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HomeNL-2014-04 Boquillas Canyon

Boquillas Canyon
Feb. 2014
by Philip & Tisha Matticks

We had planned to have our semiannual trip down Boquillas Canyon (in Big Bend National Park) on Thursday Feb. 14th, but as that date got closer and closer the river level and CFS kept falling more and more. We arrived at the Rio Grande Village camp ground on the Saturday, hoping that by the next Thursday the river would be back up. As the days went by, all we saw was the river falling to a point that rocks would normally be under 1 to 2 feet of water were now fully exposed. On the day before the shuttle was to take place the water was still falling, then on the day of the shuttle it started to come up. Prior to arriving to our camp site, one of our members said they had talked to a Ranger at the Panther Junction office. The Ranger stated that the Mexican side was releasing water and suggested to get on the water now before it drops again (remember to always pay a tribute to the River Gods). After a short group discussion we decided to go ahead and try running the canyon. Tisha and I were going to use or 17ft canoe, but we were still not sure if there would be enough water, so we used our kayaks (which was the second time we had used them to run the Boquillas Canyon). We had a total of 10 Club members including; 5 canoes and 3 kayaks.

New river use regulations made it a bit confusing for the group as well as those issuing the permits (Park Hostess), however Sandy Ruthworth & Ken Anderson were able to get to the right person & permits all straighten out. So the river permit was as legal as we could get it. Give it another year and they will be back to the old way of doing things.

Those that needed to shuttled their vehicles over to the take out at La Linda so Fred could watch over them for us and as usual we picked up a six pack for Fred. Friday morning we assisted in hauling gear and boats for/with everyone down to the river at the Rio Grande Village boat ramp. We past the new Boquillas Customs check point, where we saw trucks and horses waiting to take the tourist up to the town of Boquillas. As of this date you will need a passport to cross, they do not except enhanced drivers licenses and this particular Border Check Point.

Boquillas Crossing is only open from Tue-Sat by way of a paddled john boat (winter hours). Before anyone asks, no they will not let you land your boat there for crossing, put in or take out. As we got to the entrance of the canyon Dave and Maury Conger paddling in their canoe hit a submerged rock and went over. He is one of the most experienced paddlers we know of from our many trips together. So as we have always said it can happen to anyone at any time. As we stated to Dave Conger later, it was the most graceful turn over we have seen. Then within a few seconds Kent Walters hit and flipped his kayak on the same rock. We all pulled over and gave them a chance to drain out their boats and then we all went on down river looking for a spot that had good sun light so all the wet gear could dry out during our lunch break.


That night we stopped at the camp site we have used in the past for the first night on the river, which has a large area of sand, grass and yes rocks ( about 12 miles down from the put in ). That night we got to see a rare site, the lights of Wal-Mart lighting up the canyon. Well not really, but as the full moon came up it lit up the far end of the canyon from us like there was a store there. The next morning we headed further into the canyon passing horses and candellera wax factories. We got to a short “S” type rapid that had some added rocks from our last trip to maneuver around. The rocks appeared to have come from a new collapse of rock slides from the top section of the canyon walls. The large white break was clearly seen before the rapid and was not there two years ago. We were trying to paddle far enough to get to what has been our second night camp site in the past. Unfortunately, the river flow was still a little too slow to reach the camp site before sundown. So, we stopped at a new camp site which as it turns out was only about 30 minutes up river from the other site. We had traveled approximately 17-18 miles that day with a moderate flow. We will add that site to our “emergency” camp sites for next time.

On our last day we went by the far camp site that we have used in the past years when the flow was higher, which has a high sand stone/gravel cliff. I had mentioned to Louis Aulbach that we would see falcons soar over the cliff when we have camped there in the past. Then within minutes of saying that, sitting up on the cliff was an adult falcon, but it flew off before we got a clear picture of it. We past the last few rapids without any problems

As we approached the takeout Fred came down to guide all of us in. We used our jeep and small trailer to help shuttle all the paddlers, boats and gear up the hill to the main street. In all it was a great trip with great paddlers and excellent weather despite not knowing until the last minute whether or not we could go down this canyon.

One week later the flow had gone from 410cfs when we got off the water to 78cfs when we departed Big Bend.

A Special Thanks to all the Paddlers that joined us on this fabulous trip!

Kent Walters, Louis Aulbach, Robert Killian, Dave & Maury Conger, David Risch, Sandy Rushworth, Ken Anderson

Good company, good paddlers, good friends made this trip an amazing voyage down the unknown!

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy lives to join us at Big Bend and we look forward to seeing you again at Big Bend in 2016!

“Remember; Think Safe, Paddle Safe!”
Philip and Tisha Matticks 

 The authors, Philip & Tisha Matticks