Where to Paddle in Albuquerque?
When we opened our doors in 2010, recreation on the Rio Grande near Albuquerque was rare, to say the least. There have been tremendous changes since, and we now regularly see many others on the river. We also receive dozens of emails and phone calls each summer from folks who have their own watercraft inquiring about where to put in. These calls have become frequent enough that responding to them interferes with our ability to serve our customers, so we've decided to address this here on our site, as there doesn't appear to be any other resource online that does so.
The most important thing to understand regarding river access in the Albuquerque area is the degree of difficulty involved. Unlike communities that have long embraced river recreation and made concerted efforts to provide easy access for paddlers, the communities within Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties have done little. Access does exist, but in nearly all cases, lengthy and challenging carries of boats and gear is required, and should be a significant consideration for those who own their own watercraft, as well as those thinking of purchasing their own canoe, kayak or SUP to use on the river here.
We have been encouraged as a result of some fairly prominent calls for improved access (see this front page article from the ABQ Journal), and are hopeful that there may be progress as interest in river recreation grows. The paddling community here though, while growing, remains small, so we don't anticipate any noteworthy changes soon. It's sort of a circular issue, in that many who would likely enjoy the river won't do so without easier access, and easier access is unlikely to occur without more people enjoying the river.
With these caveats addressed, what follows below are details regarding the commonly used public access points along the 18 miles of the Rio immediately north of Albuquerque where we operate, listed from north to south. Although we don't currently offer trips there, we've also included links to information about access within the City of Albuquerque, as well as a New Mexico State Parks link addressing other paddling opportunities statewide.
Obvious Disclaimer is Obvious: This information is provided as a public service only, and we provide no warranties, assurances of safety or security, nor any other guarantees of any kind regarding any decisions made by any person or persons with regard to any use of the information provided below.
Notes: All GPS coordinates from Google Earth (Degrees/Decimal Minutes). Clicking the GPS coordinate at each description will open a Google Maps link to the entrance to the service road that leads to the access. Few of these locations have any actual physical address.
The northernmost commonly used public access is the Angostura Diversion Dam, located at the south end of the village of Algodones. Accessed via a service road that heads west from NM Hwy 313, the dam is managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD). Locked gates prevent access to the dam itself, so a carry of approximately ¼ mile to the river is involved.
NM 313/Angostura Diversion Dam Service Road Entrance GPS Coordinates and Google Maps link:
The most popular access in Bernalillo is at Coronado Campground, located just northwest of the Hwy 550 bridge in Bernalillo. A day use parking fee of $5.00 applies to any vehicle(s) parking at the campground. The parking area is located at the north end of the campground, and the river is accessed by a fairly steep, rough trail through the bosque requiring a carry of approximately 130 yards. This access is open most of the year, but closes in the winter months when they close their tent camping area.
The alternatives to the campground are the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District properties east of the river , both north and south of the Hwy 550 bridge. Both will require a lengthy carry from the locked gates to the water. The south side access does avoid potential hazards in the river channel below the bridge. Bosque Brewing has been another popular access since they opened in Bernalillo, but that access has been fenced off and posted with no trespassing signage as of May, 2021.
NM HWY 550/Coronado Campground Entrance GPS Coordinates and Google Maps link:
Completed in early 2013 as part of the outstanding Rio Rancho bosque restoration project, the North Beach Bosque Trail offers a crushed gravel trail of a little over 100 yards to access the Rio immediately above the small “North Beach” rapid. The entrance to the service road leading to the parking area is reached via Riverside drive, just east of Rio Vista Park.
As of 2021, the RIo Rancho access is best used as a take out site, as a rock weir extending entirely across the river channel is located immediately downstream, The weir requires a portage and can be avoided entirely by launching at the North Corrales access (info immediately below).
Rio Rancho North Beach Bosque Trail Service Road Entrance GPS Coordinates and Google Maps link:
North Corrales Siphon
Another access at “North Beach” (a few hundred yards downstream of the Rio Rancho option) is reached via an MRGCD access road that parallels the Corrales Siphon irrigation channel at the westernmost end of the Village of Corrales. The service road runs north from Corrales Rd for nearly a mile to a small parking area at the river. A small launch area to the south was added in 2020 when the aforementioned rock weir extending across the river channel was constructed.
North Corrales Siphon Channel Service Road Entrance GPS Coordinates and Google Maps link:
Alameda Bridge (Corrales)
The southern terminus of the reach we operate on is the Alameda Bridge. The best vehicle access at Alameda is an unimproved parking area immediately northwest of the bridge. This property is managed by the Village of Corrales, and is accessed from westbound Alameda traffic only. There is a large concrete boat launch here, constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and budgeted as a recreational improvement as part of the $25MM Bosque Restoration Project (funded by the 2013 Federal Stimulus Legislation), but vehicle access is closed to all but authorized emergency personnel. The carry from the river to the parking lot is again about 100 yards, and requires lifting boats and gear over locked gates.
We recommend this access as a takeout only, as the San Juan/Chama Diversion dam is just a quarter mile below the bridge, and there is no easy portage around the dam.
Alameda Bridge NW Parking Area Entrance GPS Coordinates and Google Maps link (Corrales) :
Access below Alameda Bridge (City of Albuquerque)
With few exceptions, access within the city of Albuquerque is extremely difficult (Montano requires a carry of a half mile!), and except for a short period of a few weeks of high flows in strong water years, the wider river channel and lower flows resulting from the San Juan Diversion dam leads to a very shallow, braided river channel with multiple sandbars and mudflats requiring outstanding river reading skills to navigate. Still, at sufficient flows (above 1000-1500 cfs) the river through Rio Grande Valley State Park is outstanding, once you've managed to get to it.
The best three access points in the city listed from north to south are: Calabacillas Arroyo, Central Avenue and Rio Bravo Blvd northwest of the bridge
Although some people do use the Alameda access as a departure point for outings through Albuquerque, the San Juan Diversion dam immediately below the bridge can be very hazardous, especially at flows below 2500 cfs, Putting in at Calabacillas Arroyo avoids this entirely by accessing less than a half mile below the dam.
The parking area and access is reached from northbound Coors Blvd NW. Approximately 6/10's of a mile north of Paseo Del Norte, turn right (east) onto Westside Dr. NW. You will come to a fork in the road within a few hundred feet. Veer left at the fork to continue onto the Open Space Access Rd that runs along Calabacillas Arroyo, then continue until you see the unimproved parking area ahead of you,
Calabacillas Arroyo Parking Area GPS coordinates and Google Maps link:
The best river access at Central Avenue is immediately southwest of the bridge. The parking area is managed by MRGCD and ABQ Open Space, and is reached via Sunset Rd SW, which travels south of Central Avenue immediately west of the bridge spanning the river. From Central Ave, turn south onto Sunset Rd SW. Just 300 feet south of the intersection, turn left (west) onto the dirt service road heading north along Sunset Rd NW to access the parking area.
Central Avenue Access GPS coordinates and Google Maps link:
Rio Bravo Blvd SW
The easiest access at Rio Bravo Blvd is immediately northwest of the bridge. From the intersection of Rio Bravo and Isleta Blvd, take Isleta north to the first right (Kelsey Rd SW). Continue on Kelsey until it dead ends into Shaw Dr. SW and turn right, then continue until you see the locked gate ahead.
Rio Bravo Blvd SW Access GPS coordinates and Google Maps link:
More information on river access in the city can be found at the following two links:
Other Information (Statewide)
New Mexico State Parks has a pretty comprehensive list of other paddling opportunities statewide at the following link:
New Mexico State Parks: River Runs