The 33-mile Boquillas Canyon trip begins with a few miles of open, hilly desert between the US and Mexico, passing a border crossing and the small village of Boquillas Del Carmen. At about the 4.5 mile mark, we enter a dramatic canyon, and we stay in that canyon the rest of the day. The second day continues between high walls for some time, and then gives way to a more hilly desert landscape, punctuated by occasional high walls. This is where the wind can (and has) become a huge factor. The third day is much the same as the end of the second day, with the same exposure to wind, but has some of the most interesting water of the trip. Post-Boquillas extension for those interested: Santa Elena "Boomerang" on 1/20 (another ~8-10 miles)
DATES: Feb 16-19 (includes the shuttle day) – on the water Saturday through Monday (3 days, 2 nights) - Please note that it takes about a day to travel to and from Big Bend National Park, and you might want to spend additional time in the area with that kind of investment – please consider carefully. Also, the aforementioned shuttle is no trivial matter. We take care of it the day before we get on the water, because it is about a 4-hour operation.
CONDITIONS: can be hot, mild, cold, calm, windy, rainy, snowing, cloudy, overcast or sunny, with shallow (drag-the-boat) to “pushy” water, or combinations of each, and once you start paddling on Saturday morning, you finish, no matter what – you have to be ready for anything.
HAZARDS: The above conditions, plus invasive cane that grows from the banks and can entangle kayaks and canoes and their occupants, the usual assortment of desert dwellers (snakes, arthropods and insects), cactus, mercury in the water (bring your own), NPS employees checking compliance (see REGULATIONS).
Skill Level: Novice: Confidently execute basic strokes plus ability to manage high wind and high waves typically experienced on Lake Charlotte or Sheldon reservoir. You can maneuver the boat on moving water plus be familiar with eddy turns, ferrying and surfing in Class 2 rapids typically found on the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. You must be able to read the river and identify the eddy line.
NOTE: Although most of this section of the river is suitable for a lower classification, the remoteness factor bumps the experience/safety requirement up a rung or two. Comfort with maneuvering in moving water and handling Class 2 rapids is a minimum requirement. Ideally, participants should also have some self-rescue knowledge and be experienced with “Wet Exit”.
HEALTH: Sufficient with margin to handle distance and conditions mentioned above - again, the remoteness of this location and the length of the trip require margin against your typical health baseline. Don't start this trip if you are just barely hanging on to life or if you require daily maintenance that could impair you if not perfectly executed.
ANTICIPATED EXPENSES: Entry to Big Bend National Park will depend on your age and if you already have a National Parks pass of some kind. I think it costs about $80 per vehicle. There is a $5 per day per parked vehicle and $5 per person charge at the take-out, payable in advance. We also buy a case of beer for Fred to make him extra happy to take care of our vehicles at Heath Canyon / La Linda. Campsites, permits and pot luck food contributions will make up the balance of anticipated group expenses – probably another $5-$10 per person. Of course, there will be gasoline, meals, etc. for your own transportation to and from Big Bend, for border crossing if you want to do that, and for however you prepare your camping food.
REGULATIONS: Big Bend National Park has very serious regulations about waste, especially human waste. It is a little more comprehensive than the old backpacker's adage of "pack it in, pack it out". In this area, even if you generate it within the park, you have to pack it out, and there are rules you need to know and prepare for ahead of time on the Big Bend National Park website. Essentially, it boils down to packing out the waste and everything associated with it, including the paper. NOTE: This can get confusing if you use leaves instead of paper, since you are not supposed to remove anything you find in the park.