Difficulty IV-V(V+)
Length 5 Miles
Gauge Rio Embudo at Rio Grande Confluence
Flow Range 150 - 400 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 41 minutes ago ~ 0 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/25/2019 7:09 pm

River Description

Embudo means "funnel" in Spanish, and this river certainly lives up to its name! Shortly after it is formed (at the confluence of the Rio Pueblo and Rio Santa Barbara), it plunges into a narrow granite gorge which contains 5 miles of continuous Class V to V+. This is old-school creeking; not really any big vertical drops to run, but extremely continuous rapids with big hydraulics. High-water runs are hectic, and there will be extended sections without being able to eddy out. In general the rapids are very clean, smooth, water-polished granite drops. There are very few strainers and sieves, so the primary danger is flush drowning.

This is an isolated area with an Indian reservation near the put-in and a conservative Hispanic community near the takeout. They don't like boaters or outsiders, period. Harassment in the past has included throwing kayaks into the rapids while you're scouting, firing shots off in your direction, and vandalizing your car. This usually has been the result of out-of-state boaters driving through town at 60 mph with a stack of boats on the roof; Can you say "easy target?" It's best to drive slowly in this area, be respectful, and keep a low profile. If you do that, you probably will have no problems.

Check out pics of Rio Embudo (and many other Central Rockies classics) taken at Low and Medium water levels.

To get there:
Do not park at the highway bridge takeout (as described in Colorado Rivers and Creeks, II).
The "arroyo" takeout is the preferred takeout.
Check newmexicoh2o.com for details on the put-in/take-out; They are difficult to find.

The reaches of the Taos Box area are:

Ute Mountain Class II
Razors Class III/IV)
Upper Box Class V/V+
Lower Box Class III/IV
Pilar Class III/IV
Otowi Bridge Class III
Red River Class IV
Rio Pueblo Class V+
Rio Embudo Class V+


Rapid Descriptions


Class - III Mile - 0
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There is about a 1/4 mile hike down to the river. You will have 2 miles of Class II to warm up on before the rapids. If you have a lot of water in this section you are in for a big day!

Class III

Class - III Mile - 2
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From this point to the bottom of Long Rapid there will be no pools or even a slight pause in the rapids. It will just get exponentially steeper...

Class IV

Class - IV Mile - 2.25
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Fast Class IV will last for about 1/4 mile.

Long Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 2.5
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This is one of those aptly named rapids. The start of the rapid is very ambiguous, essentially at some point you will have noticed the continuous Class IV just got a hell of a lot burlier! About a mile of non-stop Class V later you will come to something resembling a pool, this could be considered the end of Long Rapid. This is the deepest part of the Embudo Gorge, if you swim here you are SCREWED!

CheeseGrater Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 3.5
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This is an impressive rapid, distinctly steeper than anything else in the upper gorge. However, of the big rapids I would rate this one the easiest. It starts off with a nice boof at the entrance, then power left to miss an undercut, then a left to right move as you lose some elevation.

MJ Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 3.6
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You can almost see MJ Falls from CheeseGrater Falls, they are seperated by about 3 rapids. MJ has a pushy twisting entrance with a stout hole at the bottom.

Rio De Las Trampas

Class - Mile - 3.7
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The Rio De Las Trampas (River of the Traps) carves a small side canyon into the upper gorge river left just after MJ. Keep your eyes peeled, blink and you'll miss it. There is a waterfall 50 feet from the river that is worth a stop to check out. If this trib is cranking expect the rapids to be jucier downstream.

Carnival Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 4
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The last drop of the upper gorge is a twisting rapid that takes advantage of boaters exhausted from the hard paddling above and takes them for a ride they won’t forget! Boof hard left at the entrance, then boogie right to miss a big overhanging f-u rock.

Class III

Class - III Mile - 4.1
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There is a mellow ½ mile of Class III between the upper and lower gorges. If you’re in over your head, or if the level is greater than 3.4, it’s highly advisable that you retreat up one of the gullies on river left in this mellow section. The best gulch is an obvious notch, located where the river takes a right turn. The hike out is very easy.

