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december 2019 rafting trip suggestions

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Offline avoloshin

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december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« on: December 11, 2019, 05:43:27 PM »
Hello all!

I am planning a trip with two catarafts (14ft and 16 ft) the week of Christmas in BBNP. Our put in would be Lajitas and take out at the Visitor center in the park.

I have contacted a few outfitters in the area about shuttle services. One of them said that the upper dams have stopped releasing water and we should expect a drop in cfs in the coming week? Has anyone heard anything about that?  I have also heard that rafts are ok in that stretch down to 350 cfs? Can anyone else confirm that? We are planning on packing on the lighter side.

If you can contribute any helpful knowledge about flows and rafts in December that would be very appreciated. We are caught between bribing our catarafts or renting canoes. Thank you very much!

Anya

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Offline Jalco

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2019, 06:39:42 PM »
The outfitters would be your best source of information, I'm thinking.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2019, 11:29:11 PM »
Agreed with Jalco - the outfitters will know best.

That said, which visitor center are you talking about - Castolon or RGV?  Either way, I think youíd be better off attempting your float in canoes rather than catarafts. At all but the highest flows (>2000cfs), I think you might have a tough time negotiating the narrowest pinches in Santa Elena and Mariscal Canyon. Iíve done them solo in inflatable kayak and inflatable packraft. A big bouncy bendy raft could make it through, but I think a cataraft might get bound up.


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Offline avoloshin

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2019, 04:02:08 PM »
We would be taking out at RGV

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2019, 05:41:01 PM »
We would be taking out at RGV

That will be a beautiful float and I highly recommend it. Back in November/December 2017, I floated the length of the river from Lajitas to the eastern border of the park, beyond Boquillas Canyon, using my one-man packraft.  Fantastic experience. I've also floated Lajitas to Cottonwood campground in an inflatable kayak. In both cases, the river flows were well above 500cfs.

Most of the rapids you'll encounter along your route should be quite manageable and fun in catarafts. I think you could probably make it through the Rock Slide in Santa Elena in your catafrafts, though only through ONE of the several lines available through the rock maze, provided that one lane is open and not blocked with debris (you never know until you get there and scout). The big hangup, I think, will be Mariscal Canyon. There is a major pinch called the Tight Squeeze, and it's tight. There are a couple of lines available but I don't think either can accomodate a cataraft.  Canoes on the other hand, should be fine from Lajitas to RGV and manageable in even low flows.  I haven't checked the most recent gauge data, but I think as long as you're above 250cfs, a canoe would float well with only a few spots along the river where you'd have to drag yourself over gravel bars.

But I'm no expert by a long shot. I've only done those few floats I mentioned.  You'll get far, far better and more up-to-date info from the park staff or from local outfitters like Desert Sports, etc.  Good luck!  If you make the float, please post a trip report here on this board. We'd all love to hear about your experiences. Very few people post reports of floats through the park.

« Last Edit: December 26, 2019, 10:34:44 PM by House Made of Dawn »
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Offline okiehiker

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2019, 08:31:59 PM »
We would be taking out at RGV

That will be a beautiful float and I highly recommend it. Back in November/December 2017, I floated the length of the river from Lajitas to the eastern border of the park, beyond Boquillas Canyon, using my one-man packraft.  Fantastic experience. I've also floated Lajitas to Cottonwood campground in an inflatable kayak. In both cases, the river flows were well above 500cfs.

Most of the rapids you'll encounter along your route should be quite manageable and fun in catarafts. I think you could probably make it through the Rock Slide in Santa Elena in your catafrafts, though only through one of the several lines available through the rock maze, provided it's open and not blocked with debris (you never know until you get there and scout). The big hangup, I think, will be Mariscal Canyon. There is a major pinch called the Tight Squeeze, and it's tight. There are a couple of lines available but I don't think either can accomodate a cataraft.  Canoes on the other hand, should be fine from Lajitas to RGV and manageable in even low flows.  I haven't checked the most recent gauge data, but I think as long as you're above 250cfs, a canoe would float well with only a few spots along the river where you'd have to drag yourself over gravel bars.

But I'm no expert by a long shot. I've only done those few floats I mentioned.  You'll get far, far better and more up-to-date info from the park staff or from local outfitters like Desert Sports, etc.  Good luck!  If you make the float, please post a trip report here on this board. We'd all love to hear about your experiences. Very few people post reports of floats through the park.
They have been releasing 10 cfs from Elephant Butte for weeks now. 95% of the flow is coming from the Rio Conchos. Upstream regulation on the Rio Grande will have no effect.

The two spots that will be a challenge are Rock Slide in Santa Elena which is a question of skilled navigation not waves and whitewater. The other is Tight Squeeze in Mariscal is not that tight in my opinion. I love whitewater, but the sublime beauty and silence of a raft in slow moving water and huge canyons is unbeatable.

I would say that you have the best conditions for this time of year in quite some time. It will be a memorable trip. Mariscal is my favorite, but the whole run is a series of canyons, Colorado, Santa Elena, San Vicente, Mariscal, Hot Springs.

Color me jealous.


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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2019, 09:20:15 PM »
Okiehiker, what do you think about a cataraft? Can one easily make it through the Tight Squeeze? Or would avoloshin be better off renting a canoe?


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Offline okiehiker

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Re: december 2019 rafting trip suggestions
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2019, 10:17:46 PM »
Okiehiker, what do you think about a cataraft? Can one easily make it through the Tight Squeeze? Or would avoloshin be better off renting a canoe?


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Itís a very good question. The inflexible frame has the potential to cause some problems. Iíve rafted Mariscal about a dozen time and honestly itís my favorite. I always used an NRS 13í raft without a frame. We usually had a combination of rafts and canoes but I never had any problems at Tight Squeeze.

If anyone is interested in some confidential discussion of features in the Solis/Mariscal area send me a message.


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