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Big Bend National Park - Rio Grande in Texas

Trip Overview

RIO GRANDE RIVER: TALLEY TO HEATH

The put in, Talley Crossing above Mariscal Canyon lies on a deep sand gravel bed washed down a 25 mile long plain from the road to Rio Village. The drive is exceptional, a great American road trip.

The landing across from Mexican pastures, remains from a once large meadow visible from the "parking area", is camping, rig and put in for Talley to Heath.

TALLY LANDING: N28.98345� W103.18548�
Stop at culvert under the road's last left turn to the Rio. Walk a few yards further, the landing meadow is visible 100 yards west of this embankment thru a young woody strip below the road elevation.

Arrive at Talley after lunch on an early shuttle from Terlingua, rig, camp, cast off the next day.

Three rapids immediately follow off the sand/gravel elevation, a quick drop on the left off the crossing�s pool, two long chutes running into the high banking. Scout if you're warming up, getting bearings and balance. Recommend hull rigged with 2 long floating lines bow and stern.

Mariscal Canyon follows. Enjoy Mariscal, stop at the next 2 canyon rapids for canyon and rapid. Blend in touring with running the river.

Louis Aulbach's book, "The Great Unknown of The Rio Grande" photos both 'Rock Pile Rapid' and 'The Tight Squeeze' Widely commented on, both are obstacles at 500 cfs. The 2 chutes are rapids.

Aulbach's Rock Pile photo is 2-3 feet above 500 cfs. At 500 the rock pillars form a wall right to left, an opening on the left leaves from a shallow sandbar then quickly turns right. You may tour/scout standing on the sandbar.

The Squeeze is grand coming/leaving, look back. Take out for scouting on the right: tour! My Wenonah Solo Plus paddled single floated current thru the notch. Fence with a very attractive large blue boulder at the exit after a brake and draw. In a tandem, plan on having your act together.

A lining route may be thru the crack on the left ? But once scouting that on the left, getting back right is problematic. Run the Notch.

At 500 cfs, we rose early paddling at 10-10:30 to 4-5PM.

5 paddling days to Heath from Talley with 2 days for put in and take out shuttles. Our trip followed several high wind days out of the desert around Boquillas Canyon. We paddled against short wind periods thru 2 long pools, a low wall canyon stretch in Boquillas. Slow water at 500 cfs is minimal compared to the trip. The last 40 miles runs downhill with a drop nearly every quarter mile:
1890-1720=170/40=4.25'/mile

Mileage for 500 cfs was optimal rapiding, 600+ better, weather excellent.

Weather for early November can be predicted from:
http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/dailywxmap/index_20151107.html
and previous days.

We left on the 7th following a frontal of thunderstorms after the initial blow 3 days earlier.

Note Boquillas is: 'the mother of winds.' Wind at Rio Village camping always rose during my 3 visits to 10-15 mph during a stay of a few days. Wind is mentioned by Aulbach as an obstacle for the last miles into Heath.

First camped at N29.00417� W103.05967 between Solis and Fresno Creek.

Camp at Hot Springs left before Rio Village, if not stopping at Rio, with a prepared early rise onto the Rio paddling thru Boquillas before an afternoon wind rises. Springs are visible on river surface ? turn back to last eddy.

Camped: N29.21943� W102.90952�
And in the canyon near the Marufo Vega Trail, coordinates missing.

River mileage past Boquillas turns left right left right left right� with shallow drops at 500 cfs, for a interminable time and is camp able. The Goatsucker lives here with friends faeries and trolls.

The left right section may be after Mariscal not after Boquillas. Its the faeries...

Recommend using Aulbach's UTM book map points mapped into a Garmin GPS, for camping in the area past Heath Creek page 87 possibly at crossing areas: Stillwell, Adams Ranch, Black Rapids. Garmin with TOPO USA lists Rio points. Get out n wade. Wade, don't run.

Garmin with Topo USA 2007 is a difficult transfer from the PC. Check the results with an off/on of the handheld. My transfers leave out the southern tip area. Only after several tries did the 'toe' transfer.

Running the river, like riding a motorcycle, is not touring the river environment. Running detracts from living the touring experience.

