Planning a Float Trip

The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River is easily accessible from several locations in Big Bend National Park. Stand on the riverbank at Rio Grande Village, at the Hot Springs Historic Area, or along the Boquillas Canyon Trail, and you will view a portion of the wild Rio Grande.

However, the best way to truly experience the Rio Grande is to float it!

Canoeing through Hot Springs Canyon
Canoeing in Hot Springs Canyon

A 1–2 day float trip through remote Mariscal Canyon, or a 2–3 day trip through Boquillas Canyon offers opportunities to run rapids, or drift at the whim of the river. You can explore a small portion of the Wild and Scenic River in less than a day by floating through Hot Springs Canyon, or through one of the quiet stretches downstream of Mariscal Canyon.

The Lower Canyons between Heath Canyon and Dryden, downstream from Big Bend National Park, make up the heart of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. Wild and isolated, the canyons provide opportunities for solitude and an outstanding wilderness experience. There are no facilities and access is limited due to rough terrain and the constraints of private land. The arduous 83-mile trip takes 6–7 days. Because of the remoteness of the area, help may be many hours or days away. Extensive experience and preparation are essential when planning a float through the Lower Canyons.

All river trips require planning, equipment, some experience, and a permit. Consult a river guide book and check with a park ranger for current conditions before embarking on any river trip. Permits are required for all float trips and may be obtained at visitor centers in Big Bend National Park up to seven days in advance.


Choose A Canyon


Important Information


River Use Regulations

For the river environment's protection and your safety, observe regulations on both sides of the river and on private land along the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. For more information visit the river use regulations page.

Get geared up

Got gear?

There is some REQUIRED equipment for any river trip. 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.

toilet system

Human Waste Disposal

To protect the quality of the Rio Grande ecosystem and enhance the wilderness experience of a river trip, all users must properly dispose of human waste. Visit the human waste disposal page for more information.

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.


Local Outfitters

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

entering the canyon

River Mileages

Ten to fifteen miles per day is a normal pace on the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. The feasibility of a particular trip varies with the season and river level. Always check current conditions before planning your float trip. Visit the river mileages and estimated days page for more information.

riverbank vegetation

Private Property Rights along the River

Downstream from the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River flows exclusively through private land. Visit the private property rights page for more information.

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: August 21, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River
c/o Big Bend National Park
PO Box 129

Big Bend National Park, TX 79834


(432) 477-2251

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