Trip Report – Rio Grande River – Rio Grande Bridge to Pilar, New Mexico

Posted by on June 25, 2021

June 19, 2021

By Camilla Barry

This is an easy section of the Rio Grande River near Taos, through the Rio Grande gorge. The put-in is under the old, lower Rio Grande Bridge near the BLM campground. I am out-of-practice with my skills after Covid had caused many trips with friends to be canceled. So, I was a bit nervous to be on the water again in my IK. I was alone, but there were other kayaks on the river. Almost immediately, I misread the river and go stuck on rocks in a shallow section. Yikes. A man from shore asked if I needed help, as I pulled my kayak off the gravel. Friendly people. From then on, I stuck to the main current even though it pulled me close to shore several times. There was only one real rapid, the Power Gauge (probably an easy II), which I had scouted from shore. In the past, this would have seemed so simple for me but this time I was wary. A boy who was fishing from shore advised me to stay to the left. Helpful, but wrong! I went right up against a boulder, but was able to free myself and continue on down to Lone Juniper campground which was my pull-out. From there, I jogged back to the bridge for my car. The next day I took a camp chair and a book and sat near the river where I could watch others go through the power gauge rapid. Every single craft went to the extreme right, through a few rocks and waves.

I kayaked the same section a few days later but pulled out before the rapid, near the power guage itself. As I was pulling my kayak into some bushes prior to jogging back to my car, a couple pulled up in a truck and offered to give me a lift. The couple said they were beginning kayakers and had gone through that rapid unsuccessfully a few days before (“We were in the water.”) but were eager to do it again. The husband had just ordered a new IK and the wife had a “bail bucket” hard shelled kayak. We agreed to meet the next day. Yippee! Kayaking buddies. I was now more confident of my skills and they asked me to take the lead on the rapid, which we all ran successfully – on the extreme right side. It wasn’t difficult, although the husband went part of the way backward. We pulled out again at Lone Juniper campground, but next time we will go further, possibly all the way to Quartzite pullout. I understand there are difficult rapids, the Race Course, beyond that. I will hire a guide to take me through those.

Note: I am very new to New Mexico. I recently moved from northern California, where I kayaked Cache Creek (class II and III), the American River (class II and III) and even parts of the Rogue that were rated IV. However, as I mentioned above, I need to revamp my river skills. I am interested in meeting others who will kayak NM and CO rivers and can suggest routes that are appropriate to my skills.


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