Which Should I Choose?


Guided or Self-Guided - Which Should I Choose?

Our middle Rio Grande adventures are available with the option of going out independently (Self-guided Adventures), or accompanied by a guide (Guided Adventures). Either option includes the watercraft, equipment, and the shuttle to and from the river. The guided option adds a guide(s) (obviously), basic instruction, bottled water and a light picnic along the way.

Unlike the upper Rio Grande near Taos, NM, which features numerous sections of intense whitewater, the middle Rio Grande is a serene, family friendly, Class I+* float at average flow conditions, with relatively minimal hazards. Those who have prior experience paddling on rivers will find the middle Rio Grande a relaxing, straightforward float trip.

“Minimal Hazards” does not equate to “no hazards”, however. Sweepers and strainers are common, as are occasional obstructions in the river . There are some challenging bends and two small Class I rapids along the way, while widely varying flows create widely varying river conditions in respect to current speeds and severity of hazards that may be present. A full discussion of what to expect at varying flow conditions (as well as an embedded graph reflecting up-to-date flows) may be found on our Current River Conditions page.

Minimum Recommendations for Self-Guided Guests:

  • Be a competent swimmer, comfortable both underwater and swimming in current.

  • Wear your life jacket! New Mexico requires the use of a life jacket at all times when paddling. A PFD provides additional flotation to swim safely in current, as well as core insulation in cooler water conditions.

  • Paddle under control, and possess a fundamental understanding of river dynamics and sufficient skills to stop or reach shore before reaching hazards.

Although we don't want to discourage self-guided guests, we do recommend that all honestly assess their skill level. As a consequence of a select few who have failed to do so over the years, we do have certain additional policies that apply to self-guided trips, including the potential for additional fees involving lost or damaged watercraft and equipment, fees involved in rescue and recovery services, and fees relating to late arrivals at a designated takeout. Full details regarding all of these policies can be found at the Waiver, Terms and Policies page.

Guided Adventures

Those with no prior experience paddling rivers are encouraged to choose a guided adventure instead. Our guide(s) will provide basic instruction and assistance if needed. Guided outings also involve an interpretive aspect, and include a light picnic along the river and bottled water throughout the day.

*Expanded Class I/Class I+ River Classifications

We've adopted the Expanded Class I River Classification system developed by Ron Watters of Idaho State University. This system applies a methodology to expand and more clearly define the wide variations that exist on Class I rivers. We find these definitions to be highly applicable to the Middle Rio Grande, and they are referenced throughout our website.

Full details and general guidelines as to what to anticipate at varying flow conditions can be found at our Current River Conditions page.