New Mexico River Runs Information Here


New Mexico Professional River Outfitter Trips.

These outfitters must meet New Mexico minimum standards for boating safety for rafting and kayaking and strict agency guidelines for guide experience and first aid/CPR training.  Non-swimmers are recommended by Best Practices to not participate in whitewater sports activities since swimming skills are needed to avoid strainers, positioning oneself upstream of boats if ejected or swimming back to a raft or kayak.  Clothing needed to protect yourself in the event of a capsize or fall overboard will vary by outfitter so if you are planning to go make sure you ask what you need or that they provide you what you need in advance.

Remember to dress for the swim not the air temperature .


Kayak Fishing in New Mexico

The challenge of fishing from a kayak has increased in popularity in New Mexico with outdoor stores carrying both the traditional sit- inside kayaks or sit-on-bottom (SIK- SOB) and both the new paddled sit-on-tops (SOT) and kayak pedalcraft (Mirage Drive or Propeller Driven) that makes lake cruising and trolling easy.  Many kayaks have bait wells, fish finders, multiple rod holders, add on safety features such as stabilizers (AMAS) sailing options and even mini Bimini tops!  Best of all they cost much less than a powerboat and work without gasoline!

The Heron Lake Paddlefest is normally held in August. A group of volunteers form to do it. Contact Heron Lake State Park to get on a volunteer list (575-588-7470)

If you are just starting try Fenton, Bluewater and Clayton Lakes.  As you progress you would like Santa Rosa and Caballo Lakes  before heading out on other larger lake explorations.


River Running Kayak and Canoes in New Mexico

The information on actual river runs are here. 

Before going on please take the time to first review the information below this section before going.

Great Race on the Rio Grande albuquerque 2008

Great Race on the Rio Grande Annual City of Albuquerque Event

Great Race Down the Rio Grande Bring your canoe, kayak, or homemade craft and join us for this historic float down our beloved river! Learn more at

great race 9 Canoe & Kayak Parking Race participants in canoes and kayaks should park here. Canoes and kayaks launch from Alameda Bridge at 8:00 a.m. Race participants in canoes and kayaks should park here. Canoes and kayaks launch from Alameda Bridge at 8:00 a.m. On this day the Low Head Dam that normally poses a hazard and must be portaged is lowered for the race.
great race 10 Canoe & Kayak Launch Canoes and kayaks will launch from this point at 8:00 a.m. Canoes and kayaks will launch from this point at 8:00 a.m.
great race 11 Raft & Craft Parking Race participants in rafts and crafts should park here. Rafts & crafts launch at 10:00 a.m. from Tingley Beach. Race participants in rafts and crafts should park here. Rafts & crafts launch at 10:00 a.m. from Tingley Beach.
great race Raft & Craft Launch Rafts and crafts will launch from this point at 10:00 a.m. Rafts and crafts will launch from this point at 10:00 a.m.
great race 1 Finish Line The end of the race is at the South Diversion Channel at 12:00 noon. The end of the race is at the South Diversion Channel at 12:00 noon.
great race 2 Finish Line Parking Park here to pick up your canoe, kayak, raft or craft after the race. Park here to pick up your canoe, kayak, raft or craft after the race.
great race 3 Canoe & Kayak Drop-Off Drop your canoes and kayaks here, and then make a U-turn to return to the parking area. Drop your canoes and kayaks here, and then make a U-turn to return to the parking area.
great race 4 Raft & Craft Drop-Off Turn in at the northern-most Tingley turn-in to drop off your rafts and crafts. (Note that this satellite map is out of date and does not show the newly renovated Tingley Beach). Turn in at the northern-most Tingley turn-in to drop off your rafts and crafts. (Note that this satellite map is out of date and does not show the newly renovated Tingley Beach).

Equipment for Paddlecraft River Running or Lakes in New Mexico

Be aware that you are must meet required state equipment requirements (PDF) for your paddlecraft or be subject to trip ending and/or enforcement action.


1) Life jackets properly sized and worn and in good condition rated for your activity. 2) Whistle or other mechanical sound producing device that you should attach to each life jacket.  3) Lights (bright headlamp/flashlight or all around lantern) if operating at night. 

