River Trips

Floating the Rio
Floating the Rio

Floating the Rio Grande

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. Depending upon the river levels, 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.

A backcountry permit and specific equipment is required for day-use and overnight river trips.

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, limited exceptions are made when safety is a consideration: to bail/repack a boat, scout rapids, or seek shade when overheating.


Choose A Canyon


River Use Regulations

Obey all river use regulations for your safety and the protection of park resources. For more information visit the river use regulations page.

Filtering Water

River Safety

By giving forethought to your actions, you can have a safe, exciting, and rewarding experience while floating the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. For more information visit the river safety page.

canyon scene

Current Conditions

Live weather readings and river levels.
Get geared up

Got gear?

Three options are available if you desire to make a river trip: you can bring your own equipment, rent equipment, or hire a guide service that will provide all permits, food, equipment, and shuttles.


Local Outfitters

Information on guided trips, equipment rental, and shuttle services. For more information visit the outfitters page.

entering the canyon

River Mileages

Chart highlighting the basic distance and estimated time for float trips on the Rio Grande from Presidio to Langtry. The number of days estimated for each trip given certain safety and pleasure considerations, e.g. layover days, extended trip lengths, bad weather and injuries. Ten to fifteen miles per day is a normal pace on the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River.
Boquillas Canyon

Water Quality & River Users

The quality of water in the Rio Grande through the Big Bend region is highly variable. Big Bend National Park staff sample the water for bacterial levels on a monthly basis at several locations within the park. For more information visit the river water quality page.


Last updated: March 2, 2023

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129



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