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Colorado Canyon at dawn. Photo by TRPA member Mark Boyden

Rio Grande, Colorado Canyon: Rancherias to Lajitas (20 miles)

Colorado Canyon, photo by TRPA member Mark Boyden

Quick Info

Length21 miles
Class (I-VI)II-III
Minimum Flow200 cfs
Ideal Flow300 – 2,000 cfs
Maximum Flow5,000 cfs
Current River ConditionsUSGS below Presidio
Put-in mapRancherias (Colorado Canyon Public Access)
Take-out mapLajitas
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
SeasonYear-round, weather, flow permitting
HighlightScenic canyons, good whitewater
Distance to LajitasDallas 600 miles; Houston 650 miles; Austin 500 miles; El Paso 325 miles

Recreation & Access

TPWD permit is required which can be obtained at the Barton Warnock Center in Lajitas. This section provides good whitewater with many pool and drop rapids and rock gardens. Good campsites make this section a great overnight trip. Even before you get to the put-in, you will find that TX Highway 170 along the Rio Grande is one of the finest scenic drives in the state.

Conservation & Threats

Bacterial infections are easy to contract. Use soap and clean water, especially with open sores on hands or feet. Development encroachment, water pollution.

Historical/Cultural Significance

Conflict with Mexico continued when the United States annexed Texas as a state in 1845. Mexico claimed that the new border between Texas and Mexico was the Nueces River, while the United States contested the border was the Rio Grande. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that brought an official end to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), was signed on February 2, 1848, at Guadalupe Hidalgo, where the Mexican government had fled with the advance of U.S. forces. By its terms, Mexico ceded 55 percent of its territory, including parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, to the United States. Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas, and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary with the United States. The United States paid Mexico $15,000,000 “in consideration of the extension acquired by the boundaries of the United States” (see Article XII of the treaty) and agreed to pay American citizens debts owed to them by the Mexican government. The treaty gave rise to development of the IBWC International Boundary and Water Commission which governs all concerns of flow and sharing of the boundary waters of the Rio Grande and other boundary waters of New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Natural Features

Hoodoos geological formations are found in this section.

Additional Resources