Rio Chama has two “seasons” – the early season is from May 1 through mid-June, and the release season is from mid-July through August. Permits from the BLM Taos office are required for runs through Chama Canyon (see “Permit Requirements” below), but paddlers can run the 9 miles from Chavez Canyon access to Big Eddy access without permits any time there is adequate flow for canoes, kayaks and rafts. A self-permitting system allows boating Chama Canyon outside the release seasons.
The Rio Chama, a major tributary of the Rio Grande, in Northern New Mexico, flows through a multi-colored sandstone canyon whose walls grow to 1,500 feet.
From El Vado Dam the Rio Chama continues flowing south, entering Chama Canyon and Santa Fe National Forest and the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. It is joined by Rio Cebolla from the east, then Rio Gallina from the west. Then the river enters Abiquiu Lake, the reservoir created by Abiquiu Dam.
The river runs through areas that are designated as wilderness or as wilderness study areas. Towering cliffs, heavily wooded side canyons, and historical sites offer an outstanding wild river backdrop for the angler or float boater, who can enjoy two or three day trips on Class II rapids on the entire 31-mile segment.
The Rio Chama is an easy float or kayak trip in full or multi-day rafting formats.