Located in southwest Texas on the Mexican border, the Rio Grande is the ideal river rafting destination during the fall, winter, and spring when it is too cold in other parts of the United States to go river rafting. Remotely located in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert, in Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande is the quintessential desert river rafting experience. Big Bend rafting trips float on Class I-III rapids through magnificent canyons. In the spring, the Rio Grande’s banks are painted with a spectacular rainbow of wildflowers. There are numerous options for Big Bend river rafting trips on the Rio Grande. Stretches of the Rio Grande vary from open and mountainous landscape to high-walled narrow canyons. Rio Grande rafting trips range in difficulty from Class I to Class III and in length from a 1/2 day to 6 days depending on the stretch of river and time of year.
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Big Bend whitewater rafting trips on the Colorado Canyon section are either one or two days of Class II whitewater. The Rio Grande meanders through an incredible and unique volcanic landscape in Big Bend Ranch State Park. Overnight river trips allow time to explore stunning side canyons.
Santa Elena Canyon
Without a doubt, Santa Elena is the most photographed canyon in Big Bend. The Sierra Ponce Cliffs are high limestone walls that jut straight up from the Rio Grande and create a majestic canyon atmosphere. Santa Elena Canyon rafting trips generally take two days to complete which never seems like enough time. The rapids are mostly Class II and great for families.
The Rio Grande through Boquillas Canyon is officially part of the National Wild and Scenic River system, and it lives up to its classification. Rafting trips on the Rio Grande through Boquillas cover 33 miles of Class I and II rapids and flat water. Boquillas Canyon is extremely deep due to the Maderas del Carmen Mountains surrounding it.
The longest river trip on the Rio Grande is generally a canoe trip through seventy miles of remote wilderness. River trips on the Rio Grande through the Lower Canyons begin in the Black Gap Wilderness Area, maneuver through some great Class II rapids, and float downstream in dramatic high-walled canyons that have a fascinating geologic history. There are outstanding side hikes to explore, cold springs to drink from, and hot springs to soak in after a long day on the river.
The height of the rafting season in Big Bend is during spring break in March, however trips are offered in the beautiful canyons throughout the year.