Our 5 day on the river trip, 7 days overall is better done as a 8/9 day trip

An outfitter scheduling shuttles fits your trip into available shuttle dates. Your ideal 7/8/9/10 day trip begun on Day X may not see open leave/depart days on the outfitter�s schedule. Call when ready.

Current at 500 cfs runs to the American side. Take the first drop rule does not apply. Thru open landscape areas the left side current may run more deeply in the left middle. Sand/gravel piles up against turns� outside banking, fanning back inside to narrow but thick water at the inside bank. Often seen as a narrow drop disappearing behind a sandbar not a larger drop behind a large sandbar/island.

Aulbach's noted rapids, there are 2 running to the Mexican cliffside may thin into minimal current stream levels runnable over their shallow apexs. These Mexican cliff turns are notched with short jutting walls so have the left side draw motions working. These rapids are thinly runnable thru the middle or lineable on the left.

Above Black Gap Rapid runs an American cliff side rapid below the mine pool, runnable left against the cliff or chicken route right against the right bank at 500 cfs. Black Gap Rapid sports a catcher eddy above the apex rock. Black Gap is a leg stretcher stop at 107 for Albach.

My first trip with the Solo, the usual Trans-Barrens equipment load, developed the canoe hull trailing right side brace floating across an American side turn�s eddy with bow riding narrow current's inside down slope, stern following along in slower water.

40 miles of grade, drop turns every .33 mile �the brace has rhythm. Brings a broad smile.
You are reading a description of the ultimate American touring trip for an intermediate paddler. Warm remote water, cool nights, flat stone bottom.

The canyon walls are replete with manmade and natural canyon art from various sources. Caves high off the water with stacked rock man forms inside �a profiled head of Richard Nixon on a cliff wall ! Several cliff turns appear hollowed out before the apex for your thrashing pleasure.

Our equipment list is complete from gourmet freeze dried food, MSR gravity filter, Dromedary bags at gallon/day of distilled water, 3 NRS Bills Bags strapped to d-rings, Garmin and ACR, nylon pants/shorts for November with hoodies, long sleeve poly tech weave crews, a SA sunhat with neck cover. Polarized sunglasses do not read muddy water chop. Water sandals with neoprene booties. Night socks. Bag is a zero degree North Face poly mummy.

The Rio is muddy, the MSR gravity filter filters into Dromedary bags while the Kelty Gunnison goes up. No, the clear filtered water does not "taste bad." First MSR Gravity use at Black Rapid �amazing�with honey mustard chicken �

Our trip shuttles and local expertise came from Mike at Desert Sports located west of Terlingua crossroads. Mike is a gem.

Many people you meet here are not up to speed. Hostile sometimes violent attitudes toward "outsiders" are completely outside acceptable American touring standards.

Buy trip water from Walmart at Fort Stockton. I had serious dry mouth problems with local bottled water. The Terlingua store on left driving in from NPS is well stocked for last minute buys eg Bic lighters, Apricot Cliff bars�.AC BARS ? next Heidi Clem !

Louis Aulbach's book "The Great Unknown of the Rio Grande" (ISBN 9781499520088) and Aulbach "The Lower Canyons of The Rio Grande" (ISBN 0-9765213-4-2) are available at Desert Sports or Louis Aulbach, PO BOX 925765, Houston, Texas 77292-5765.

Aulbach's "Lower" is ring bindered best turned first with a ruler. My copy went along in a clear KK map case. Albach's UTM use age was a during trip surprise. Garmin converts UTM to decimal degrees but first you need an accurate UTM not available from the book's maps.

Wenonah's Royalex Solo Plus is perfect for the trip.
Maneuverable, stable for feet on gunwales, low drag under grounding rock broach, capacious, thump tolerant, tracks well enough in pool with some glide. Mike reported on light layups at low cfs.

I'm listing for a Lower Canyons trip next fall. Ask Mike.

Outfitting:

DESERT SPORTS shuttle, advice, last minute wagbags/guide book

Fees:

NPS at Panther Village sells a river permit during a pre-launch 24 hour period. Online permits available ? with required equipment including wagbags/fire pan..a foil turkey roaster may qualify for a no fire trip.

Directions:

Fort Stockton, Texas to Big Bend National Park to Terlingua

Resources:

Aulbach and Southwestpaddler online.

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip