3 Day Santa Elena Canyon
This itinerary is intended as an example only. Your trip may vary somewhat depending on weather and river conditions, your guide and your group's interests. Itineraries may be subject to change, please call our office for additional information.
Nothing can rival floating through the narrow canyon beneath walls that tower 1,500 feet overhead. Our three-day Santa Elena Canyon trip moves along at a leisurely pace with plenty of time for exploring beautifully sculpted San Carlos Canyon and tropical Fern Canyon. We explore offers spectacular scenery with each bend in the Rio Grande as you float along at a moderate pace. Santa Elena Canyon is known for the famous Rock Slide Rapid as well as its sheer cavern-filled limestone walls. Beginning at Lajitas, this 21-mile trip is the most popular run on the river. As the river meanders toward the canyon entrance, you will see high mesas and beautiful side canyons with abundant cactus and Chihuahuan Desert vegetation. Along your trip, you may see endangered Peregrine Falcons or wild burros in Mexico.
Day One: Check in at our office at 8:45 a.m. Wear shoes and clothes that you do not mind getting wet. In warmer weather you will need sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, a bathing suit or cutoffs, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt for sun protection, and sneakers or river sandals. We provide waterproof boxes for your cameras and day bags for small personal items. You should have your overnight gear packed into the large waterproof gear bags which we provide. You will not need watches, jewelry or money on the river, so please lock these up before you check in.
At 9:00 a.m., your guide will meet you at our office and take you to the river to load and board the rafts. Morning highlights may include visiting a candellia wax processing campor a hike into an interesting side canyon to explore desert ecology and view unusual rock formations.
Lunch will be served on the river bank by your guide. Highlights of the first afternoon include stopping to see Indian petroglyphs along the river near some beautiful twin canyons. You may also get to explore the remnants of an old Indian camp which has many metates (grinding holes)
In the afternoon, your guide will find a comfortable campsite for the evening and will start preparations for a dinner feast. You are free to hike, explore or just relax and take a nap to the soothing river sounds at your camp.
After Nightfall: After a delicious dinner, enjoy the warmth of the camp fire and look up to see more stars than you thought possible. Look for the Milky Way “cloud” and, depending on the time of year, the planets Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn or Jupiter. A trip scheduled during the full moon will provide you with a glorious moonrise over the mountains and moonlight so bright you can almost read by it.
Day Two: Your day will begin with an optional hike while your guide prepares a pot of camp coffee and a hearty river-style breakfast. After breaking camp and re-packing the rafts, you will float into the canyon entrance. As you drift deeper into Santa Elena Canyon, the sheer walls gradually rise.
Again your guide will stop to prepare a bountiful lunch for you on the banks of the river.
The level of excitement rises in the afternoon as you approach the Rock Slide. This can be a class IV rapid and it was created millions of years ago when a portion of the cliffs above collapsed and choked the river with house-sized boulders. Early explorers wrote about a painful portage around this great barrier, which they considered impossible to navigate. Their first camp, just beyond the Rock Slide, is called Camp Misery. Today, thanks to advanced boat design and our highly professional guides, you will experience only excitement and fun!
On the second afternoon your guide will choose your site and set up camp downstream from the Rock Slide. After your guide rounds out yet another great dinner, you may be asking, “How can they make such wonderful food in the wilderness?” You will have time to contemplate this and other Big Questions as you watch the stars parade across the narrow ribbon of sky that is visible from deep within the canyon.
Day Three: Awaken with the feeling of pure relaxation as your river guide prepares your breakfast. You may feel that time is standing still for you as you watch the canyon come alive with the morning light. Once more the boats are packed and you glide down the river between awesome sheer-walled cliffs.
Again you’ll be served lunch at a comfortable spot on the riverbank when your guide sets up and pulls a delightful lunch from what by now seems to be a “magic box”.
A special highlight of your third day takes on a dream-like quality as you float quietly through the last few miles, passing the impressive Smuggler’s Cave on the way to the mouth of the canyon. As you look back, you will see the canyon walls reach to their full 1,500 foot height.
In the afternoon you will exit the Canyon, you’ll be met by our shuttle vehicle for the scenic return trip to Terlingua through Big Bend National Park, passing Castolon with its colorful volcanic tuff formations. You’ll arrive back at our office with plenty of time for dinner and a relaxing evening.
PRICE: For prices see our price list.
We provide waterproof bags for all your personal items. If you do not have a sleeping bag, sleeping pad or tent, you can rent them from us for $10 each plus tax per trip. All your meals are included, from lunch on the first day, all meals in between and ending with lunch on the last day. Our exquisite dinners can include steak, lasagna, fajitas or enchiladas and always includes wine and a dazzling dessert consisting of cheesecake, freshly made dutch oven cakes or cobblers. Sit back and gaze at the amazing scenery around you while your guides do the work. Then, brightly shining, the stars come out, leaving you to gaze at the brightest stars in Texas in awe.
For an overnight packing list, click here!
If you enjoy your trip, gratuites for your guide are always appreciated.