• Sierra del Carmen

    Big Bend

    National Park Texas

River Trips

Scouting the Rockslide
The "Rockslide" in Santa Elena Canyon.
NPS/Big Bend National Park

If you have the time and a spirit of adventure, you may want to consider a river trip. Seeing the park's canyons from the middle of the Rio Grande can be an incredible experience. There are many possibilities including half-day floats or multi-day excursions.

Floating the Rio Grande can take you through miles of canyons up to 1,500 feet deep, where the sunlight may reach the bottom only briefly on winter days. As in other parts of the park, your ears may tell you more than your eyes. Listen for beavers crawling through the brush; you might catch a glimpse as one slides down the riverbank into the water. Turtles, especially red-eared sliders, often sun themselves on rocks and logs just above the waterline. Great blue herons and green kingfishers are just some of the many birds you may see flying along the river.

Along the more open areas of the Rio Grande, you may see local people fishing, farming, and engaging in other traditional activities. These quiet stretches of the river offer expansive views of the colorful buttes, mesas, and mountains in both the U.S. and in Mexico. Far fewer people float the open water between the canyons, so it is possible to go for days without seeing another boater.

International Border
There is often concern about being close to an international border, but incidents between Big Bend visitors and Mexican nationals are exceptionally rare.

The middle of the deepest channel of the Rio Grande is the international boundary. Over the course of your trip, you may cross this boundary several times. Currently, passports are not required. Landing on the Mexican bank of the river is considered an illegal crossing and could result in fines and jail time. However, limted exceptions are made when safety is a consideration: to bail/repack a boat, scout rapids, or seek shade when overheating.

Local Outfitters
Information on guided trips, equipment rental, and shuttle services.

Backcountry Permit
All river trips require a permit, regardless if it is day use or overnight.

Floating Santa Elena Canyon

Floating the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River

Did You Know?