Rio Chama, NM

Only two more weekends of release flows over 500 from El Vado dam. After Labor Day it’s all over. I’m heading up this Sat for one last run. If anyone has never tried the Chama it’s a great river! Pretty relaxing place up there too. Cheers.

Bummer…and I just drove through the area and had my packrafts with me.

I ran it this weekend at 300 cfs from El Vado to Big Eddy. Season opener for the Chama and my first packraft trip. They have already bumped flows up to 500 today, and the forecast is for a consistent flow pre-season.

Hello everyone.
It’s a little early, but I figured I better start updating you on the Rio Chama. I’ve already received several info requests.
We actually have a good snowpack in northern New Mexico this year. This is something we haven’t had in a while, so things could be a little different this spring. Today we increased the release from El Vado to 500 cfs because of the inflow. That release will continue for the time being and will likely increase as the inflow increases. It’s really early, but it’s also unseasonably warm. We expect the inflow to El Vado to get pretty high this spring, which means the release would increase as well. (This is assuming the snow doesn’t all blow away and the warmer temps are here to stay.) I will continue to send out these updates as major adjustments are made.

Seems like an awesome trip. I’m new to Albuquerque and hope to run this in the upcoming weeks. How long did it take you? Do you know where campsites might be along the river if I plan to do a 2 day trip?

I like Rio Cebolla (Cebolla Creek) as a camp for 2 day runs. Easy to move around & get situated for earlier sunlight. I usually camp at some large trees 100m S of the confluence. It is also at the W end of the Hart Canyon Trail which accesses the river from the rim if you want to make an east side backpack/packraft loop trip from either Chavez Canyon (near the Monastery, 11 mile hike) or Joaquin Canyon (at Skull Bridge, 15 mi hike).

West side backpack/packraft loops can also access the river in the same area via a road at Mine Canyon or, possibly, a game trail down Dark Canyon (I’ve not gone all the way to the river there so I’m not certain). However, getting out of the Chama River Valley up to the west side rim to start a backpack loop is more restricted. We’ve only used an obscure route up the S nose of Golondrina Mesa (across the Rio Chama from the Monastery) but there are probably others. When I do west side trips I usually drop to the river via Arroyo del Puerto Chiquito just S of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation (20-25 mile hike if you cross Chama at Skull Bridge, less if you cross at Chavez Canyon access site)

Here are links to the BLM brochure, a map and current flow conditions (now 1,000 cfs!).

Howard L. Snell


Most people do either 2 or 3 days. At 300 cfs I was moving about 2.5 mph with little paddling. I did it again last weekend at 1000 cfs and was doing closer to 4 mph. Even at 300 cfs it was enough water in a packraft to barely hit any rocks.

I have camped at the spot just south of cebolla as well, and it is a nice spot if you want to do a side hike up to the top of navajo peak. The trail literally starts just outside of camp. There are tons of campsites all over, usually marked with stone steps leading up from the river. The BLM has a brochure in the pay box which has a map and useful info.

The shuttle is $85 from El Vado to big eddy. I think it is closer to $120 if you take out at the monastery but went to big eddy both trips so not sure on the cost. Inquire at Coopers store at the put in.

I’m doing the Monastery to Big Eddy run tomorrow. Should be fun. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Monestary to Big Eddy run was AMAZING. It was running at about 2800 cfs. We were able to run it 2x with the second time taking multiple runs on the skull bridge rapid. Thanks for all the suggestions in this thread!!