Pecos River Flood Revisited

Three years ago this week, myself and three other experienced paddlers were on a 60 mile trip down the Pecos River in West Texas, having the time of our lives. Then the rain began to fall in the early morning hours of day 4. The forecast before we left had called for a 20 percent chance on Wednesday, and that was it. Mother Nature had different plans for us. We were prepared, or as prepared as we could be. Every campsite had escape routes planned, worst case scenarios discussed, and contingency plans in place. But there’s no planning that can prepare you for a 33 feet rise. Only the third time in recorded history.

And there we were. At the bottom of those majestic canyon walls.

I will never forget laying there in my tent, the rain coming down, and just praying it stops so we could get some sleep. We had paddled 18 miles that day and a lot more ahead of us. The last thing we needed was to lay there and stress about if the water is going to rise. I heard Ryan on the satellite phone calling to get more info. It was tough to make out anything with all the rain battering down on the tents. Then I heard those dreaded words…”guys, we gotta go”.

By the time first light hit, we had packed everything up and stuffed what we could high in a crevice. Our only problem was our escape routes were starting to disappear. Our way outs were becoming torrential waterfalls coming from above the canyons. Things were starting to get real. Our last chance out was a few hundred yards away upriver, and the water kept rising.

Full trip report is here…

Here’s a video I did once we got back. It still makes me feel uneasy.

Thanks for coming along,


Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He's a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at

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