Rio Chama River - El Vado Ranch to Big Eddy - May 14, 2007

As is not uncommon, the anticipated group of fellow boaters never materialized. Even Lucy cancelled in order to attend a mandated work training class. So it was a solo venture on an new river. As compared to last months Gila Wilderness trip, there was a lot of information available for this river. The 'Wild and Scenic Rio Chama' by Stephen Maurer served as the river guide. The trip length is 30 miles through a variety of regulated sections. The first 20 miles are designated as "Wild" while the next 5 miles are classified as "Scenic". The last 4 miles are designated as "Study" which essentially offers the same protection as a Wild and Scenic section.

El Vado Reservoir releases determine the flow on this section. The Bureau of Reclamation manage the dam and releases. Ed (505-462-3586) and Ray (505-462-3582) were my contacts at estimating probable releases. This appeared to be non-trivial and driven by legal contracts, local water conditions, and the weather. The week before launch day, the best I could get was there should be 'plenty' of water and it should last until at least the weekend. Undoubtedly both Ed and Ray were tired of hearing from me by that time. The BLM Taos office (the new 2017 BLM web page) is the river manager with Pat being the permit manager. For midweek trips, the BLM allows 3 launches per day except for Thursday where only a single group launch is allowed.

Numerous side drainage's added 150-200 CFS to the dam release of 1600. I can't imagine better flows for a first-timer although the normal rock-dodging at lower levels would be more exciting. There were drawbacks to the faster river, fewer campsites and difficulty stopping at some of the common spots.

The rustic El Vado (Cooper's) Ranch located just below the dam served as lodging, shuttle parking, advisor, and shuttle intermediary. Up the Creek Shuttle Service (575-588-7704) provided the shuttle. Cost was $70 and there were no issues. I would not hesitate to use either business again. The drive from the dam to Big Eddy is approximately 1 hour each way and includes 6 miles over a good dirt road.

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Trip report image
USGS flow link image