Balloon Fiesta Whitewater Special

Santa Fe’s #1 Outdoor Activity on TripAdvisor Welcomes Pilots, Crews and Spectators to the 47th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!

October 5th – 13th, 2019!


Great Time on the Rio Grande!
“I selected Kokopelli based on their reviews regarding their trips as well as their safety record. They didn’t let us down. The trip information and safety instructions at the beginning were thorough and, as it turned out, very useful. I say useful because I wound up in the water. Due to recent rains and warm temperatures, the Rio Grande had unusually high water levels. So Class III rapids were more like 3.5. A swell punched up the opposite side of our raft. As I leaned back, I realized my feet were not anchored as well as at the start of the trip. As I slid off the raft, I remembered to grab the rope, which was stressed in the safety instructions. Our guide, Armaan, was great and quickly got me back in the boat. The remainder of the trip was not as eventful but a whole lot of fun. At the take-out, I noticed how few other companies had ropes on their rafts. I definitely recommend Kokopelli.”

Twyst O.

A Grand Adventure Down the Rio!
“My three grandkids and I tackled the all-day Racecourse under the expert guidance of Kokopelli’s Avery, an experienced, well-educated, and witty young lady. The river was flowing at more than 3,100 cubic feet per second, but there was never a moment when we felt out of control or in any sort of danger. It was a blast! The kids and I had a fabulous time and heartily recommend Avery to guide you on your own adventure down the Rio Grande.”


“We drove up to the racecourse for an afternoon trip. After a little effort of finding out exactly where we were supposed to meet, the afternoon was one of the best trips down a river, our guide had many years experience and was able to take us on a great trip. everyone was professional and helpful.”

Ted O.

Great staff and great experience!
“We did the Racecourse, a 5 mile trip down the Rio Grande River in New Mexico, about 45 minutes from Santa Fe, which had enough whitewater for my 12 year old son and 15 year old daughter, but not too much to scare them or my wife. We were in a 6 person raft, plus guide, which was perfect. Our guide, Armaan, was an excellent guide, with superior river and boat control skills- we never were in danger of tipping, no one fell out. Everyone felt very safe. We were able to jump out near the end and float through some rapids with just life jackets and helmets, which was an awesome experience, and Armaan would haul us back in when we were ready, The staff emphasized safety, and were very professional. Nice snack after of lemonade, Oreos, apple slices, Cheetos, etc. Great trip and great experience!”

Donna B.

Great time on the Racecourse
“Went on the afternoon trip and had such a great time. Our guide, Armaan made the trip fun and everyone in our group loved it! If you have time, definitely do the trip. Be sure to float the rapids at the end!”

Morgan C.

Great Rafting Adventure!
“We had a great trip with Kokopelli on the Racecourse! My boys (ages 10 & 12) had huge grins on their faces the entire time and especially loved “riding the bull” on the front of the boat. Our guide Avery was masterful! We will definitely be back again.”


Great water, great scenery, great guides!
“My wife and I went with Kokopelli this last weekend for a half day Racecourse trip. It was an amazing day! The guide was knowledgable, the water was really fun, and the conversations between the guide and other boaters was great. I’d highly recommend anyone go with Koko!”

Balloon Fiesta in the Morning…

…And Rafting in the Afternoon!

Kokopelli Rafting Adventures has extended our season for a special Balloon Fiesta Whitewater Rafting trip. What a great way to see New Mexico — From the air in the morning and the water in the afternoon! See why we call New Mexico “The Land of Enchantment!” as our interpretive river guides share the history, geology and excitement of a special segment of the Rio Grande in the heart of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Trips offered daily from Oct 5 – 13. Limited Availability each day. Advanced registration required.
Meeting time is 11:45am in our Santa Fe office.

$120/adult and $100/child 12 and under.

  • You’ll meet us at 11:45am in Santa Fe, ~1 hour from the Balloon Fiesta Park
  • You’ll be back in Santa Fe around 5pm, with plenty of time for evening “glow” activities at Balloon Fiesta Park
  • Register early to ensure availability!

What’s included:

  • Round-trip transportation from our Santa Fe headquarters!
    Let us do the driving while you rest and enjoy the interpretive tour from our professional guides!
  • Sandwich lunch buffet!
    Your choice of ham, turkey or roast beef cold cuts, dijon mustard, crisp onions and tomatoes, fresh fruit, chips & Salsa, pralines, snack bars and more!
  • Professional interpretive Guides exemplifying safety, service and professionalism, top quality Maravia rafts, high-flotation life jackets and helmets required on all class III sections

The five-mile Racecourse rafting trip is our most popular half-day trip on the Rio Grande, ranging from a wild class III+ ride during the spring high-water to a more technically-demanding tight, twisty run as the water goes down in late Summer and early Fall.

For the Balloon Fiesta Whitewater Special, you will have an active role in paddling your raft through notable rapids including Albert’s Falls (named after Albert Einstein), Big Rock Rapid (formed by a 100-ton boulder in the early 1990s), the famous surfing wave Sleeping Beauty and the short, sweet and steep Souse Hole. Your private guide will be depending on you to help maneuver the raft through many tight slots.

In addition, the water warms up and there is more opportunity for warm-water fun, such as swimming and boat surfing. The moderate Rapids of the Racecourse rafting trip is a great trip for beginning whitewater participants, as well as experienced rafters looking for a quick adrenaline fix, or anyone who loves the river and the outdoors.

The minimum age is seven, although Kokopelli Rafting Adventures reserves the right to raise the age limit during extremely high water. The Racecourse rafting trip is our most popular option for families and large groups with varied group experience levels. Everyone has a great time on the river trip, and its not too intimidating for first timers especially at late Summer flows.