New Mexico has a  statewide mandatory life jacket wear requirement by everyone doing any boating activity at any time on any river in the state or anytime and anyplace in any form of paddlecraft.

New Mexico Boat Act Regulation 9.1.4

"A U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable personal flotation device shall be worn by all persons engaged in boating on a river and in all boat races and by persons using ice sailboats, personal watercraft, kayaks, canoes and rubber rafts on any waters of this state."

Get one that is comfortable and suitable for your activity. Once in the water your life may depend on the life jacket. On whitewater kayaking and rafting trips make sure that the jacket is on tight during and that the label states that it is rated for whitewater use (generally greater protection and buoyancy than normal life jackets)   It is good to have a buddy check the fit by attempting to "lift" the jacket up by it's shoulder straps (should not rise up much off the shoulders) and always check the front straps and any crotch straps before you take off.  The same process should be done after any out of the water stop made when life jackets are sometimes loosened.

Again, required equipment is the bare minimum and does not ensure that you can self rescue in all conditions. Take some hands on training from a certified instructor.

Additional equipment such as Dry Suit and Insulative Layers, Wet suit and Drytop, Helmet, Floatation bags, Spray Skirt and Deck, Paddle Leash, Rescue Stirrups, and Paddle Floats, Rescue Knife, Tow Line and Throw Bag and special techniques are recommended as conditions warrant. Some of these are also mandatory by other government agencies when running on their permits.

Canoe Rafting and Kayaking

On all trips take the ten essentials , file a float plan and take a cell phone with extra battery, satellite position location 911 unit (SPOT) and/or a personal location beacon (PLB) / and a GPS. Make sure most of these items are secured in or on a life jacket and in fully waterproof bags where practical. Check with your commercial outfitter if you are taking one of their trips in a isolated area as to how they will handle an emergency and what provisions they have made for emergency communications if any.


Special Considerations

Weather and Temperature.

Always check water flows and water temperatures on some sites such as at this USGS Site

and 48 hour detailed weather


Low Head Dams.

Low Head Dams on the Rio Grande and on the Animas, Pecos and San Juan Rivers were built primarily to provide a means for controlled irrigation in the river farming communities and sometimes for power plant cooling and for recreation.  Others such as the Buckman Diversion on the Rio Grande for the City of Santa Fe and the San Juan/Chama Diversion for the City of Albuquerque are for direct use of waters for drinking water supply supplementation.

Low dams, however, can be deceptively calm and incredibly dangerous. Low dams may range from ten foot drop-offs or more to a mere 6-inch drop-off. Water flowing over the dam forms currents that can trap objects as well as boaters.

Low dam safety tips:

  • Know the location of all low dams and waterfalls on the river you plan to boat.
  • Never attempt to boat over a dam or waterfall.
  • Carry your boat around the low dam and launch at a safe distance, well downstream of the backwash of the low dam, which can pull you back into the dam.
  • Watch for a smooth line connecting the banks. This may be the top of a low dam.
  • Listen for the splashing sounds of turbulence and the dangerous currents at dams.
  • Scout the river and know the location of all river hazards – not just low dams.
  • Boat with experienced, responsible boaters and learn from them.
  • Look for concrete retaining walls, which some dams have at each bank, making the dams easier to spot.
  • Unless you are trained in low-dam rescues, never enter the water in an attempt to rescue someone trapped by the low dam. Immediately call for help; then, throw a line from shore to the trapped person.

Surviving a low dam
It is nearly impossible to escape the force of a low dam’s currents. When trapped, your best hope for survival is to tuck your chin down, draw your knees to your chest and wrap your arms around your knees. With luck, the current will push you beyond the backwash and release you into the river.


Cold Water Immersion .

Cold drains your strength and robs you of the ability to make sound decisions on matters affecting your survival. Cold-water immersion, because of the initial shock and the rapid heat loss that follows, is especially dangerous. The initial stage is the involuntary gasp reflex which if it occurs underwater will cause the victim to immediately start drowning.  It is for that reason that life jackets are required to be worn at all times while out on the water.  The risk of dying without one is too high. Non-swimmers similarly must not go on whitewater rafting trips due to high risk under stress that occurs during a whitewater capsize. It normally w includes the need many times to swim to the raft/kayak/canoe you just fell out of.

