Day Trips: Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park

Paddling the Rio Grande

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Kayaking the Rio Grande in Big Bend takes voyagers beyond the boundaries of everyday life. Outfitters along the river offer a menu of water recreation options for a few hours or a few days.

Although only portions of the river in Big Bend are protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, all of the Rio Grande from Presidio to the Terrell County line benefits from the federal protection. Surrounded by desert landscape, no matter what portion of the river you float, the sheer canyon walls, thick river foliage, and big sky surround you and set you free in the river's current.

Our group of paddlers of all ages climbed aboard buses at the Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte at 8am for the short drive to the river. The float trip included lunch on a sandbar and 2.5 hours of light paddling and rugged scenery.

The Rio Grande from the Colorado Canyon Access Point off FM 170 was running shallow and coffee-with-cream-colored. For most of the morning, the Mexican side of the river was bordered by steep walls of natural masonry towering 30 to 300 feet above us. At one point, our guide pointed out high-water marks on the rock wall, 10 feet above the river, that not long ago was the normal water level. The Rio Grande used to run much higher and clearer, but it's still an adventure.

There are half a dozen outfitters on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. From mid-May to early September, most of the long trips are limited because of the heat. Short trips in the morning happen year-round.

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Rio Grande, kayaking, Big Bend, Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Colorado Canyon, National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968

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