Rio Chama River - El Vado to Big Eddy - 05/19

This was my sixth Rio Chama trip spanning the last twelve years. Never had a bad one but due to age, logistics, and mindset, this was likely my final trip on the Rio Chama. A good portion of that mindset was that Mark Foster and I were totally knackered on out day. I guess two old guys breaking camp, doing 20+ miles, unrigging, shuttling 35 miles, and setting up camp could be considered an accomplishment. But we were too tired to know.

As always, find it a bit surreal to commit to this trip when you can only hope there will be enough water to raft. The Taos BLM river desk never returned calls or when they did answer, had no real information on future flows. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which controls dam releases on the Rio Chama and Rio Grande complex, never returned any phone calls. We had some information El Vado would start filling once Elephant Butte Reservoir reached 20% capacity, not that it was official. Spreadsheet graphs had that occurring on day 2 of a 3 day trip. We were a mid-week launch so would they shut it off hard, or keep boatable flows? No one knew.

Turns out the district ramped down from 3000 to 2000 to a final optimum 1000 CFS level. Other boaters launching said they heard it was going to stay there and it did at least for as long as we were on the river. Managing a designated Wild and Scenic river section and not knowing the flow for the next day seems an issue to me, but enough whining. It was a good trip with really good weather and water.

We stayed the night before launching at El Vado Ranch cabin #1 which meant that we could rig from the front porch. The ranch also handled the $85 shuttle to El Vado. In six trips, do not even have a shuttle story to tell. Just leave the key/vehicle and start it up once at Big Eddy. No glitches. At two launches per day mid-week, the river seems under utilized. We only encountered one other group on river the whole trip. Essentially every campsite was available.

We had planned on spending two nights on the river, but somehow just keep going on day two. That four mile no camping zone kind of makes for either a long or short last day based on campsites. And sometimes a trip is just over before the scheduled date. After some hard miles the previous couple days at Chaco Canyon, we were done. We both thought it was good.

Click images to view trip report details.

Trip report image
USGS flow link image