Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Mexico’s Wild & Scenic Rivers: Part 2, The Rio Chama

National Wild and Scenic River status is a designation made by Congress for the purpose of protecting naturally flowing rivers from development which would substantially change their wild or scenic nature.

Selected rivers in the United States are preserved under this designation for possessing “outstandingly remarkable” scenic, recreational, geologic, historic, or other similar values. Rivers, or sections of rivers, so designated are preserved in their free-flowing condition and are not dammed or otherwise impeded.

New Mexico has four designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, which include the Rio Grande, The Rio Chama, the east fork of the Jemez River, and the Pecos. These rivers flow through some of the most breathtaking landscapes New Mexico has to offer.

The Rio Chama
Flowing through a multi-colored sandstone canyon, which is at times 1,500 feet deep, the Rio Chama is a major tributary of the Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico. The Rio Chama’s mild rapids and stunning vistas make this the perfect river for relaxing family rafting and camping trips.

Kayaking and canoeing are also extremely popular. A float through the entire 31-mile canyon and its Class II rapids, can take two to three days. There are scenic and heavily forested side canyons to explore, and quite a few historical sites. Much of this region is designated Wilderness or Wilderness Study Area, making its use fall under wilderness rules and regulations, with the exception of the lower eight miles of the canyon.

Access to the Rio Chama has been limited since 1990. Because of the high demand for float trips in late spring and summer, a lottery system has been established to assign launch dates. Applications for floatboating and rafting permits for the upper canyon must be filed by February 1st of each year, and can be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Find out more about New Mexico’s Wild & Scenic Rivers

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