The Río Grande Wild and Scenic River, located within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, includes 74 miles of the river as it passes through the 800-foot deep Río Grande Gorge. Flowing out of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the river journeys 1,900 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Here the river flows in a rugged and scenic part of northern New Mexico. The river was made a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System in 1968; among the first eight rivers Congress designated as Wild and Scenic. The river gorge is home to numerous species of wildlife, including big horn sheep, river otter, and the Río Grande cutthroat trout.
The Río Grande Wild and Scenic River provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities, luring anglers, hikers, artists, and whitewater boating enthusiasts. Two developed recreation areas are located along the river: Wild Rivers on the north and Orilla Verde in the south. In addition to these scenic recreation areas, a spectacular vista of the gorge is seen from the High Bridge Overlook where highway 64 crosses.
Recreation opportunities include biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking/backpacking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and horseback riding.
Visitor center, camping, and other facilities are available along the river at the Wild Rivers and Orilla Verde Recreation Areas.
Location & Access
The designated wild and scenic river corridor begins at the New Mexico/Colorado state line and ends at Rinconada, approximately 1 mile downstream of the Taos/Río Arriba County line.
Boating Information / River Segment Descriptions
Click here for River Segment Descriptions. The Upper Gorge includes the Class II Ute Mountain Run (24 miles) and the Class V Upper Box (6.5 miles). It also includes the Taos Box (15 miles), classified Class III-V, which takes 6 to 8 hours, including stops for lunch and sightseeing. The rapids in the Box offer the best whitewater opportunities in New Mexico, through one of the most scenic sections of the Río Grande Gorge.
The Lower Gorge begins at the Taos Junction Bridge in the Orilla Verde area and extends south for 18 miles. The most popular section is the Racecourse, a 5-mile stretch of whitewater located along NM 68, which offers an exciting ride that is not as demanding as the Taos Box. Trips in the Lower Gorge vary in time from 2 to 6 hours, depending on river flow and where you put in and take out.
River flow levels are unpredictable so boaters should monitor the USGS website [USGS Water Resource Division - New Mexico District nm.water.usgs.gov] or call BLM’s recorded message at 888-882-6188 for current information.
Private boaters do not need a permit on the Rio Grande. If you plan to camp in the Ute Mountain segment, please call 575-751-4771 to reserve a campsite.
There are no boating fees, however, some sites used as put-ins or takeouts in the Orilla Verde area charge a day-use fee. Most boating trips require a hike to or from the river. The Ute Mountain run is closed during April and May to protect wildlife. For safety, BLM requires that all boaters wear personal floatation devices while on the river.
River Flow Information
River flow levels are unpredictable, so boaters should monitor the USGS website, or contact BLM, for current information.
- USGS Water Resource Division - New Mexico District nm.water.usgs.gov.
- BLM 888-882-6188 (Recorded Message).
Planning Your Trip
Commercial outfitters are available for day and overnight Río Grande boat trips. Commercial river outfitters are permitted by the BLM; do not hire a non-permitted outfitter. All companies meet strict guidelines for equipment safety and guide experience. You may also rent a boat, or take your own, for self-led river trips. Please review BLM's recommended river safety tips.