Thursday, March 21, 2019

Good snowpack in 2019 should create great conditions for rafting, kayaking and canoeing

Photo courtesy of New Wave Rafting. 
With so much snow in the mountains this winter rafting guides and outfitters are expecting a great runoff season.

“It should be a banner year on the Rio Grande Box,” says Steve Miller, president of the New Mexico River Outfitters Association.

And that means it should be a great year to take a hair-raising, white-knuckle ride guaranteed to make you feel alive.

The “Box” runs through a deep, rocky gorge in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument between the John Dunn Bridge at Arroyo Hondo to the Taos Junction Bridge above Pilar.

It’s 16 miles of whitewater thrills and chills and one of northern New Mexico’s best outdoor adventures, Miller says.

Whitewater enthusiasts from around the country converge on the “Box” during high water years and this year is shaping up to be one of them.

Snow pack surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service (USDA NCRS) show well above average levels in the mountains of southern Colorado and New Mexico. Visit more detailed information.

When all that snowpack melts and flows downstream through the state’s rivers, creeks and streams it produces great conditions for rafters, kayakers and canoeists.

Those interested in the sport can get a taste of all the fun by booking a trip with an experienced outfitter through, Miller says.

Miller, who operates New Wave Rafting out of Embudo, says there are many different kinds of rafting trips to enjoy on the Rio Grande.

Rio Grande's "Race Course."
There’s a fast, furious five-mile run featuring plenty of thrills that can be taken in the morning or afternoon on the “Race Course” between Quartzite and the County Line takeout.

Those more interested in sightseeing including wildlife can take a gentler, seven-mile float through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area between the Taos Junction Bridge and the Quartzite take out at Pilar.

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep at Pilar.
There are also backcountry trips on the Chama River and angling adventures as the season progresses through the summer, Miller notes.

Last year was one of the worst years on record for snowpack and the lack of runoff left many in the rafting industry struggling.

“We’re looking to rebound this year,” Miller says.

The great snowpack this year also should produce some much needed relief for many of the state’s reservoirs.

Reservoir levels monitored by the NCRS show many are at well below their average capacity and in need of replenishment.

The great winter snows combined with a good monsoon season this summer should go a long way towards reducing the drought conditions that have repeatedly plagued the state in recent years. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Historic lodge, cottages and cabins at Elephant Butte Lake make for a great getaway

The historic Dam Site Lodge at Elephant Butte Lake.
History, hot springs and fantastic fishing make a stay in the lodge or cabins at Elephant Butte’s Dam Site a great spring getaway.

“We absolutely loved staying here,” said Brenda Provins of LaPeer Michigan who spent six weeks with her husband staying in one of the Dam Site’s recently restored historic cottages. “It was a great vacation.”

Visitors to the Dam Site also can spend a night in one of eight well-appointed rooms within the historic lodge or rent one of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built rock cabins overlooking the lake formed behind the 
imposing dam.

A lodge room featuring artwork by Degrazia.
Neal Brown is president of Lago Rico Inc. which operates the Dam Site lodging and three marinas on the lake under license with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Brown and his crew of craftsmen have been restoring the Dam Site’s historic buildings since taking over the operation from New Mexico State Parks in 2015.

“It’s been a labor of love,” he says of his efforts to restore and improve the accommodations offered at the Dam Site. “But it’s worth it to preserve one of the prettiest places in the southwest.”

Visitors relaxing on the lodge’s veranda or a cabin porch are afforded a great view of the lake’s namesake, Elephant Butte.

Elephant Butte.
And it’s just a quick drive down the lake’s edge to fish for bass and other species, especially during the spring when angling conditions improve.

Above the lodge and cabins guests will find a park constructed by CCC workers featuring barbecue grills and shelters with even more great views of the lake.

Evidence of the CCC handiwork during the Great Depression can be seen everywhere at the Dam Site which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Statute honoring CCC workers.
The CCC was a Depression-era government program that provided unemployed men jobs and housing in work camps around the country. There are many such sites in New Mexico and for more information please visit the State Historian’s website at

Guests at the Dam Site will find plenty to do in the area.

In the nearby town of Truth or Consequences visitors can bask in the waters from natural hot springs offered at several different establishments.

A private hot tub with a view overlooking the Rio Grande at Riverbend Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences. 
The town also boasts one of the state’s oldest and best steakhouses, plenty of great shopping and the Geronimo Springs Museum.

The nearby town of Elephant Butte caters to anglers and offers many different access points to the lake throughout the state park.

A drive around the surrounding countryside reveals miles of remote desert and expansive scenery in every direction.

Spaceport America in the desert outside of Elephant Butte Lake. 
The federal Bureau of Reclamation operates the dam and is pleased with the restoration work Brown is doing to the historic structures.

“He has taken on a lot of this work on his own, invested a lot and is doing a fantastic job there,” said Mary Carlson of the Public Affairs office of the federal Bureau of Reclamation in Albuquerque.

A restored CCC built cabin at the Dam Site.
Those interested in helping with the restoration cause need only rent a room at the lodge or a cabin or cottage. The Dam Site also offers campsites for recreational vehicles. For more information and reservations visit

Interior of a CCC built cabin under restoration at the Dam Site.

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