River Tours

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Santa Elena Canyon

The Rio Grande runs through several beautiful canyons where both peaceful floats and exciting rapids can be found. One of the best rivers in the Southwestern U.S. for extended canoe trips, let our experienced staff introduce you to its hidden treasures in a more intimate setting; great camps, awe-inspiring side hikes and customized itineraries.

We offer canoe and raft trips in the canyons of Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park as well as the Lower Canyons section of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. You’ll find leisure and scenery punctuated by a few intriguing rapids on this reach of the Rio Grande in West Texas. The rapids vary according to the amount of recent rain, but under normal conditions, they range from class I-IV.

As with all of Desert Sports’ guided trips, great food, informative guides, and unique itineraries are part of the package. Each extended trip has a custom menu to make sure we can accommodate any special dietary needs of your group. All our trip leaders are guides with years of experience leading tours on the Rio Grande. We specialize in keeping our trips small, allowing us to pay closer attention to the details that make your experience more rewarding and complete. Desert Sports’ livery includes canoes, inflatable kayaks and rafts, along with all the accompanying gear for safe and comfortable camping trips.

Can’t make the minimum number for booking a trip? Check the Scheduled Tour Postings or contact us with your dates and we will try and put you together with other folks to meet the minimum booking requirements.

All trips start with a rendezvous at Desert Sports unless otherwise noted or arranged. Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions and campsite availability.

ONE-DAY RIVER TOURS

You only have one day to spend on the river so let us take on the best trip the river has to offer. Make a reservation, show up at our shop, and let us take care of you for the day with great guides, good food, and excellent scenery. See our day trips page»

MULTI-DAY RIVER TOURS

You’ll want to add more days as you find the rhythm of the river. Enjoy camping under the stars and hiking through the desert while you explore the canyons of the Rio Grande.

Big Bend National ParkSanta Elena Canyon

Desert Sports offers one-day and multi-day options on this very popular section of river. The first part of this trip meanders through scenic low mountains, bluffs and washes before entering the dramatic cleft in the limestone mesa that is Santa Elena Canyon. The trip descends into the depths of its 1500-ft canyon walls and the notorious Rockslide Rapid. On multi-day trips there will be time for exploring the canyon further, as well as relaxing around camp. After 8 miles of awe-inspiring canyon, the trip emerges into the open with a dramatic view of the Chisos Mountains as the trip winds towards the take-out near Castolon.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
2 days / 20 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2-3: $540 each
4 or more: $400 each
3 days / 20milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2-3: $725 each
4 or more: $625 each

Big Bend National ParkSanta Elena Canyon Upstream

Our Santa Elena Canyon upstream canoe trip is a low-water opportunity to visit one of the major limestone canyons in the Big Bend National Park. The trip starts at the Santa Elena hiking trail, where we carry our boats to the river and paddle upstream with stops for exploring and a picnic lunch. Overnight trips leave more time for exploring and our three-day upstream excursion allows an opportunity to visit the famous Rockslide Rapid.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
2 days / 6-12 milesIntermediate (canoe only)2-3: $540 each
4 or more: $400 each
3 days / 6-12 milesIntermediate (canoe only)2-3: $725 each
4 or more: $625 each

Big Bend National ParkThe Great Unknown to Rio Grande Village

The river from the end of Santa Elena Canyon to the beginning of Mariscal Canyon is seldom traveled, thus the name “The Great Unknown”. Our trip continues past this section through the marvels of Mariscal Canyon, San Vicente Canyon and Hot Springs Canyon as we enjoy vistas of the southern ridge of the Chisos and numerous other mountain ridges in the Mexican Reserves to the south. A full seven days of relaxation, this is truly a trip for those who want to get away and escape the crowds.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
7 days / 75 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $1500 each
4 or more: $1400 each

Big Bend National ParkMariscal Canyon

The most remote canyon in the national park, in Mariscal the river forms the bottom of the “bend” of Big Bend. Access to this canyon can be difficult but well worth the effort. The sculpted limestone walls rising 1,800 feet above the canyon floor give the night sky that “river of stars” look from our camp on the banks of the Rio Grande. The three-day itinerary takes in the seldom seen canyons of San Vicente and Hot Springs, which we pass on the way to our take-out at Rio Grande Village.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
2 days / 10 milesBeginner+ (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $725 each
4 or more: $540 each
3 days / 10 milesBeginner+ (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $900 each
4 or more: $725 each

Big Bend National ParkBoquillas Canyon

Boquillas is the longest, most varied canyon in the national park. The river has cut its course through the Sierra del Carmen, creating magnificent views into both Texas and Mexico. Desert Sports offers Boquillas Canyon trips with either three or four-day options. Both are peaceful and relaxing, but the four-day itinerary, allows even more time for relaxing or exploring the back country and interesting, side canyons along the way. Longer trips available.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
3 days / 33 milesBeginner+ (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $825 each
4 or more: $675 each
4 days / 33 milesBeginner+ (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $975 each
4 or more: $850 each

Big Bend National ParkMariscal/Boquillas Canyons

The combination of these two great canyons allows ample river time to enjoy over 60 miles of river running. The trip takes us through four different canyons (including San Vicente and Hot Springs Canyons) on our way to the take-out at Heath Canyon Ranch.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
5 days / 61 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $1250 each
4 or more: $1100 each
6 days / 61 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $1425 each
4 or more: $1250 each

Big Bend National ParkTemple Canyon

Temple Canyon was named by Robert Hill on his historic 1899 expedition down the Rio Grande. This 11-mile trip takes us through several beautfiul limestone canyons as well as some of the most spectacular vistas in the Big Bend region. We come off the river at Maravillas Creek and get to enjoy a peek at the scenery of the seldom seen Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
2 days / 11 milesAll abilities (canoe only)2 (min)-3: $700 each
4 or more: $425 each
3 days / 11milesAll abilities (canoe only)2 (min)-3: $825 each
4 or more: $585 each

Rio Grande Wild & Scenic RiverThe Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande

A once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Lower Canyons trip is our guides’ top choice. This 83 miles of river encompasses the wildest, most remote reach of the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. You’ll need at least 7-10 days to navigate this stretch, but we encourage 12 days to experience the stunning side hikes and to enjoy the endless rhythm of the flowing water. Each day brings the challenge of class II-IV rapids and the chance to explore the several canyons that comprise the trip. We love this trip so much, we gave the Lower Canyons its own web page. More info on our Lower Canyons River Trips page!»

Trip Length / DistanceRatingNo. People: Cost
7 days / 83 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $1800 each
4 or more: $1550 each
8 days / 83 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $2000 each
4 or more: $1750 each
10 days / 83 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $2375 each
4 or more: $2125 each
12 days / 83 milesIntermediate (canoe) / All abilities (raft)2 (min)-3: $2755 each
4 or more: $2505 each