Other Rafting Trips in Texas
Rio Grande – Big Bend National Park
Far down on the Mexican Border near a town called Terlingua, Texas, the Rio Grande makes a great U-turn. Inside this mighty curve, there exists a National Park and the special and spectacular section of southwest Texas known as "Big Bend Country". One does not expect that Texas is a place that has such beautiful and inspiring Canyons or such amazingly scenic rafting opportunities. At least I didn't.
My first of several trips to “the Big Bend”, as it is known locally, was my honeymoon trip with my wife Kathy. We arranged a shuttle with some local guy that was recommended to me by a friend that had been a guide there. When we arrived to work out the logistics, and I told him where we wanted to put-in or begin our raft trip, he claimed that he would not take us that far upstream because it was “dangerous”. I asked what was dangerous about it and he explained that “you need to have at least class IV whitewater experience” to run that section.
I was stunned, and told him “that’s not what I hear about this part of the river”. I explained that I was a guide in Colorado and nothing I’ve seen around here looks difficult to me. He ultimately took us where we wanted to go. I also learned that I needed two different permits to do the trip I came to do. Our plan was to go upstream from Terlingua about 40 miles near a town called Presidio. Below, or downstream from there, is a section of the Rio Grande known as “the Hoodoo’s”. I began referring to this as the “vicious Hoodoo’s” or the “death-defying Hoodoo’s”. I was mocking the lack of technical or “big” whitewater, as I was accustomed to in Colorado.
We did see some rapids on this section, but it was, actually, pretty damn easy. There were also a couple of really big & powerful eddy’s that I avoided. Whenever I heard or saw an upcoming riffle downstream, I would act scared and warn Kathy of a vicious Hoodoo coming up and that she should put on her lifejacket. I always wear mine by the way, even on “easy” trips. Having had my share of really scary whitewater swims, I just feel more comfortable with it on. We camped at the beginning of ‘Colorado Canyon’ the first night and it really did resemble Colorado. The one really big, potentially big anyway, whitewater rapid we did see was in Santa Elena Canyon on the last day of our 5-day adventure.
It was a rapid called the “Rockslide” where a bunch of giant boulders had peeled off the 1500 foot canyon about a million years ago, and created a horizon you could only see boulders in. Really big boulders. It was more like a big maze than the whitewater I was used to, but it was unnerving not being able to see downstream or where I was going next. I could easily imagine how ugly that could get if there was enough water to cover up some of the huge boulders, which does actually happen occasionally; typically in the fall during the rainy season. Our trip was in the latter part of March and a couple of days it hit 100 degrees, so summer is not a fun time to visit “the Big Bend”. I suggest spring or fall.
Since our honeymoon trip Kathy & I returned another time and I have been there on several other occasions with buddies, also raft guides. Back in the day, as I always say to our young guides around here, when rafting in Big Bend you had your option of camping on either the Texas side of the river or the Mexico side of the river, and there were several little villages in Mexico that pretty much lived off tourists down there. Since 9/11 setting foot on the Mexico side is a big deal and all the cute little villages are gone. If you go to Big Bend you will soon realize, though, as I have, that while it is North of Mexico, it is still South of the United States as you know it. For a commercial trip call Big Bend River Tours - 1 800 545 4240 Online at – www.bigbendrivertours.com