Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River
Guide

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Introduction

The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River features beautiful canyons, scenic landscapes, and wetland corridors that draw nature lovers for unforgettable adventures. This 15 sq. mile natural beauty located in Texas, just by Big Bend National Park, is a place to view the powerful and erosive action of water on rocks through time. The rocks that were deposited in the area millions of years ago have been shaped into beautiful landscapes by the Rio Grande.

By far the most popular activity at the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River is floating. Visitors and campers can choose any of Boquillas Canyon, Mariscal Canyon, or the Lower Canyon for a ride through the rapids and enjoy exciting adventures. The park also features wildlife that survive on the river habitats as well as 40 native fish species and 14 invasive fish species.

There are several camping options available when you visit Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. The campgrounds are situated in the adjoining Big Bend National Park and feature group camps, tent camps and RV camps. Amenities available include running water, picnic tables, fire grills, pit and flush toilets.

The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River was designated a world heritage site in 1968.

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RV Rentals in Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

Transportation in Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

Driving

Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River can be accessed via several highways such as Texas State Road 118, Texas FM 170, U.S. Highway 90, and U.S. Highway 385. This river park is collocated with Big Bend National Park in Texas, so roads that lead to the national park also lead to the river park.

Parking

There are parking areas available for visitors at Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River to park their RVs, trailers, and cars at Big Bend National Park.

Public Transport

There are no direct public transportation services to Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.

Campgrounds and parking in Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

Campsites in Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

Reservations camping

Rio Grande Village Campground

Rio Grande Village Campground within Big Bend National Park features 100 campsites, available by reservation and on a first-come, first served basis. Only 43 campsites in the park can be reserved. Group camping opportunities are also available. The RV/trailer length limit is 45 feet.

Amenities in the campground include flush toilets, grills, water, and picnic tables. A dump station is also available near the campground. Generator hours are from 8am to 8pm, while quiet hours are from 8pm to 8am.

Rio Grande Village RV Campground

Rio Grande Village RV Campground in Big Bend National Park consists of 25 sites that are available both by reservation and on a first-come, first-served basis. All the campsites are equipped with full RV hookup options (electric, water, and sewer). Maximum RV/trailer length at the campground is 40 feet.

Generator use within the campground is allowed between 8am to 11am and 5pm to 8pm. Quiet hours from 8pm to 8am.

Chisos Basin Campground

Chisos Basin Campground in Big Bend National Park consists of 60 sites that are available both by reservation and on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no RV hookup options within the campground, but amenities like flush toilets, a dump station, running water, picnic tables, and fire grills are available.

Due to the narrow winding road that leads to the campground, trailers longer than 20 feet, and RVs longer than 24 feet are not recommended.

There are 26 reservable campsites and generator use within the campground is allowed between 8am to 11am and 5pm to 8pm. Quiet hours are from 8pm to 8am.

First-come first-served

Cottonwood Campground

Cottonwood Campground, located in Big Bend National Park, consists of 24 campsites, none with RV hookups. Water, picnic tables, pit toilets, and grills are available. Group and tent camping are also available within the campground. RV length limit at the campground is 30 feet.

Campsites are available on first-come, first-served basis. Generators are not allowed. Quiet hours from 8pm to 8am.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

Spring

Lower Canyons

To experience the true wilderness adventure at the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, visit and engage in the five to ten-day float trip of the Lower Canyons. The trip covers 83 miles and starts from Heath Canyon, ending at Dryden Crossing.

As you float through this canyon, you’ll be greeted by open desert terrains, deep canyons, and rugged hills. The rapids within the canyon are Class II-IV. The put-in point is located downstream of the La Linda bridge, while the take-out is John's Marina at Dryden Crossing.

Mariscal Canyon

Despite being the shortest canyon at the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, Mariscal Canyon, which rises up to 1,400 feet, offers beautiful scenery for campers and visitors.

The canyon, which can only be accessed by high clearance vehicles, is best explored by foot or on an overnight river trip. If you fancy floating, then prepare yourself to journey through a few Class II-III rapids in the canyon. Having the proper gear is important if you are to remain safe in the canyon. The put-in point is Talley, while take-out point is Solis.

Summer

Boquillas Canyon

Boquillas Canyon is an amazing place to visit and float at the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. While at this river park, visitors will find river trips through this canyon remarkable. The journey can take anywhere from two to four days to complete, so prepare well for the trip through the waters.

The canyon walls which stand up to 1,200 feet are an absolute wonder to behold. What’s more, as you travel down the canyon, remains of candelilla wax mining camps will come into view on the Mexican side of the river. Put-in points are located at the Rio Grande Village and Daniel’s Ranch, while take-out point is downstream of the La Linda bridge.

Fall

Fish and Wildlife

The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River features fauna typical of the Chihuahuan Desert and riparian habitats. The wildlife in the park consists of species that depend of the river for survival.

The Rio Grande is also home to 40 native fish species and 14 known invasive fish species. Most of the native fish in Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River can only be found in this region, including the Rio Grande blue catfish and silvery minnow.

Many birds use Rio Grande as a migration corridor, thereby making park a nice place to watch birds.

Dog Walking

Although some areas at the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River are closed to pets due to the wildlife and flora in the park, opportunities are open for campers and visitors to take their pets out on walks within areas where vehicles can access.

It is a requirement that all pets be kept on a leash at the park so as to prevent incidents with other visitors or the park’s elements. If you intend to take a river trip, you should make arrangements to leave your pet behind because they are not allowed on the river.

Winter

Geology and Landscapes

The geological features of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River offer beautiful views and provide insight into the history of the landscapes and canyons in the park. The rock layers, which you’ll see exposed at the park by the Rio Grande, were laid down about 100 million years ago, uplifted, folded, faulted, and shaped by the river into what is now its present topography.

The effects of the river action vary in different parts of the park. For instance, the river sliced through the rocks upstream to form steep-walled, narrow canyons, while downstream, only a floodplain developed.

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