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 controlling watercraft 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 three small Class I+/II 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:
We recommend that Self-Guided Guests be competent swimmers, comfortable both underwater and swimming in current, and possess a fundamental understanding of river dynamics and sufficient skills to safely navigate Class I+/II rivers, including:
- How to recognize and avoid obstructions in the river channel
- How to stop and get to shore quickly and efficiently
- How to eddy in and out of current
- How to position their watercraft when approaching hazardous bends
- How to execute self-rescues in moving water
For those uncertain regarding any of the above, please choose a Guided Adventure instead.
Notice of Potential for Additional Fees
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 outings. Please see our Waiver, Terms and Policies page for full information on potential fees that include:
- Full Financial Responsibility for any lost Watercraft and Equipment
- Rescue and Recovery Services Fee
- Late Arrival at a Takeout or Missed Takeout Fees
Those with minimal prior experience paddling rivers are encouraged to choose a Guided Adventure. 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.