States: States: AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT
From iconic Grand Canyon big water to a cheeky early season run through Zion Narrows and wilderness trips on the Gila River, there are myriad packrafting opportunities in the Southwest region. You’ll find an active and supportive packrafting community here.
Many well-known entities in packrafting call the Southwest home, even though their packrafts havetaken them around the world and back. Numerous packraft equipment companies call this region home, including Alpacka Raft in Mancos, CO (Sheri Tingey was an early recipient of APA’s Golden Paddle award in 2013), Kokopelli in Longmont, CO, Supai Adventure Gear in Chandler, AZ and Micro Rafting Systems in Glenwood, NM and CD Outdoors in Camp Verde, AZ.
Another Golden Paddle recipient, Todd Seliga is a backcountry ranger for the National Park Service in Grand Canyon, AZ. Todd has been a great advocate for packrafts as a rangering tool and incorporating this knowledge and enthusiasm into park planning. Jeffrey Creamer, a self-taught packrafter with a prolific video presence on YouTube, shares his epic paddling runs with the world, but uses Colorado as his home base. And then there is Zano, the regionally famous Class IV Australian “Paddle Dog”, who resides at the GAILS Ranch HQ in Glenwood, NM.
Conservation issues in the Southwest are as diverse as the terrain and ecosystems found within the region. For example, the Gila Wilderness (in the heart of the Southwest Region) and the nearby BlueRange Primitive Area, were the first two designated and managed Wilderness areas in the world! As such, their legacy offers some of the most Pre-Columbian and diverse habitats in the Lower 48. Thelifeblood of these systems are its rivers and creeks, including its namesake river.
While the Gila has survived repeated attempts at damming its watercourse in New Mexico, the threat remains. APA and AW continue to partner with leading conservation groups to oppose these threats to intact ecosystems, wildlife, and the unparalleled opportunities for wilderness recreation and solitude that the Gila region offers.
As water resources become more scarce and polluted within the Southwest, paddling opportunitiescontinue to be diminished and degraded. For these reasons, it is crucial that the packrafting community continues to be engaged and mindful around water issues and resource management.
MC is a career-long wildlife biologist and wilderness guide. After years of backcountry travel utilizing canoes and rafts, he discovered the viability of IKs and packrafts circa 2008. Since then, he's been paddling throughout the West. MC shares his enthusiasm for adventure by instructing wilderness travel and paddling. He plans to formalize this opportunity in the form of Gila Adventure Institute and LogisticServices (GAILS), from his riverside homebase in NM and develop APA initiatives throughout the Southwest Region.
Certifications & Experience: River Rescue, ACA L2 River Canoe, Wilderness First Aid. 30 years paddling and rowing experience (packraft, IK, canoe and raft).
Whether you're a Southwest paddler or simply planning a trip, the following resources may help you on your
packrafting journeys in the region.
General Southwest Packrafting Links:
Utah Packrafting Community
River Information Resources
APA Packrafting Forum features a decade's worth of inspiring trip reports and packrafting expertise.
Southwest Paddler - some information is outdated and/or cut and paste
American Whitewater River Info
Kayaking in Oklahoma
Texas Paddling Trails
Regional Weather and Water Conditions
Colorado Basin River Forecast
Arkansas-Red Basin River Forecast
West Gulf River Forecast Center
Regional River Maps and Guide Books
State specific Atlas and Gazetteer by Delorme
River specific River Maps by RiverMaps LLC
Whitewater of the Southern Rockies by Stafford and McCutchen
Paddling Arizona by Tyler Williams
Equipment and Educational Resources
Alpacka Raft (Mancos, CO)
Kokopelli (Longmont, CO)
Supai Adventure Gear (Chandler, AZ)
CD Outdoors LLC - Packraft sales, equipment, rentals, modification and repairs (Camp Verde, AZ)
Micro Rafting Systems (MRS) - U.S. direct online sales (Glenwood, NM)
Gila Adventure Institute & Logistic Services (Glenwood, NM - webpage coming soon) Paddling courses
and Gila region shuttle and logistic support for backcountry and wilderness travel/expeditions
Four Corners Guides – bikepacking and packrafting courses (Mancos, CO)
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