Most paddlesports recreation in the Albuquerque area takes place along the approximately 18 mile long reach of the middle Rio Grande from the village of Algodones in the north, to the Alameda Bridge at the northern city limits of Albuquerque.
Outings are possible within the City of Albuquerque as well, although rarely, as there are only a few weeks in good water years that flows are sufficient to easily navigate the river below the Alameda bridge.
Enjoyable options will vary throughout the year, largely dependent upon current flow levels. As outlined on the Current River Conditions page, the reach from Algodones to the North End of Corrales is navigable by kayak, SUP and canoe at flows as low as 150 cfs.
Algodones to North Corrales
We call this outing "The Coronado", as it covers a stretch of river that encompasses the area the Coronado campaign wintered in 1540 and entails 9 1/2 miles of remarkably secluded Rio Grande valley. The upper section of this trip passes through Santa Ana Pueblo and features fascinating volcanic topography and two small, Class I rapids, along with the beautifully restored bosque. Flows above 1200 cfs may create occasional Class II conditions.
A shorter option (under two hours) ends at Bernalillo, while those choosing to continue for the additional hour experience the Rio changing character as it widens and slows, passing through the recent bosque restoration work in Rio Rancho. Higher flow levels (above 1500 cfs) may allow exploration of several secondary river channels, while riverbanks dominated by majestic old-growth cottonwood along the east riverbank (mostly Sandia Pueblo lands) open regularly to reveal spectacular views of the Sandia mountains.
"North Corrales to Alameda Blvd"
As the Rio Grande passes through Corrales, the river slowly widens, braiding into multiple channels as it meanders through seemingly endless cottonwood Bosque. Although quite close to the sprawling development of greater Albuquerque, it's a surreal wilderness experience on the water, as the east bank is dominated by the Sandia Pueblo lands, while the west bank is entirely protected Corrales Bosque preserve.
Numerous islands and sandbars along the way offer multiple options to break for a snack or a refreshing swim. Approaching Alameda, the Rio spills into numerous narrow channels, winding its way through several small islands, providing a tropical wetlands feel. Recognized by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area, songbirds and waterfowl are plentiful in this section, and the views and sense of solitude are remarkable.
This reach becomes very challenging at flows below 700 cfs, as numerous mudflats and sandbars come into play at low flows, and require excellent to exceptional river reading skills to successfully navigate. We do not offer this outing as a self-guided option at lower flows, as most casual recreational paddlers don't possess the requisite skills needed.
Trip Distances and Approximate Time Involved
Time estimates assume average flow conditions (700 - 1200 cfs). Bolded copy indicates our regularly offered outings
Algodones Launch Options
- Algodones to Bernalillo – 5 ½ miles – Under 2 Hours
- Algodones to North Corrales ("The Coronado" - Guided or Self-Guided) – 9 ½ miles – 3 - 3 1/2 Hours
- Algodones to Alameda – 18 miles - 6 - 6.5 Hours
Bernalillo Launch Options
- Bernalillo to Corrales – 4 miles – One Hour of river time
- Bernalillo to Alameda – 12 1/2 miles – 3.5 - 4 Hours
North Corrales Launch Options
Corrales to Alameda – ("The Bosque" - Guided; Self-Guided at flows above 800 cfs only ) 8 1/2 miles – 2.5 - 3 Hours
Rio Grande Valley State Park (RGVSP)"
The Rio Grande through the city of Albuquerque is very unique, primarily due to the near total lack of any development along the reach
Rio Grande Valley State Park, established by the NM Legislature in 1983, essentially protected the entirety of the riverfront from Sandia Pueblo to the north, to Isleta Pueblo to the south. An extensive trail system extends throughout the riparian forest (known as "bosque" in Spanish - pronounced Bos-Key) adjacent to the river which are extremely popular with local outdoor enthusiasts. The Albuquerque bosque is a haven for a wide variety of bird life throughout the year, making the trail system quite popular with hikers, mountain bikers and birdwatchers.
The wider river channel in the city, combined with the San Juan Diversion Dam immediately south of the Alameda bridge, translates to extremely shallow water much of the year, making paddlesports in the city quite challenging.. (Please see our Current River Conditions page for a more detailed discussion.) In good water years, though, the experience from the water itself can be outstanding, with the relatively frequent bridges and occasional views of the towering city center in the distance the only reminders that you're surrounded by a major metro area.
At higher flows, we occasionally offer the following options through RGVSP:
"RGVSP" North: Alameda Blvd to Central Avenue - 2.5 - 3 hours of River Time
"RGVSP"South: Central Avenue to Rio Bravo - 2.5 - 3 hours of River Time