Jump into Spring

Raft Big Bend

In the spring the mighty Rio Grande surges with rambunctious life through the austere flat lands and deep desert canyons of this mighty national park. One side of the river is Texas, the other Mexico: Both sides are pristine wilderness.

The three river canyons of Big Bend National Park—Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas—can be rafted either singly or altogether as a seven day trip. Each canyon has a distinctive character, so picking out just one to do is thornier than canyon-bottom cactus. The Santa Elena is the first and most popular canyon. Its charms include waterfalls, fossils, petroglyphs, wildlife, and the notorious Rock Slide Rapids—a walloping stretch of hard-to-figure whitewater. Boquillas Canyon is much calmer: Its whitewater is barely Class II. The 4,000-foot canyon walls, caves, and rock formations make this a good trip for sinking into geological time—slow and majestic. Mariscal is a festive canyon, with lower walls and lively rapids. It is the most remote of Big Bend's canyons: beckoning those who seek wilderness.

Of course, rafting is not the only thing you can do in Big Bend National Park. The park features superlative hiking and mountain biking on the park's rough roads.


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