Riding the Rio Grande, Day Six: Los Alamos Quicksand
Last fall, Field & Stream Online Editor Nate Matthews and his father, Bruce, spent 15 days fishing the Rio Grande...
Last fall, Field & Stream Online Editor Nate Matthews and his father, Bruce, spent 15 days fishing the Rio Grande River from its headwaters in Colorado to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. These excerpts from their journals tell the story of their trip.
BM: 9/29, 8:45_
We kicked off this morning by running some rapids that were squirrely enough to want to run empty. We planned our route and as with all things, had to modify when we hit the first big rock eddy. We eddied out, but got lined back up and shot the rest, only taking on a little water. Fun run!_
It’s panting hot out here. Sun directly overhead. Not a breath of wind. We’re floating slowly down a wide current of red water. More liquid mud than anything. There’s sediment suspended the whole way through the water column. I can barely see the blade of my paddle when it’s under the surface. Makes it hard to tell how deep the water will be, and where the channels cut. We’ve had to get out and drag the boat a number of times over subsurface flats hidden by the dirty water. Mostly solid enough to walk over, but some scary quicksand. Don’t seem to hear much about the stuff anymore. Used to be sort of an action movie cliche. They should mine it more. I can’t imagine what it would be like if you were trapped out here in the stuff by yourself.
_Ran into a crew of scientists from Los Alamos National Lab and another from the New Mexico Department of Energy and Environment. LANL was sampling leachate to see if any of the various contaminant cocktails they’d been dumping for years into the upper canyons were making their way into the tribs and eventually the main river. The NM folks were checking up on them, splitting samples, etc. The guides who were rafting them were surprised to see us. Says said no one else runs the canyon. Interesting – it is so wild and beautiful.
The fishing continues to be awful. The river is full of silt. Tiny, gritty silt. Gets into everything. Hard to imagine that this is better-than-usual conditions. The guides told us there are catfish; if we fished after dark with stinkbait maybe we would catch something.
Finally reached the main reservoir. There’s a guy named Richard Smith who will come and tow you from the inlet to the boat launch a few miles away for $50. Distance isn’t too bad in a canoe, but there’s usually a headwind on the lake so it’s tough on rafts. Would be a tough pull for Tim, who’s already had a long day trying to keep up with our boat in the slow, flat water we’ve been paddling.
Exhausted at the end of each day. We’re eating ok and drinking lots of water. Sun takes a toll, I think. By the time we get off the river we are all beat, and we still have to unload the Toyota, repack, re-load, and head out for the hour-long drive to our hotel in Albuquerque.
Trip’s been challenging my fatigue attitude. Tough to function well when you are so physically tired. I know it’s been tough on Nate and Tim, too. I think it helps to try to recognize my limitations. But I’ve challenged them as well, especially with the bike.
Tomorrow we ride to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Interesting name. Mostly highway riding, from what Nate says, so I should be fine. But it’ll be another long haul, and they’re adding up.
You can see more photos from Day Six of this expedition (and find new journal updates as they are posted) by clicking here.