The Taos Box, at the bottom of the steep-walled canyon far below the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, is the granddaddy of thrilling white water in New Mexico and is best attempted by experts only—or on a guided trip—but the river also offers more placid sections such as through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area (one of the two main parcels of newly christened Rio Grande del Norte National Monument), just south of Taos in the village of Pilar (here you'll also find a small shop and café called the Pilar Yacht Club, which caters heavily to rafters and fishing enthusiasts), and the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center, a font of information on outdoor recreation in the region. Spring runoff is the busy season, from late March through June, but rafting companies conduct tours from early March to as late as November. Shorter two-hour options usually cover the fairly tame section of the river.
Big River Raft Trips. In business since 1983, this respected outfitter offers dinner float trips as well as half- and full-day rapids runs (with picnic lunches included). Pilar, New Mexico. 575/758–9711; 800/748–3746; www.bigriverrafts.com.
Los Rios River Runners. The experienced guides here will take you to your choice of spots—the Rio Chama, the Lower Gorge, or the thrilling Taos Box. Taos, New Mexico. 575/776–8854; www.losriosriverrunners.com.
Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center. The Bureau of Land Management operates this visitor center in Pilar and can provide lists of registered river guides, information about running the river on your own, and plenty of other guidance on hiking and exploring the area. This is one of two visitor centers that make up the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (the other is north of Taos, at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area). 2873 NM 68, near junction with NM 570, Pilar, New Mexico, 87553. 575/751–4899; www.blm.gov/visit/rgdnnm.