The S-Turns

Class - 5.0 Mile - 4.5
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The lower gorge starts off with Pinball and Slamdance, these rapids are stacked right on top of each other and have severe zigzagging lines. The last drop in Slamdance is a perfectly formed river wide hydraulic. At high water this rapid will blend in with Slots of Fun and Taco Garden into a giant mile long V++ monstrosity.

Slots of Fun

Class - 5.0 Mile - 4.6
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Slots is the poster boy of the “funnel river”. There are about 5 distinct Class V drops flowing headlong into the next, with each one bigger than the last, culminating in a completely boxed in 15 footer. The 15 footer is super bony, not reccommended to run it below 3.0. This rapid is extremely difficult to portage. It can be portaged in its entirety on river right, however I refer to this as the "pure misery" portage. The only other option is to portage halfway down on the left, do a death ferry, and finish on the right. With the exception of the death ferry, this is a much easier portage!

Taco Garden

Class - 5.0 Mile - 4.7
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At the bottom of Slots of Fun the gorge opens up and the river bed gets wide and shallow but the gradient keeps crankin’ right along for another ½ mile. This section was named Taco Garden back in the day of long pointy boats, but these days pinning and folding your boat is a lot harder!

the Takeout

Class - III Mile - 5
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This is the arroyo takeout, the Hwy 75 bridge is about 2 miles downstream.


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Willie B
1 year ago

Absolutely a classic run. Check out the Embudo Facebook page for flows, updates, boating partners, etc. Don't take this place lightly though -its gnar.

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Kaelan Hendrickson
4 years ago

The gage is not reliable. Ask about flows before putting on.

Gage Descriptions

Low 150 - 250 cfs
Med 250 - 400 cfs
High 400 cfs and up

This is one of those runs where inches of difference on the gauge equate to feet of difference in the water level in the gorges.

The run gets progressively better up to 3.3 (the ideal level); Above that it bets progressively scarier and HUGE!

At low water (<3.0) this is a bony Class IV/V run.

At medium (3.0-3.3) it gets harder/pushier and rates a solid Class V. This is the best level for the Lower Gorge.

At high water (>3.4) this run changes character considerably and becomes a solid V+ that should be attempted only by those who are familiar with the run. The flush drowning risk is extreme. It is advisable to not run the lower gorge at high flows. Everything has been run up to about 4.6, a truly mind-bending sick level.

Both Guidebooks use the old feet/stick numbers. The following correlation, obtained from the Embudo Facebook page, can be useful for determing the level when using those numbers.

  • 100cfs = 2.5ft
  • 130cfs = 2.8ft
  • 180cfs = 3.0ft
  • 220cfs = 3.1ft
  • 275cfs = 3.2ft
  • 325cfs = 3.3ft
  • 400cfs = 3.4ft

At all levels, keep in mind that this is a remote gorge with little to no chance of escape if things go wrong! It is good idea to check the Embudo Facebook page for current conditions and levels.

How to estimate the flow using a virtual guage, from atom via the embudo facebook page.

"The only way to truly judge the CFS is to Subtract the CFS flow from the RIO GRANDE BLW TAOS JUNCTION BRIDGE NEAR TAOS Gauge from the RIO GRANDE AT EMBUDO Gauge."

RIO GRANDE BLW TAOS JUNCTION: USGS page, American Whitewater page

RIO GRANDE AT EMBUDO: USGS page, American Whitewater page

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
1982-05-07 Medium Fatality Solo Paddling Read More



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NM Senators Introduce Wild and Scenic River Legislation - Help us thank them!

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Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1201909 03/12/13 eurotrash added virtual guage info
1201235 04/28/12 Matt Muir Changed takeout coords
1198829 11/30/10 Matt Muir Copyedit; added abstract; changed name (Rio Embudo --> Embudo Creek).
1201222 04/25/12 Matt Muir Added gauge info.
1201224 04/25/12 eurotrash Revised level description
1202289 06/06/13 Jeff Paine Update gauge description
1211532 03/25/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1208079 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1211533 03/25/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1193381 12/20/05 n/a n/a