RÍO CONCHOS: Sierra Tarahumara to the Desert

242 km (150 miles, class III-IV, 10 days (8 on water)

August: rendezvous in Douglas/Cuauhtémoc . RESERVE NOW

Join an expedition down one of the most scenic rivers in Mexico just south of the New Mexico/Texas border! Enjoy beautiful canyon, interesting caves, fun rapids, and hotsprings in Tarahumara land. Everyone is welcome: kayakers, rafters, and passengers. This is a class III trip suitable for intermediate kayakers.

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slideshow: AGUA CALIENTE


This trip on Río Conchos starts in beautiful high altitude Tarahumara country and descends into the central Chihuahuan desert. Soak in hot springs, camp in sheltered caves, explore abandoned cliff dwellings, hike interesting arroyos, navigate challenging rapids, and enjoy the incredibly scenic canyon. We will run as much of the river as possible, but most likely starting on Río Agua Caliente or at the Red Gorges section and going through Cañon Ciriacos. The second two sections of the river are suitable to big rafts, which will support the group. Although the bigger rapids are class III at most flows, at high flows some might rate IV. Also, there is one that rates class V (Inesperado) near the start that we will likely line or portage and a second (Laborcita) that we will have the option of passing through at the end of the trip. We expect to have two large rafts to accommodate the group. We welcome anyone wanting to join: kayakers, rafters, and raft passengers/paddlers – bring your own boat or use one of ours. Our group size will be capped at 15, which will include 3-4 guides. Space is particularly limited for raft passengers/paddlers, so reserve your place now!

Aug21: participants arrive in Douglas; stay night in hotel; ready to go next morning
Aug22: DAY 1: cross border in Douglas, get tourist visas; continue to Cuauhtémoc/hot springs
Aug23: DAY 2: Agua Caliente run (if water high enough); class II-III; ~15 km
Aug24: DAY 3: onto main Conchos; class III-IV; ~20 km
Aug25: DAY 4: into Red Gorges; one class V; class III; ~30 km
Aug26: DAY 5: Ciriacos; San Rafael; class III; ~40 km
Aug27: DAY 6: Ciriacos; class II-III; ~40 km
Aug28: DAY 7: end Cañon Ciriacos: class I-II; one optional class V; ~30 km
Aug29: DAY 8: Cañon de Zaragoza; class I-II; ~40 km
Aug30: DAY 9: end Cañon de Zaragoza; start drive back; class I-II; ~20 km
Aug31: DAY 10: back in Douglas

Total Conchos trip length [33 km AguaCaliente + 39 km Red Gorge + 94 km Ciriacos + 76 km Zaragoza = 242 km].

DAY 1: Early on DAY 1, our 12-passenger van (or possibly a pickup truck) will be in Douglas to pick up participants at their hotels. We will drive the van across the border, get our tourist visas, and proceed to Cuauhtémoc (total ~400 miles, 9 hr) where we'll stay in a hotel. We might make it to Bocabureachi Hot Springs to camp (~40 miles; 1.5 hr).

DAYS 2-9: On DAY 2 we intend to launch, but it is dependent on the water level of Río Carichi-Agua Caliente. We may have to start at a point downriver. Rio Agua Caliente is class III with one potential portage. Río Conchos is generally class III but there are a few tougher spots. We will be on the river from DAYS 2-9.

DAY 9: We plan to finish by midday at the highway crossing at Valle de Zaragoza where we'll meet our van and vehicles and start heading back to the border (DAY 8). We should make it there the following day (~400 miles; ~10 hr drive total). The van will likely be heading back to California.

DAY 10: We arrive back in Douglas. Flights should be out very late this day or preferably, the following day.

This trip is being run to increase appreciation of the river and foment opposition to the planned dams.
We welcome everyone: raft passengers, raft paddlers, raft rowers, kayakers, IKers, and guides. No prior rafting experience is required to join a trip. We offer professional level service similar to other established outfitters. The general costs of this and other trips is listed at: COSTS

Special discounts are sometimes offered to folks on our email list, so you are encouraged to sign up (Email List info).

If interested in joining a trip, start a discussion by sending a note stating how you found out about the trip and a little background info about you and your paddling experience, what dates might work for you, and what sections of the expedition you are most interested in joining. Once you get the go-ahead, you will need to provide a deposit to reserve your place on the trip. The balance must be received prior to trip commencement. See PAYMENTS for payment options.

We will have a vehicle to pick you up in Mazatlán and transport you to the river and back. Depending on the number of paying participants, this vehicle might be a large pickup (5-person capacity), Suburban (7- or 9-person capacity), or combination of the two. We plan to charter a flight from San Ignacio up to Tayoltita or a point on the rim and make our way back to San Ignacio and then all the way to the ocean. The planes can handle 6 passengers each.

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The violence in Mexico surrounding the drug was has been in the news a lot in the past three years. The violence is confined to drug traffickers (narcos) and those associated with them, including law enforcement. In addition, the river we will be journeying down did not have any marijuana cultivation visible near it, and we are likely to encounter few residents. Locals from Sahuaripa will accompany us to the put-in and from the take-out, facilitating positive interactions. We may even have one such person in guide training on the raft. As such, we are not likely to be harassed or molested in any way related to the drug war. For further discussion of the drug war and safety concerns, click here.

Independent of the drug war, there has always been potential danger for assault in Mexico by armed bandits (bandidos). This is not different now as it was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Such risk is common in any third world country where citizens are very poor. In the event of assault, we will do all we can to protect our clients and ourselves, but may have to sacrifice our possessions. Since we can never guarantee against such assault, you must agree not to hold us liable for consequent personal injury/damage/loss you sustain on this outing.

The other aspect of safety is prevention of accidents. It is of utmost importance that you take all precautions necessary to avert injury, sickness, and complications while on the trip. As guides, we are there to help get you safely to the river, down it, and back out, but cannot guarantee against accidents. You must accept the responsibility for what happens on the river if you are in control of your craft. If you are concerned about the whitewater or other aspects, it is your responsibility to make appropriate decisions whether to run the rapid or not and to stay close to someone who can watch and oversee you (if you desire that level of protection). If an accident occurs, we will do all in our power to help you, see that proper care is rendered, or evacuate you if need be. Rocky was trained as a Wilderness First Responder and can administer appropriate emergency medical care if needed. We will have two basic first aid kits available. We will also carry a satellite phone for emergencies and changes of plan.

We have timed this trip to coincide with highest probability of good river flows. In September, flows average 50 cms (1700 cfs) on the Conchos in the Red Gorges and 70 cms (2400 cfs) in Cañon Ciriacos. It is very likely (~80% chance) that we will have 20-200 cms (700-6000 cfs) during our trip, but there are slim chances it will be higher (10%) or lower (10%). If water levels are normal or high, we can start our journey with smaller boats on Río Agua Caliente at Bocabureachi Hot Springs. If they are on the low side, we all will go to Puente Baqueachi and start there for the Red Gorges section. If levels are extremely low, we will all go to Puente Agua Caliente (Nonoava) and start there for Cañon Ciriacos. Water levels can fluctuate rapidly due to spotty intense thunderstorms that are characteristic of the monsoon season in the region. It is important that rafts be tied up well so they don’t drift away in a rising tide on the river. Equally important, the camp must be set at a high enough location so it will not be flooded. We may encounter rapidly rising river that reaches camp (usually in the evening). If this happens and you are the first to notice, please wake the guides first, and we will assess the situation. It may be necessary to move camp higher.