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HomeNL-2017-04 Boquillas Canyon



Boquillas Canyon - Big Bend National Park
Feb. 17-20, 2017
by Kent Walters

This trip started with the shuttle on the day before we hit the water. Pre-arranged drivers and vehicles met at the take-out and took care of the administration there (payment, a beer bribe, and conversation with Fred), and headed back to Rio Grande Village (RGV) to complete the 100-mile shuttle. The first time we all got together as an entire group was at the pot-luck dinner – great food, great company – a generally great way to officially kick off the adventure.


We got up early Saturday morning and started shuttling boats from the campsite to the boat launch, which took three round trips. As the boats collected, their owners packed them with loving care until the schleppers finally finished shuttling the last boats and threw their own boats together in a mad frenzy.

Thanks to everyone’s excellent cooperation, we were on the water by 10:00, as planned. It was a beautiful day of scattered clouds. The riffles and shallows of the pre-canyon section provided excellent acclimation to help us get used to controlling our heavier-than-usual boats. We passed the ICE station, then the Boquillas Crossing and Boquillas village, dangled our hands in the hot springs feeding into the river, and finally passed the Overlook.

By about noon we were in the spectacular Boquillas Canyon with high walls on both sides of us. Shortly after entering the canyon, we stopped for lunch and conversation on a convenient gravel bar. Back on the river, I think it was in this segment that Hazel spotted a bear on the Mexican side of the river. The sensory overload of the unfolding vistas of the Canyon continued with us through the next several miles of alternating swift and sort-of-swift water until we arrived at our campsite about 11.5 miles from RGV. This is our favorite, for those who have been this way before. It is a series of sand and rock benches and hollows, leading to a twisting volcanic slope ending in the peaks above. We set up camp, and started preparing dinner. It should be noted that we were organized into two 4-person food groups, one couple and 3 independents, so there was plenty of opportunity to compare methods, menus, and tradeoffs. One thing all had in common – plenty of food. Saturday night, some went to bed early, and some got together in a small group and looked at the stars and chatted.

Sunday dawned overcast – a photographer’s dream. We did the breakfast thing, and the striking camp thing, and the figuring out how the heck we were going to get all that stuff back into our boats thing, and we were underway by just after 9:00. The overcast held, so it was very comfortable paddling along the ever-changing walls of the canyon. Just before lunch, it started drizzling a little – a nice touch. We pulled over on another gravel bar for lunch just upstream from “El Conejo”, the Rabbit. Some pulled on rain gear while they were eating, preparing for the possibility of increased precipitation. Back on the water, the sprinkling continued intermittently for a little while and then finally gave up. I think it was on this segment, just before leaving the canyon, where several of us saw a raven swoop into a wall above us and pick something off if it (probably a lizard or vole), dropping from the cliff with it in its talons until it’s wings caught enough air to fly again.


We paddled out of the canyon and into a low, hilly landscape with more open views of peaks and walls around us, taking us to our second campsite. This was a 17-mile day, so this campsite was particularly welcoming with its grassy covering and sandy underlayment. This was easier to push our tent stakes into than the previous, more rocky site. Again, we unpacked, set up tents, set up food prep, ate dinner, cleaned up, and again, most sat around to visit when a strong wind with some rain started up at about 9:00. We ran for our tents, just in time for gale-force winds (on the high end of the Beaufort Wind Force Scale) to strike. All of us had the similar experience of our tents flattening down to where our bodies were. This lasted about an hour, after which many of us got out and reassessed our pathetic attempt at pegging down our tents earlier in the evening. After re-staking with greater enthusiasm and putting things back in order inside our tents, we settled in for the night, to be reawakened at about midnight with the same scenario for another hour, and then again at 4:00 for another half hour.

Dawn broke very pleasant, after all of the drama through the darker hours, and we all got up and shook the sand out of everything we could and compared notes. Then breakfast, striking camp, packing the boats and off we went for our last 5 miles. This is where the trickiest rapids appear on the trip. Each decided whether to run or line the rapids and went forward with his/her decision. Those who ran them had a great ride, and those who lined got some great photos.

All too soon, meager signs of abandoned civilization started appearing, and we came to the bridge at La Linda.

Thanks to everyone who made this such a great trip!

Please note that several photo albums of this trip consisting of hundreds of pictures are on the HCC website. As good as these photos are, they cannot do justice to the feeling one gets being there in all of this huge scenery.

Kent Walters



The author, Kent Walters