Frequently Asked Questions

See below to answers to common questions -- and some you never thought of!

What are the odds of seeing balloons?

In a typical year, we see balloons on about 7 of 9 days, with balloons directly overhead in panoramic view on about 5-6 days and the famed Splash ‘n Dash on 3-4 days. This is typical and depends on many variables, including wind and weather. Even when the balloons are flying South, many launch from Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, Corrales or Sandia Pueblo for competitions at the Balloon Fiesta Field and fly right over us. Pilots consider many factors when deciding to dip into the Rio Grande. Wind and water currents moving in different directions can be dangerous for the pilots and crew. While they may not dip into the Rio Grande, they may hover a few feet above the river or the Bosque, close enough to have a conversation with them and feel the heat from their burners.

What if the balloons don't fly?

There is always a chance the balloons will not fly. A 10 mph wind can be very dangerous for pilots and crew, although pose no threat to our kayaks. There may also be unsafe wind currents at higher altitudes that are not felt at the surface. For this reason, Kayak Albuquerque will continue to lead Nature Tours in the morning, regardless of whether the balloons fly. The beautiful fall scenery of the Rio Grande bosque and migrating waterfowl are often overlooked during this time, although world-class in their own right. The Rio Grande Valley State Park protects nearly 5,000 acres of unique landscapes and sensitive habitats. Travelers from around the world come to Albuquerque to view the changing colors of the Bosque (“forest” in Spanish) which is mostly undeveloped from residential neighborhoods and only a few bridge crossings.  From the river, you’re guaranteed to see unprecedented views  of the green, gold, orange and brown cottonwood trees and willow, and an abundance of wildlife as a bonus when the balloons don’t fly.

What time will the event end?

Ending time depends on many factors, including size of the group, volume and speed of the river, and time spent observing balloons. Historically, our Balloon Fiesta Kayak Tours end between 10:30 and 11:30am, while our Fall Colors Nature Tours end between 4:30 and 5:30pm.

How should we dress for the kayak tour?

We recommend layers of non-cotton clothes, such as nylon hiking pants, yoga pants, running pants, ski apparel, etc., for the bottom and similar layers for the top; thinner shirts on the inside, followed by an insulating layer such as fleece vest or a non-cotton sweater, and a windbreaker or rain jacket for warmth. This allows us to add or remove layers as needed to maintain comfort in a variety of conditions. You should also wear shoes that can get wet with wool socks. Anyone who wears glasses should secure them with ‘croakies’ (strings that tie the ear pieces together around your head). And, of course, a hat, a water bottle, sunglasses, and sunscreen. We have waterproof bags for electronic keys and wallets.                                     

What type of kayaks do you use?

We use beginner-friendly and stable “sit on top” kayaks for this trip. At 10ft long, they are the right mix of speed and maneuverability for the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande can be shallow at times, and sit-on-top kayaks make it super easy for the paddler to get in and out as needed. Pelican Bandit

What is the minimum age for the kayaking trips?

The minimum age for our kayaking trips is 13 years old. This is, in part, due to the physical stamina needed to paddle independently in their own kayak for the duration of the trip. For children younger than 7, consider the half-day rafting trip through our sister company, Kokopelli Rafting Adventures

What is your weather policy?

Kayak Albuquerque will suspend all trips in the event of lightning in the immediate area for a period of 30 minutes. Kayak Albuquerque will cancel any trip where the anticipated high temperatures of the day are less than 40 degrees, or sustained wind greater than 20 mph. If Kayak Albuquerque cancels a trip for weather, a full refund will be issued, or credit to another date if openings are available.

What will the weather be like in October?

It’s not uncommon for the temperatures to be in the mid 40’s when we meet at 6am. The sun rises around 7am. The sun clears the Sandias around 8:30am and the day begins to warm up. By 10am, the mornings are warm and sunny, with some exceptions. On a typical day, we are wearing t-shirts or base-layers by the end of a spectacular trip. WeatherTab.com’s current long-range forecast for October 2019 calls for clear and sunny days with the lows in the mid-40s and highs in the lower-to-mid 80s each day.

The following sites offer long-range forecast for October

AccuWeather.com WeatherTab.com Weather Underground

Will I get wet?

It’s possible your feet will get wet getting in and out of the kayak. And water may drip onto your hands as you paddle. While the chances of capsizing are extremely rare, our guides are always prepared and carry extra layers of clothing to keep you warm and dry. Your comfort is our second highest priority. The first, of course, is your safety.

What is your cancellation policy?

Pre-registration and payment in full is required to reserve a spot in our limited-capacity kayak tours. Cancellations 3 or more days out are subject to a $45 cancellation fee per participant. Cancellations 24 hours in advance are subject to an $85 cancellation fee. Cancellations the day of (or no-shows, late arrivals, etc) are non-refundable. Some of our clients purchase trip insurance to protect their trip investment.

Can I transfer to another date?

Because capacity is limited in each tour, you cannot change your reservation from one date to another. Some of our clients purchase trip insurance to protect their investment.

If I can't attend, can someone else take my place?

Yes!

What are your guide-to-customer ratios?

We maintain a strict guide-to-customer ratio of 1:6. That is one guide per 6 customers. The industry standard is 1:10, and some groups go as many as 1:20. We keep our group sizes small so you can move efficiently on and off the river without having to wait unnecessarily long for others in the group.

What about gratuities? Is it customary to tip our guide?

Like other service-industry jobs, gratuities are greatly appreciated, but they are not expected. If you feel your guide did an outstanding job, given your safety, overall experience, knowledge of the river and paddling techniques to help you downriver, feel free to leave a gratuity with your guide. 15-20% is customary.

How do we get back to our cars?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions. In general, you will meet us at the take-out location and park your vehicle there. You’ll then load up into our van and we’ll drive to the launch site. After a brief orientation to paddling, and gear outfitting, we’ll then paddle downriver, eventually ending up at the access point where your vehicle is parked. Once we reach the end of the trip, you are able to leave. It is not necessary to wait for others in the group.