At 1,885 miles, the Rio Grande is the fifth largest river in North America. It was also the first designated Wild and Scenic River in the United States. Today, there are whitewater rafting trips available in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.
Although it is often overlooked as a top Colorado whitewater destination, the upper Rio Grande offers unique and spectacular scenery amongst smooth, relaxed currents. For those looking for excitement, the river’s headwaters deliver slightly higher intensity rapids below the Rio Grande Reservoir.
Rafting Trips on the Rio Grande River
Although you will find most of the popular whitewater action on the Rio Grande south to New Mexico, there are a few options available for taking a trip on the river in Colorado. From Creede, CO visitors can go for a half or full day guided tour, or choose to rent tubes or kayaks instead.
Whitewater Rafting Difficulty – In Colorado, the Rio Grande River is an easy day out on the water. In general, most trips consist of Class I, II, and III rapids. With that said, adventurous rafters can find Class III and IV rapids in the Upper Box Section, which is not generally rafted by commercial operators.
Here are the most popular sections of the Rio Grande River to raft:
The Upper Box
Just south of the Rio Grande Reservoir, rafters can access the Upper Box section of the Rio Grande at both the River Hill and Thirty Mile Campground. As stated above, this is the most difficult section of the Rio Grande in Colorado. However, experienced riders should not find the Class III and IV rapids to be overly difficult. The 26-mile stretch ends at the Texas Creek Access Point.
For those without a guide, the Oxbow section of the Rio Grande is a popular place to begin a long day of relaxed rafting. This section of the river is made up of solely Class I and II rapids, and is popular for floating and fishing trips.
The Upper Rio Grande
For most commercial trips, the Upper Rio Grande provides rafters with a half day of relaxed floating through spectacular southern Colorado scenery. In total, the section is 9.6 miles, beginning at the Rio Grande Campground and ending at the Deep Creek Access.
For those short on time, you can shave the first 3 miles off of your journey by putting in at the Marshall Park / 7 Mile Bridge access point.
The Lower Rio Grande
For those looking for a full day of fun, rafters can continue downstream on the Lower Rio Grande section of the river south of Creede. Here, the intensity picks up a bit, but the Class II and III rapids can be enjoyed by families and first time riders.
Of course, many trips are taken on the Lower Rio Grande exclusively, with a variety of access points within the section. With places to take-out all the way to South Fork, it is not difficult to create an itinerary on the Rio Grande that will fit into your schedule.
Rio Grande River Rafting Guides
- Fish the Upper Rio – Floating and Fishing Trips
- Mountain Man Rafting (8200 Sports) – Guided Trips and Rentals
- Rocky Mountain Ski & Raft – Rentals Available
Activities near the Rio Grande River
Obviously, the Rio Grande is just as popular for fishing as it is rafting. The river has a designated Gold Medal Trout section with an abundance of native species among some of Colorado’s “least-touched” waters.
Beyond the river, the Rio Grande National Forest contains countless opportunities for hiking, camping, and enjoying the unique high desert climate. Heading east, the Rio Grande extends through the towns of Del Norte, Monte Vista in close proximity to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Nearby Towns (following fiver north to south):
Season: May through September (Best Until Late June)
Class: I – IV