Words by Aaron Koch. Photos by Heather and Aaron
In my relentless search for places to escape the cold, I found Mexico! A refuge from the polar vortexes of the U.S. and also a paddlers paradise. There is so much diversity of whitewater that you need multiple river craft to enjoy it all!
The headwaters of the Santa Maria River lie in the semi-desert region between the states of Queretaro and San Luis Potosi. 150 miles from the gulf of Mexico where it finally meets the salt water. Santa Maria has no Dams and all 150 miles are excellent runnable whitewater. 5 Canyons, miles of big water class 4-5 and a 315 foot waterfall from the Rio Gallinas make this a multi-day paddlers dream!
We recently did the most upper stretch of Santa Maria on SUP boards. It's a 12 mile scenic canyon float with one class 4 rapid. Our plan was to put on in the afternoon and camp beside the class-4. Put ins in Mexico are sometimes an adventure in itself. This particular part of the river is a favorite watering hole for local cattle!
Heather and I used the Czar 6 and Baron 6 SUPs. The extra flotation comes in handy when carrying camping gear and food. I carried mosquito net, hammock, rain fly, jet boil stove and K-pump. Heather took the extra clothes, water filter and head lamps.
First day of paddling was a little more than an hour. We found a nice spot on an island just beside the portage. One of the amazing things about inflatable paddleboards is how comfortable they are to sleep on. Let out half the air and you have a huge therma-rest bed. The Baron 6 sleeps two people if they are friendly!
We decided to avoid any bug encounters in the night, so I strung our hammock loosely over the Baron 6. This hammock has mosquito netting built in and also comes with a nice rain-fly. It looked like rain so we used the fly as well.
After a good night sleep, re-inflate the board, take a nice river shower and we launched for the next 8.5 miles of class 2. There are huge Sabino trees over 500 years old, a portion of the old Spanish silver train runs along the river right side.
The Sabino tree has one of the most impressive root sytems I have ever seen. These old trees actually from the river back, their roots intertwine and become an unbreakable shoreline, incredible erosion protection!
As we moved farther into the canyon the riverbed starts to become very sandy. It makes for nice soft fall if you're just beginning to learn SUP. There are numerous springs that enter the river as waterfalls on river left. I counted at least 5 and all were quite a bit warmer than the actual river water. As you can imagine they are also full of incredible vegetation.
This section of the Santa Maria passes through the historic town of Conca, Queretaro. A Franciscan mision was built here in the 1700's. There are 4 more, nearly identical throughout the region. At one point the river banks to the right and you can turn and see the Mision. It's just visible in front of Heather above the first row of trees.
If you are looking for new ways to enjoy and explore using a paddle board, I highly recommend the over night trip. SUPs are a true SUV of paddle sports. With the right board and dry equipment the experience is stress free and much easier than I ever thought possible. It's your own personal watercraft and bed rolled into one. Make sure the run isn't too difficult because the weight of your gear does affect how the board handles. I found that by moving back towards the tail balances things out and makes for a great workout too!
I know it's cold in the states right now, so roll up those boards, grab some friends and head down to Mexico and see us. Water temps are in the 70's and there are plenty of enchiladas for everyone.
Courtesy of www.kayakhuasteca.com