Rio Grande River in New Mexico

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

With the continuing drought in the Southwest, I'm constantly being asked by people who see the canoe on my rack, where I'm headed. The popular misconception is that there isn't any water anywhere. I could be going any number of places, but in this case it's the Rio Grande.

Every time I paddle the Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area I'm amazed that there isn't anyone else out there. How can this beautiful resource be so unused? There is almost always enough water to float a canoe or kayak (all the way down to 150 cfs) and the dirty little secret is that when the farming season ends and irrigation stops, the flows bounce up and stay there through the fall and winter which is a great time to be on this stretch of water. The river is lined with mature cottonwoods in this area and in the fall they put on quite a show.

The stretch I've run the most starts at the 550 bridge in the town of Bernalillo, about 13 miles north of Albuquerque. It is a flat water float with a braided channel. In the first few miles you can see some houses on the bluff above the river, but you quickly leave that behind and see very little sign of humans until you get to the Alameda bridge 13 miles later. You have spectacular views of the Sandia mountains throughout the run.

The Rio is a major migratory waterfowl flyway, so in the fall you start to see large groups of Canada geese and Sandhill cranes along with the usual scattering of ducks. It isn't unusual to see a beaver or two. It is unusual to see anyone else on the river.

If you don't take out at the Alameda bridge and want to keep on going through the city (also quite nice), take note of the diversion dam just below the bridge. You DON'T want to go over it, but you can easily portage it, with river right being the preferred side. Once you get to the Alameda bridge there are bridges every few miles for the next 14 or so miles through town. Some have boat ramps, some don't.


There is a canoe and kayak livery, called Quiet Waters, in Bernalillo. They will also guide you if that's what you need

I've heard that you can call a cab to run your shuttle, although probably not with your boats. Ahh, the advantages of urban boating...




Put in:

I-25 north from ABQ to state highway 550 in Bernalillo. Take it west until you get to the bridge over the Rio. Just before you cross the bridge you turn right (north) onto a small side street. Twist around and park on the low road that is right next to the acequia.

Take out:
I-25 to Alameda on the north side of town. Go west on Alameda and cross the Rio. Right after you go over the river there is a small driveway into a parking area that accesses the boat ramp and trails along the acequia.


It is a short walk from where you park at the put in along a trail to the river. There is no boat ramp at the put in. There is a ramp at the take out. It's a short carry to your car.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location