River rafting season off to strong start thanks to melting snowpack

New Mexico

It’s a rafting season like the state hasn’t seen in years. The melting snowpack is fueling fast-moving rapids, lined with rafts full of tourists all excited to experience the Rio Grande up close. 

“[Last year], if you remember, was historically low. It’s exciting to see a historic low year and potentially a historic high year come back-to-back. That’s real exciting for everybody,” said Matt Gontram, owner of New Mexico River Adventures.

Gontram and his guides say the rafting season is off to a strong start. “This is crazy, alright. I’ve never seen water like this,” said Gavin Beck with NMRA.

Gontram says after last week’s cold snap, the Rio Grande Gorge is starting to warm up and some snowpack will melt into the Rio Grande. He predicts peak season will hit in about two weeks.​​​​​​​ “There’s a lot of buzz about the high water this year, we’re still getting snow,” said Gontram.

The river is flowing stronger, faster and deeper—even hitting 10 feet near Embudo—than it has in a long time. The high runoff is making the entire river more intense, with the potential to boost their classifications. “Way more intense, like maybe five times more intense,” said Austin, a guide with NMRA.

That includes one of the most popular rapids, where guides say one out of three boats flip, called Souse Hole.​​​​​​​ “At the higher levels our minimum age rises a little bit in a couple of the rapids,” said Gontram.

Gontram says that doesn’t seem to be scaring their long and growing list of riders away. “High water doesn’t mean purely intense white water, there is always a section for everyone,” said Gontram.

There are still rapids mellow enough to swim through if you can bear the wintry water flowing through a rarely seen version of the Rio Grande. 

Gontram says they’re expecting a long season, that could even last past Labor Day.

If you’d like more information on rafting trips, click here.

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