Trip Details

Price: $120/adult and $100/child 12 and under.

  • Register early to ensure availability!

Duration: Total time: 5-6 hours (including transportation). River Time: 2-3 hours

Meeting Location: Our Offices in Santa Fe

Meeting Time: 11:45 AM

Difficulty: Class I-III

Season: October 5th – October 13th, 2019

Includes: Highly trained professional river guide, all safety gear (including helmets, modern life jackets, and the best rafts in the industry), Transportation via our 15 passenger air-conditioned van, and Lunch buffet

Participant Requirements: Must be in generally good physical fitness, have the ability to brace yourself inside the raft, and paddle periodically as requested by the guide. Must be age 7 and up.

Recent photos of the Rio Grande Racecourse

Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions
  • How many people will be in each raft?
    5 is typical, but it all depends on several variables, including the volume of water in the river, the size of each participant and the size of each group.
  • Can my party of 7 be in the same raft?
    We’ll make every attempt to group participants in the same party together, however, please understand that the heavier the raft is, the more difficult it will be to maneuver around or over river features. KRA reserves the right to divide parties of 5 or more into smaller groups and/or place multiple smaller parties in the same raft, unless a private raft is requested.
  • We want our own private raft. How can we book that?
    In order to book your own private raft, you would need to purchase all 5 spots in the raft at the full adult rate.
  • Where do you meet?
    You will meet at the Kokopelli Rafting Adventures world headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Directions to our office will be sent via email in your trip confirmation.
  • What time do you meet and how long will the trip last?
    Your party will meet us in Santa Fe at 11:45am. We will drive about 1-hour north to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and begin your trip at 1pm.  You should return back to Santa Fe before 6pm, leaving time for the Balloon Fiesta evening events in most cases.
  • How far is your office from Balloon Fiesta Park?
    Under normal driving conditions (no traffic), Kokopelli Rafting Adventures is 55 minutes from Balloon Fiesta Park. Please allow additional time for Balloon Fiesta traffic.
  • What is the weather like in October?
    Average temperatures for Northern New Mexico in October can range from the 60s to the 90s, with higher and lower extremes. Our rafting trips take place in the middle of the day to maximize direct sunlight.
  • Do you provide any extra equipment?
    Yes, we provide all rafting equipment, such as the raft, paddles, high-flotation personal flotation devices and helmets. In the unlikely event the combined air and water temperatures are below 100 degrees, Kokopelli Rafting will provide additional layers, including wetsuits, fleece and splash jackets.
  • What is the water level like in October?
    The Rio Grande Racecourse is runnable in a raft at levels above 185cfs. Average flows for October are between 250-400cfs.
  • What is the character of the river like?
    There are about a dozen class II rapids and a half-dozen class III rapids, and pools of flat, calm water in between. Class III is considered intermediate skill levels, however, with a competent guide, class III are generally suitable for novice paddlers.


Top Should-be Most Frequently Asked Questions
  • Safety is important to me. What sets Kokopelli Rafting Adventures apart?
    Safety, service and professionalism is what sets Kokopelli apart.  At Kokopelli, we actively recruit outdoor professionals to join our team. Then we train them well above industry standards.  And we continue to offer training in related courses including swiftwater rescue, wilderness first aid, whitewater kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and more.  You won’t find a shirtless guide on a Kokopelli raft.  We don’t have to worry about our guides hitting on guest or smelling like pot.  All our guides know they may be drug tested in a moment’s notice, but it doesn’t matter to them because it’s not a part of their lifestyle.  Kokopelli guides pursue excellence in everything they do, so continuous ongoing training is a welcomed opportunity, not a financial burden or disruption to employment.  Currently, every Kokopelli Guide has, or is working on a 4-year degree.  They are professionals in every sense.
  • What credentials do your guides have?
    Unlike other states, New Mexico does not have a river guide standard, and requires only 3 documented training runs. Since Kokopelli has operated in the state of Colorado, our training is designed to meet Colorado’s exceptionally high standards.  All Kokopelli guides go through an 8 day, 80-hour guide training school, and a final checkout run, which often requires an additional 10-40 hours before passing a check-out run.  Most outfitters in New Mexico offer a 3-day guide training program.   At Kokopelli, we believe it takes a good 4 days (or 40 hours) of structured training to become a good student of whitewater rafting, and an additional 4 days (or 40 hours) to develop those skills into leadership potential.  Our average tenure at Kokopelli is 6 years, so first year guides are constantly mentored by experienced guides for continual skills development and improvement of our guests’ experiences.
  • How often do you replace your life jackets?
    Kokopelli replaces life jackets at the end of their 3rd season, and uses “high flotation” life jackets with 25lbs of flotation; industry standard life jackets have 16lbs of flotation. A life jacket loses 25% of its flotation each year.  By the time it is 4 years old, if has virtually no flotation left to it.    By the time a life jacket has faded from red to pink, or black to gray, it is likely 8 or more years old and well past it’s usable life.  You won’t find a faded life jacket on a Kokopelli Rafting trip!
  • Are helmets required?
    Kokopelli was the first company to require helmets on the Racecourse, starting in 1996, and still one of the only companies to require helmets today. Participants are more likely to be injured by another participant’s paddle than by rocks in the river.
  • Do your rafts have a perimeter line?
    A perimeter line is one of the most under-utilized pieces of safety equipment and few companies in our industry use them. It’s a length of rope lining the outside perimeter of the raft and helps swimmers grab ahold of the raft while re-entering the raft.  Imagine trying to climb into a wet, slippery raft in aerated whitewater with nothing to hold on to.  While not required in New Mexico, all Kokopelli rafts have a perimeter line around the full length of the raft so a swimmer can grab ahold of it from any location.