The Lower Canyons
7, 8, 9 or 10 Days
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.
Covering almost 85 river miles, the Lower Canyons trip is our premier wilderness adventure. Historic and prehistoric sites, spectacular geological formations, mountaintop views, and canyon walls so close you can almost touch them create the setting for a memorable journey. This federally protected “wild and scenic” section of river is seldom traveled, and it includes several challenging rapids.
In this vast wilderness, there are new places to see and hiking opportunities on every trip. You may even find places that have never been explored by anyone else. Wildlife sightings often include beaver, javelina, and deer. Mountain lions leave their tracks for explorers to find in the numerous side canyons. A birder’s paradise, the Lower Canyons contain species such as golden eagles, zone-tailed hawks, white-throated swifts, Hutton’s vireos, pyrrhuloxia, the endangered peregrine falcons…the list is nearly endless.
Our guides are experienced professionals who enjoy sharing their knowledge and love of the Big Bend country with their guests. In addition, they will amaze you with their river cooking! Come and enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty, hot and cool springs, clean air, tranquillity, and almost complete solitude that make this the perfect “get away” vacation.
The following is an example of a 7-day trip. Our extended trips allow more time for hiking, exploring, and relaxing.
Day One: Depending on your travel plans, we will meet you at our office in Terlingua or at a convenient location en route to the put-in point. You will be introduced to your guides, pack up your dry bags, and board our shuttle vehicle for the journey to La Linda, a small Mexican mining village. Your guides will serve lunch there before loading the gear onto the rafts. Your first afternoon on the river includes Heath, Horse, and Temple Canyons, and then we will set up camp for the night near Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. As you enjoy the beauty of a West Texas sunset, your guides will prepare you a hearty and delicious dinner.
Day Two: After a full river breakfast, we’ll board the rafts and head for “Outlaw Flats.” Along this stretch of the river are our first Class II‑III rapids, including Maravillas Rapid. After lunch, we’ll continue floating to Reagan Canyon. From this point on, we’ll be within the Lower Canyons, surrounded by canyon walls that range from 100 to 1,500 feet for the remainder of our journey. Camping near Reagan Canyon, we look forward to our second peaceful night under the stars.
Day Three: Awaken to the aromas of cowboy coffee and breakfast being cooked by your guide. Get ready for an exciting day! As we drift deeper into the canyons, we’ll navigate several small rapids along the way. A couple of miles below the Asa Jones Pumphouse, San Rocendo Canyon comes into view on the Mexican side‑our clue that Hot Springs Rapid (Class III‑IV) is just ahead! Below the rapids, warm pools of clear spring water await us. Although technically a “hot” spring, the water is actually 92‑95 degrees and provides a refreshing stop after we successfully negotiate Hot Springs Rapid.
Day Four: Depending on the river level and the length of your trip, we may choose to spend a lay-over day at the Hot Springs. We’ll spend the morning hiking into San Rocendo Canyon or exploring an old radio relay shack that was used for communication between the ranchers and cities. Soak in the hot springs during the afternoon. Take a break for a leisurely dinner, and then return to the pools for some serious star gazing.
Day Five: After breakfast, it’s time to bid farewell to the pools of the Hot springs and again board our rafts. Today we’ll drift into the deepest part of the Lower Canyons. Bullis Fold, a major geological formation in the Lower Canyons, towers 1,600 feet above the river. We will encounter several rapids, including Los Palmos (Class II) and Rodeo Rapid, where you can take a short hike up a side canyon while your guide prepares lunch. After lunch, we’ll continue downstream toward Upper Madison Falls, the biggest rapid in the Lower Canyons.
Just below Upper Madison is a good campsite. From here we can hike to the top of Burro Bluff on the Texas side, a 1,000-foot bluff overlooking Upper Madison Falls. On extended trips, this is another great place for a lay-over day, with a hike in Tule Canyon to “Paradise Tinaja,” a cold spring seep with ferns and a pool.
Day Six: Our last full day on the river takes us past San Francisco Creek, a major drainage on the Texas side that drains approximately 350,000 square miles. High-water marks of 150 feet can be seen on the canyon walls. If time permits, we may stop at San Francisco Canyon for a short hike. On extended trips, we may camp here to explore San Francisco and Washboard Canyons and look for a hidden tinaja.
Our last night’s camp will be at Middle Watering Hole, a long, grassy beach distinguished by a large oak tree. People have camped at this ancient site since prehistoric times.
Day Seven: After our final river breakfast, we’re off through more small rapids, past Sanderson Canyon, and on to Johnson’s Marina where a shuttle vehicle awaits us at our noon take-out point. We’ll drive about 20 miles on a dirt road to reach Highway 90 at Dryden, where we begin the return trip to “civilization” and our office, arriving late afternoon in time for you to enjoy the rest of the evening at one of the local eateries of local watering holes.
PRICE: For prices see our price list.
Note: 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, gratuities for your guide are always appreciated.