Dressing for the Water - NOT THE AIR

Bring and wear appropriate clothing for bad weather or sudden immersion in the water. Dry suits are worn when the water temperature is less than 45 to 50 degrees F. A drysuit is essential for protection if you capsize or go in for an unexpected swim.

Wetsuits are the second choice, but they work by warming the frigid water from 50 to 65 degrees next to your skin. It takes a bit of energy to warm up 50 to 65 degree water in a wetsuit in early season from April/May/Early June. People have drowned on the Rio Grande and Animas Rivers on early season trips that were wearing partial wet suits. Rounding out a wet suit or drysuit will be a neoprene skullcap, neoprene gloves, and neoprene boots.

Next best that will work in temperatures 65 degrees and above are polypro fleece or pile clothing (no cotton) under a waterproof splash top shell with neck and wrist closures and a closable waist, waterproof splash pants should have both waist and cuff closures and neoprene skullcap, gloves, and booties. This setup and any regarding sudden cold water immersion assumes really quick rescues by a sweep raft or kayak. In this case, you should also carry waterproof matches and a change of clothing in a waterproof bag.

If, after prolonged exposure, a person experiences uncontrollable shaking, loss of coordination, or difficulty speaking, he or she is hypothermic, and needs your assistance. They may not be able to get out of the water due to loss of muscle coordination. Any persons experiencing a hypothermic episode and/or near drowning that may also take place should go to a hospital for observation and/or treatment due to heart stress that may result in loss of heart rhythm and death.

Whitewater river runners should also consider taking a River Rescue course put on each year in the Taos area with the Taos District of the Bureau of Land Management.

Environmental Concerns Regarding Water for Recreation In New Mexico

Use of New Mexico Streams/Rivers for Recreation -

A US Army Corps of Engineers Study in September 1990 recommended that the Rio Grande, between Rio Grande Reservoir and Cochiti, New Mexico be designated a navigable water of the United States.  Other nearby states have done some other research on water recreation use including portage rights and may have similar basis in New Mexico. Texas Recreation Review

New Mexico Water Quality and Contact Recreation -

The New Mexico Environment Department does testing and checks of the water you recreate on and some not-for-profit organizations are also involved in monitoring the process.

One set of groups monitor the water quality of the ditches and irrigation system that runs through Albuquerque (the Rio Grande between Angostura Diversion and I-25 south of Albuquerque). They include Amigos Bravos ( the School on Wheels (Albuquerque Alternative High School) and the Rio Grande High School in cooperation with the South Valley Partners for Environmental Justice and the Rio Grande Community Development Center. funding is from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bernalillo County Environmental Health Office.

If you find any pollution sources it would be good to let them know and if in any State Park, immediately notify the Park Management.  If you feel that the segment of state waters need greater protection there is a legal process for making that change thru the Water Quality Control Commission.                 REVIEW OF STANDARDS; NEED FOR ADDITIONAL STUDIES:

                  A.              Section 303(c)(1) of the federal Clean Water Act requires that the state hold public hearings at least once every three years for the purpose of reviewing water quality standards and proposing, as appropriate, necessary revisions to water quality standards.

                  B.              It is recognized that, in some cases, numeric criteria have been adopted that reflect use designations rather than existing conditions of surface waters of the state.  Narrative criteria are required for many constituents because accurate data on background levels are lacking.  More intensive water quality monitoring may identify surface waters of the state where existing quality is considerably better than the established criteria.  When justified by sufficient data and information, the water quality criteria will be modified to protect the attainable uses.

                  C.              It is also recognized that contributions of water contaminants by diffuse non point sources of water pollution may make attainment of certain criteria difficult.  Revision of these criteria may be necessary as new information is obtained on non point sources and other problems unique to semi-arid regions.

[ NMAC - Rp 20 NMAC 6.1.1102, 10-12-00; Rn, NMAC, 05-23-05; A, 05-23-05]

Planning Water Use in New Mexico-

Water is considered by the New Mexico State Constitution to be a public resource but this resource is governed by a a wide range of water law. Some good sources to find out what is happening to lake and river water today and in the past are a good overview from a state water engineer and your local regional water plan.

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