Whitewater Rafting in Santa Fe
There are many opportunities for rafting in Santa Fe; the area of Northern New Mexico has a great diversity of river running opportunities. Being centrally located there are two rivers within about an hours drive that offer excellent options for rafting in Santa Fe. The Rio Grande Gorge is about an hour north of Santa Fe and offers the river runner multiple options for exciting white water rafting and scenic float trips. A Santa Fe rafting full day trip typically begins at the Taos Junction Bridge on NM hwy 570 and cover about 12 miles of Class 2 & 3 white-water.
The upper section through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area managed by the Taos Bureau of Land Management Field Office is a spectacular float section that has a few mild class 2 rapids located in its reaches. This section of river has excellent geology viewing as the river traverses onto the Rio Grande rift in Northern New Mexico, Santa Fe rafting participants will float past towering basalt walls and then as the river traverses to the west the rift valley opens up and the Ortega Quartzite is exposed in some 2000’ cliffs.
The 16 mile long “Taos Box” is filled with numerous Class 3 & 4 rapids that will challenge even the most intrepid Taos rafter. Spectacular vertical canyon walls define this section of the canyon as they rise to over 600’ above your head, Eagles, Hawks and Falcons zip through the skies while desert bighorn sheep graze the near vertical slopes and river otters play along the shores and in the currents as rafts and kayaks maneuver through the nearly continuous rapids.
The next section a Santa Fe rafting trip participant encounters is the “Racecourse” section which is punctuated by excellent class 3 whitewater rapids; this 6 mile section has 5 major rapids and many more splashy fun little drops. This section of river is typically run as a ½ day trip and it takes around 3 hours to raft or kayak through the rapids. After the “Racecourse” the river enters the El Bosque section which is a nice float through some of New Mexico’s earliest inhabited corridors of the river. From early puebloan Indian settlements to some of the first European colonist (Spanish) farms and agriculture community’s rafters will pass by the community of Embudo as the Rio Embudo joins the Rio Grande is this pastoral section.
For the more adventurous river runner rafting in Santa Fe, just north of Taos (about an hour and half from Santa Fe) lies the Taos Box section, this action packed 16 mile run is filled with big technical rapids as the river cuts through 700’ canyon walls with no way in or out other than the access points at the top and bottom of the canyon.
Also about an hour north of Santa Fe lies the Rio Chama, situated slightly to the west of the Rio Grande on Hwy 84 near the scenic Village of Abiquiu the “Chama” lies in the heart of Georgia O’Keeffe country. The Chama is the third largest tributary of the Rio Grande and is about 120 miles long from its source in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado to the confluence or “La Junta” with the Rio Grande near Espanola, New Mexico. The Canyons of the Rio Chama are filled with spectacular views as this largely mellow river traverses past 1500’ forested canyon walls that are painted in the red orange and yellow pastels of the desert southwest. A simple day trip can be had in the lower reaches of this canyon accessed by Santa Fe National Forest road 151. This beautiful 9 mile section has expansive views and some great splashy class 2 rapids that are suitable for participants of all ages and abilities. For rafters looking to spend some more time exploring this stunning wilderness canyon another access point up near the Village of Tierra Amarilla provides river runners with the option of traversing 30 miles of remote wilderness canyon with excellent opportunities for hiking, fishing and camping.