Splash Mountain

Run the Rio Grande and Rio Chama with New Wave Rafting

By Haven Lindsey

Britt Runyon has owned New Wave Rafting for the past three years and has worked for the rafting company since 1980. To say Runyon knows Northern New Mexico’s Rio Grande and Rio Chama would be an understatement, yet he will be the first to suggest that no one has a crystal ball to accurately predict when the snowpack will melt. White water rafting, after all, is all about the runoff of the winter’s snowpack. A winter without much snow results in rivers that do not run as high — or as white, in terms of white water that adventurous rafters seek. 


There is no question that this year’s snowpack has been healthy. While the skiers and boarders enjoy their days on the slopes, Runyon monitors snowpack like a meteorologist tracks a storm. According to Runyon, this year’s snowpack is 118 percent of normal and likely to be higher, given the fact that a snowstorm was dumping snow on Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado at press time.

“Above-average snowpack always translates to a very exciting spring with the best, most adventurous rafting,” explained Runyon. “Once the snow starts to melt and the rivers start to rise, we’re guaranteed to have some exciting white-knuckle rafting this year — we just can’t predict when.” 

Historically, the rivers peak from mid-May to mid-June, and rafting during this time, as Runyon explained, is not for the timid. Rafting season, however, is busiest in July and August when the water is lower and ideally suited for families and those who want to enjoy a calmer rafting experience.

Headquartered on the Rio Grande between Santa Fe and Taos, New Wave Rafting runs trips on both the Rio Grande and Rio Chama. The Grande offers spectacular views of the towering gorge and the Chama winds through multi-colored sandstone cliffs.

Opening day was March 19 and Runyon’s River Guides are trained for three full weeks which includes requirements to pass water safety and emergency exercises. New Wave can generally accommodate customers who schedule 24 hours in advance. Sixty percent of their business comes from returning customers and many come from word-of-mouth, which is indicative of the experience that New Wave offers.

For outdoor enthusiasts who may not be interested in the springtime runoff roller-coaster experience, New Wave offers a ‘no wave’ excursion. The Float Trip is ideally suited for families with young children, non-swimmers, and anyone who has health concerns or may be anxious about white or fast-moving water. The Float Trip has a relaxed vibe and includes lunch. Funyaks and Standup Paddle Boards are also available for rent with this trip.

Regardless of the time of year, equipment is crucial for a well-rounded experience. Rafters will be in larger self-bailing rafts, which are safer and drier, during the spring season when the rivers are high. In late summer, New Wave uses sportier smaller rafts which are ideal for calmer waters. Protective gear is available for every trip. 

Check Out

New Wave Rafting 

New Mexico River Adventures (NMRA) 

Heritage Inspirations 

Big River Raft Trips 

Far Flung Adventures