Looking to get a permit for a Rio Chama river float trip? The Land of Enchantment is filled with many gems, but a Rio Chama river float trip is sure to deliver an unforgettable overnight experience. A 23-mile float along this Rio Grande tributary allows you to dive into the landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keefe and many others. The popcorn clouds, blue skies, and stunning colored cliffs will leave you with that breath of awe that only comes from floating down a river.
3 DIY Rio Chama River Float Permit Tips
This Class II-III stretch is permitted from April 15 to September 15 with highly variable flows. Here are three tips to get your own DIY Chama adventure underway!
1. Understanding the Seasonal Flows
The 23 miles of the Rio Chama from El Valdo Ranch to Chavez Canyon are permitted from April 15-September 15. You can sign up for a lottery assigned launch date between December 1 and January 31. There are two-time frames within this permitted season: early season and release season.
The early season runs from April 15-July 15 with water levels reflecting inflow to upstream reservoirs. No water level is guaranteed during this time, making it tricky for trip planning. July 16-September 15 is Release Season and flows are guaranteed on weekends as water is sourced from reservoir storage.
2. Planning a Rio Chama River Float Trip
Once you’ve snagged a winning lottery ticket, the planning begins! With water levels variable, it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan to have a successful trip down the mighty Chama.
Keep an eye on flows and feel free to contact the BLM office to see what they have planned. 200 CFS and below, a canoe or inflatable kayak is the way to go. The one class III can be portaged albeit with a bit of effort if you aren’t comfortable testing your low water skills.
300-400 CFS is enough water to squeak along smaller rafts. For anything 14 feet or larger, we recommend a minimum of 500 CFS. Three days is the perfect window to casually float and still have time for exploring the many side canyons.
3. Didn’t Pull a Rio Chama River Float Permit?
Sometimes the stars don’t align, and the permits don’t get pulled. Never fear, we still have some options to explore the Chama River. Permits that were won, but not pulled are back up for grabs beginning April 1.
If you still weren’t able to snag one of those golden tickets in the second round, a slight adjustment of plans can ensure your Chama adventure dreams live on. Just downstream of Chavez Canyon takeout there is a popular day stretch along Forest Road 151 to Big Eddy.
This scenic stretch includes some class II-III whitewater as it meanders its way along the cottonwood groves and sandstone cliffs. With campsites available at the Rio Chama campground, your land-based river adventure can still be filled with the fresh enchanting air of northern New Mexico.
If you are uncertain about taking a DIY rafting trip, New Mexico River Adventures takes pride in providing a safe yet exhilarating adventure for all. The Rio Chama is a great option for white water rafting near Taos. Learn more about all of the available options for whitewater rafting in New Mexico with New Mexico River Adventures.
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