it down to about 200 cfs without much difficulty. Lower levels than that require a hard boat. This section gets pushy at high levels (thousands of cfs) but doesn't really get any more technically difficult, and many of the named rapids wash out at high levels. It is not generally runnable below 100 cfs.
Many of the named rapids may require some maneuvering by canoeists, particularly when the river is relatively low and channelized. However, whitewater paddlers will probably find them to be straightforward.
All of the river access points are on river left (Texas side.)
This section is entirely within Big Bend Ranch State Park and requires a permit obtainable in Lajitas or at Fort Leaton. The state and national parks require anyone on a river trip to wear their PFD's through named rapids.
NOTE: There is a high incidence of vehicle theft along the Mexican border. For this reason, and simply because it makes the trip logistics much easier, many paddlers choose to pay one of the river outfitters in Terlingua to run shuttle for them.
Distances and gradient measured using GIS tools in 2015.
At low levels, run right to avoid some boulders. Straightforward at medium to high levels.
Most of the flow channels to river right at low levels, forming a wave train. Washes out at higher levels.
While you're here, take a moment to hike up into the mouth of Closed Canyon.
At low levels, stay to the right and pick one of the two channels at the bottom between large boulders. Straightforward at medium to high levels.
Requires some light maneuvering at low levels to avoid boulders and a a wall shot near the bottom. Straightforward at medium to high levels.
Nice wave train at the center of the river.
The large rock outcropping at river left is where the iconic champagne scene in "Fandango" was filmed (thus giving the rock its name.) The section of FM 170 leading up to the overlook at the top of the rock is supposedly the steepest highway in Texas. Look for a rusted-out tanker truck and car alongside the river underneath the rock
Reference point (no camping or access here)
Composting toilet and picnic shelters at river left. Camping allowed (permit required.)
Can be run either right or left, but right is the typical line. At the right level (recommended 1000-3500 cfs), this is a great surf rapid with two or three medium holes, and it is fairly easy to paddle back upstream to the Madera Canyon access point.
Wall shot at lower levels. Straightforward wave train at river right at medium to high levels.
Reference point. This set was originally constructed in 1985 for "Uphill All the Way" starring Roy Clark but was also used for the "Lonesome Dove" miniseries in the 90's.
Large dirt parking lot and boat launch at river left
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Permits are not required for this reach.
Use Hwy 170.
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