Southwest Canoe Trips

WINTER 2017 The Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande:

You are invited to be on the crew of one of three canoe expeditions through the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. Each run downriver is almost 100 miles long and spans 8 days and 7 nights, traveling every day and passing through spectacular canyons some over 1500 feet high…warm, sunny, gentle rapids, hot springs, unusual birds, desert wilderness solitude, safe, camping, archeology, mesquite campfires, slot canyon side hikes and the zodiacal cloud.

You can choose between three trips: February,  Feb 6- Feb 13, Feb 17-24, Feb 28-March 7.  These trips are fully insured and licensed by the National Park Service. Be warned an expedition with me is not a typical “guided trip”. We will make group decisions togethr and share in camp chores. We take a Minnesota approach, we don’t “float”, we paddle, and we don’t bring tables, coolers of beer and all the comforts of home. We embrace not barricade ourselves from wild nature. This journey is an expedition not a vacation.

Shuttles, permits, pvt access fees, deluxe tents, wholesome meals, comfortable canoes and all group gear is all included in the fee. Participants need only bring sleeping bags, personal gear and clothing. For almost a half-decade my crews have universally loved this journey.

The complete fee for these expeditions is $2295 person. No added taxes or anything, I hate that when I go on a guided trip. The fee is a bargain and people have shared that it would be hard to match this fee on a self-guided Lower Canyon attempt. Don’t confuse this expedition with Big Bend tourists’ trips or even Lower Canyon outfitted trips, these are nothing like mine. I limit the size of these crews to a maximum of ten, because small groups move faster and have a lighter impact on the land. I know the river and we paddle the entire stretch of the Lower Canyons.

It is unlikely I will paddle the Rio Grande in 2018. After this coming winter, and my 17th trip down the Rio Grande I may not paddle this magnificent river again. My advice, Join me this February.

In 2016 four Rio Grande Uncommon Seminars Crews experienced terrific journeys down the Rio Grande’s Lower Canyons. The weather was absolutely spectacular. Cobalt blue skies warm days cool (a few cold) nights. Great campfires. stargazing the zodiacal cloud for some groups, a brilliant full moon for another. A gamut of wildlife, including some of the best views ever of desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, javelinas, wild burros and of course the corriente. Some good birds including a Black Hawk and an amazing kettle of over 90 Turkey Vultures. The water was low all season which was contrary to the El Nino forecast, but we always had enough water. The low water did provide some new lining opportunities. We lined the big drop at Hot Springs rapids for the first time. I think many of the paddlers learned how fun technical lining can be and that opened a new dimension in their paddling world.  A couple boats also ran San Francisco Rapid for the first time. Several members of crews hiked to the top of El Burro for a singular view of the river and canyon walls. There was swimming, hot tubbing, slot canyon hiking, Farkle, storytelling, desert flowers, historical and ancient artifacts — all of which contributed to extraordinary expeditions. My heartfelt congratulations to all the crews for their positive, cooperative and joyous efforts. That was the real key to the success of 2016.

Dates are set for 2017 Expeditions:

February 6-13
February 17-24
February  28-March 7

Crew size is limited to seven participants. I expect all three expeditions to fill this year.

Rob Kesselring
Box 1313
Lakeville, MN 55044


WINTER 2016 The Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande:

Here’s the plan for 2016 you can choose between three trips: February 8-15, February 18-25 or February 28-March 6, March 11-18 (full). All of them are 8 days and 7 nights traveling every day and passing through spectacular canyons…warm, sunny, gentle rapids, hot springs, unusual birds, desert wilderness, safe, easy camping, archeology, slot canyon side hikes. My 2013 trip was written up in the May/June 2013 issue of Sierra magazine.

Deluxe tents, wholesome meals, comfortable canoes and all group gear is all included in the fee. Participants need only bring personal gear, sleeping bag and clothing. I recommend a warm bag because nights are long and in the dry desert air the temp really drops after dark. A list of recommended clothing will be provided upon registration. The trip is suited for beginning paddlers and experienced wilderness travelers.

The Rio Grande is a magnificent river and less traveled today than at any time in human history. It’s an opportunity to go back in time and the “feel” will be much more like 1916 than 2016! Do not mistake this section of the Rio Grande with the lawless corridor much further downstream. We will see very few people, maybe a cowboy or two on horseback or a friendly family or two living far off the grid. In 2014 and 2015 after the first 24 hours we did not see another soul. .

In 2013 we observed desert bighorn sheep, javelina, coatimundis, wild burros and a mountain lion. In 2014 javelina, coatimundis, ring tail cats, coyotes, and desert foxes. In 2015 we watched desert bighorn sheep, javelina, coatimundis, mule deer, coyotes and wild burros. We always see raptors and songbirds. Some of these birds are seldom seen elsewhere in the USA.

Soak in idyllic hot springs. This is your chance to swim across the Rio Grande! Mesquite campfires…incredible stars including the zodiacal cloud. Some of the best skygazing in the world. It’s one of my favorite river trips anywhere.

In three years of my trips I have yet to be rained on, and most days are severe clear with highs from 65-85. Nights can be cool and rarely frosty but when the sun hits the tent, life warms up fast

West Texas is often a drought stricken region. We will run the lower canyons which are spring-fed and always have enough water for canoes. Texans do not believe there is enough water in the river to paddle but we have proven them wrong for four years.

The Rio Grande is not a big river. Where we put in last year we could have walked across without getting our knees wet. Where we pull-out at the end it’s still only 30 feet across. There are many small rapids, easily navigated. Last year we portaged around two larger rapids about 15 meters on the first and 20 meters on the second. Two other rapids we lined and waded through. The article in Sierra mentions a tip over. One of the guys tipped over a solo canoe, no safety issues but we did have trouble getting the canoe unstuck from a rock. Although it’s always possible to tip over in a canoe, it is unlikely on the Rio Grande. Paddlers should be capable in Class II (advanced beginner) rapids and comfortable in a remote environment where help is a helicopter ride away. All equipment is furnished.

We carry fresh water and replenish it at several beautiful springs along the route.  Because there are no significant portages we carry more fresh food than boundary waters or arctic trips.

Not a difficult trip, but we do paddle for over 100 miles in a week moving every day. People sleep well after a day of paddling through the desert.

I will carry a two-way satellite transmitter and, if you would like, friends and family back home can watch your progress on-line on Google Earth.

Accommodation the night before the trip, and breakfast on the first day of the trip are the responsibility of the participants. Vehicles can be safely left at our outfitter’s establishment. The trip fee includes transport back to your car. In the past, participants heading north or northeast from the end of our Lower Canyon trip chose to have their car shuttled to our take-out point. The cost of this shuttle is not included in the fee. Travel from your home to Terlingua is your responsibility but some years I have been able to help coordinate car pools from California, Minnesota, Michigan,  including a pick-up of a Dutch paddler at the Kansas City airport. So transport is a little complicated but doable and economical – compare to the Arctic it is a cinch.

For more information or to register please call or e-mail me directly:


Rob will be in Western Australia from Nov 1 – January 13 it is best to contact him at these dates by e-mail

The trips are operated under a special use permit with a local outfitter and are fully insured and licensed. Uncommon Seminars LLC is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


Rio Grande Flyer 2015

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