When we were planning our trip to Big Bend, I found a lot of outfitters in the area that led guided floats down the Rio Grande, for a pretty hefty fee. We have a raft, so we decided to take it along and give it a go ourselves. We did have a couple of logistical issues to sort out before we could get our river permit from the park. I have a tendency to dream big and plan little, so this type of occurrence is all too common, but after a long drive to Terlingua for an extra life vest and a patch kit we were good to go.
We started out at the Santa Elena Canyon Trailhead with the intention of doing a boomerang trip by paddling into the canyon and then gently floating our way out.
The first thing we noticed when we got on the water was the wind was at our backs. It was quickly pushing us upstream, so any plans of floating back down were immediately shot.
We only made it about a mile into the canyon before turning around. We usually push ourselves to our physical limits when we are living out a dream like this, but I think Matt was a little scared at the thought of getting stuck up the canyon with two little kids and a pregnant lady in a raft. I can’t blame him. I was secretly relieved too that we turned around early after paddling harder than we ever wanted to on the return out of the canyon. I wouldn’t say it was a complete bust though, the view was splendid!
After that we headed back to the other side of the park to the hot springs to check out the river for the possibility of a float the next day.
While we were there we checked out more old ruins (the park is full of them)
And took in the waters at the hot spring.
Oddly, Minda said that swimming in the slimy springs was the highlight of her trip.
The next morning we returned to the hot springs trail with the raft, ready to take on the roaring rapids.
It turned out to be more of a leisurely float than anything.
We picnicked as we floated and all touched the walls of this canyon so that we would all be able to say we had crossed the border and reached Mexico.
This float was really the highlight of the trip for me. We didn’t have to paddle much at all, and we saw what I would say is some of the best scenery in the park.
After the float we made it back up the nature trail to catch one last sunset over Big Bend.
I will be nostalgic over these views forever.
Hasta Luego Big Bend! We hope to one day return and soak up some more of your majestic simplicity. Back to the real world for now though, whatever that is.