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Enjoying the Rio Grande

Ways to Safely Enjoy and Protect the Rio Grande in Albuquerque.

 

Did You Know?

  • The Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area offers unparalleled opportunities to see wildlife such as Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons, escape the urban environment, and enjoy water-based outdoor recreation with your family.
  • With the proper equipment and preparation a float down the Rio Grande in a kayak, raft, or canoe is a safe and fun way for the entire family to enjoy one of our City’s most precious natural resources.
  • The Albuquerque stretch of the Rio Grande generally offers calm water and no technical rapids, making this an ideal area to learn the sport of paddle craft boating.
  • Learn more about the Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Boating Safely in the Albuquerque Area

Follow all New Mexico Boating Safety Regulations: Boating safety is the key to enjoying your time on the water. It is legal to float down the Rio Grande in kayaks, canoes, rafts and other non-motorized water craft. Home-made craft do not qualify as legal water craft. Boaters must follow all New Mexico State Parks boating regulations. New Mexico law mandates the wearing of a PFD/Life Jacket at all times while aboard a canoe, kayak or rubber raft or stand up paddleboard and to carry a whistle or horn capable of being heard ½ mile away. Please see this website for details on the Rio Grande and other Rivers in the state.

Check the Water and Weather Conditions: High flows during the spring runoff provide some of the best times to float the river. However, take the time to evaluate your skills before venturing out at times of extremely high or low flows. Open Space recommends visiting the following USGS links for realtime flow information prior to launch:

Always be aware of high winds and cold temperatures when planning your trip. Sustained winds of 25 MPH or more can create difficult challenging conditions for boaters. Dress in layers, bring plenty of water, and use sun protection. Before your trip, don’t forget to inform someone of where you are going and when you plan to be back in case of an emergency. And never combine alcohol with boating. Both Boating Under the Influence of any alcohol or drugs is prohibited as well as Boating While Intoxicated, using the same legal standard as with Driving and with similar penalties. Save it for after an outing and when you are not going to drive.

River Access

It is legal to float down the Rio Grande in kayaks, canoes, rafts and other non-motorized water craft.

In and around Albuquerque there are several places where you can access the river. Most river bridges in the Albuquerque area provide access, with some walking required from the parking areas. A canoe or kayak cart can help make it easier to transport your water craft.

  • The northwest side of the Alameda Bridge, located in the Village of Corrales, is a popular place to launch. Please call the Village of Corrales for more information at 505-897-0502. Note that the San Juan Diversion Dam just south of the bridge creates a hazard requiring a portage. Contact the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority at (505) 768-2500 or view more information about the diversion.
  • The Calabacillas Arroyo on the west side of the river east of Coors Blvd. has parking and access to the river with some walking required. Calabacillas is located on the west side of the river about 1 mile north of Paseo del Norte on Coors Rd. Take Coors north to Westside Drive, Westside east to the dirt levee road, and then east to a dirt parking lot.
  • The north side of the Central Avenue Bridge on both sides of the river offers limited access for boaters with some walking required to get to the river. The Rotary Club Park on the northeast side of the bridge has shaded picnic tables and walking trails.
  • The northwest side of the Bridge Street Bridge has good river access adjacent to existing multi-use trails (some walking required). Limited parking is available on the southwest side of the bridge.
  • The Rio Bravo Bridge has access with some walking required to reach the river. The northeast corner has ample parking and a picnic area. This site also offers a wheelchair accessible fishing pier.
  • Several access points for boaters are available outside of the City of Albuquerque. Call the Boating Safety Officer at New Mexico State Parks at 1-888-NMPARKS or view more information.

Ways to Enjoy the Rio

Now that you’re ready for your adventure, we suggest the following ways to get out on the Rio Grande this year.

1. Enjoy a Safe and Leisurely Float on the River

While limited conditions for boating are available in the summer and fall because of low water in the river, high water levels during the spring runoff season (roughly March through early June) provide ideal conditions to float the river. Generally flows above 400-500 Cubic Feet Per Second has feasible paddling conditions from the North End of the Rio Grande Valley State Park at Corrales to the I-25 and Isleta Reservation Boundary. See the Resources Section below on what you need to know before your trip. The closest livery for paddlecraft rentals is in Bernalillo at Quiet Waters Adventures.

Wildlife Guidelines and Rules: In any float be sure to watch wildlife and waterfowl at a distance to protect the environment. A set of guiding principles are:

  • One of the rewards of using the River is seeing an amazing diversity of wildlife. Some of these species and habitats are sensitive to humans. There are ways to boat that minimize disturbance to wildlife, rewarding the boater with observations of natural behavior.
  • Pass far so animals are not affected by your presence.
  • Pay attention to behavior. When an animal has been disturbed, it will stop its normal activity (sleeping, eating etc.) and watch you. This behavior may escalate to “flushing” or suddenly moving away.
  • Discreetly view and restrain your impulse to get closer. Bring Binoculars and long lenses for viewing.
  • Paddle at a constant speed. Avoid paddling directly at animals, and when you pass by them, maintain constant direction and speed, and avoid sudden stops or changes.
  • Plan your trip to avoid sensitive habitat. That means to avoid areas where you know there are sensitive species and only land in designated areas outside of wildlife preserves.
  • The killing or taking of wildlife within a state park is prohibited unless in accordance with NM Game and Fish.
  • Leave wildlife alone and do not attempt to rescue.
  • Explain to other paddlers that protecting wildlife protects paddling. Irresponsible Paddlers Can Cause Wildlife Area Closures.

2. River and Bosque Related Tours and Classes
The City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department and other local organizations offer many opportunities to enjoy the river and its cottonwood river forest year round! Here is just a sample:

  • The City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department contracts with New Mexico Kayak Instruction to offer kayaking clinics, available through the Los Altos Pool. Please see the Aquatics Division website for more information or call (505) 768-5342.
  • The Open Space Visitor Center (OSVC) has interpretive displays about the Rio Grande and hiking trails that lead to scenic views of the river. Also, the Visitor Center offer a monthly tour of the bosque the first Sunday of each month called “Bosque Wild.” Space is limited, and reservations are recommended one month in advance. Call the Open Space Visitor Center at 897-8831 or see www.cabq.gov/openspace for more information. The Open Space Visitor Center is located at 6500 Coors Blvd. NW. The OSVC is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and is closed on Mondays.
  • The Open Space Summer Series starts on Memorial Day weekend and includes Sunday Hikes. The Sunday Hikes are guided tours of various Major Public Open Space properties. Tours of the bosque and river related presentations are included. Please call 452-5222 or see www.cabq.gov/openspace for a full Summer Series calendar. Planned Summer Series tours around the Rio Grande include: Bosque Bird Walks and a Bosque History River Walk.
  • The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park offers year round activities that get citizens up close and personal with Rio Grande Valley State Park wildlife including birds, bats, fish, geese, cranes, and other critters. See the Nature Center events calendar (http://www.rgnc.org/activities.htm) or call (505) 344-7240 for complete information.
  • Fishing in the Albuquerque area is available year round. Fishing is popular at the stocked ponds at Tingley Beach (http://www.cabq.gov/biopark/tingley/), and is allowed in the Albuquerque Riverside Drains, which are stocked by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. (http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/). The Rio Bravo Bridge on the northeast side has a scenic wheelchair accessible fishing pier next to the drain and plenty of parking. The Rio Grande in Albuquerque is also available for fishing. Call the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at (505) 222-4700 for complete details of fishing in and around Albuquerque.
  • Bernalillo County Open Space provides access to the Rio Grande and Bosque at several of its properties including the Durand Open Space and the Valle del Bosque Open Space. The newly developed Bachechi Open Space has an educational building which hosts year round programs. Stand up paddle boarders access the river both above and below the San Juan Chama Water Diversion on the river from here. See www.bernco.gov/openspace or call (505) 314-0400 for more information.
  • Active military personnel with base access can contact the Outdoor Adventure Programmer at the Kirtland Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation Office at (505) 846-3923 to arrange float trips. Please see www.kirtlandforcesupport.com for details.

3. Día del Río

Día del Río is an annual community celebration of the Rio Grande that takes place in October at a different location each year. This year the event will take place each October. Event activities are suitable for all ages and include trail work, trash pickup, and educational tables from area organizations working to protect the Rio Grande and bosque. Other ways you participate in Dia del Rio include:

  • Clean your favorite area of the bosque. Organize your own bosque cleanup the day of the event! Open Space will provide trash bags and haul off the collected trash. Call 452-5200 or email [email protected] to sign up your group for your own cleanup.
  • Clean trash from your own boat. You can use your canoe, kayak or raft to help clean trash out of the river during Dia del Rio. You must provide your own transportation and shuttle for your boat. The Open Space Division will provide you with trash bags and will pick up the trash. If you bring your boat, you must follow New Mexico State Parks boating regulations. Boaters wishing to organize a cleanup must register with the Open Space Division. Call 452-5200 or see www.cabq.gov/openspace for more information.

4. Sponsor an Open Space River Cleanup Event!

The Open Space Division has proudly partnered with the following organizations to help protect the Rio Grande and to promote responsible recreation on the river during National River Cleanup and Dia del Rio. Please call 452-5200.