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River Guide Nets National Outdoor Book Award

SOCORRO, N.M. November 23, 2011 – Dr. Paul Bauer recently was named the winner of the 2011 Best Outdoor Adventure Guidebook for his recent publication.

bauer-in-the-field
  Paul Bauer at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos. Bauer is the author of The Rio Grande: A River Guide, which was named the best in category for outdoor guides by the National Outdoor Book Association.


The National Outdoor Book Association recognized Bauer for his new book, Rio Grande: A River Guide to the Geology and Landscapes of Northern New Mexico, published in 2011 by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Bauer is an associate director and principal geologist at the. Bureau, a research and service division of New Mexico Tech.

“I am honored to receive this recognition,” Bauer said. “The book represents the collective effort of dozens of friends who contributed to the final product in a great variety of ways. The award is an acknowledgment of the value of their contributions, plus the genius of the designer Brigitte Felix, and a recognition of the importance of the Rio Grande in our lives and lore.”

The book is available for $18.95 plus shipping and tax through the Publication Sales Office at the Bureau in Socorro, by phone at (575) 835-5490, or via the bureau’s website. In addition, the book is available at BLM visitors centers, numerous shops in northern New Mexico – and anywhere that river enthusiasts might shop.

Released in August, Bauer’s book is a comprehensive, spiral bound, waterproof, 122-page river guide with detailed, full-color maps of 153 miles of the Rio Grande, from Colorado to Cochiti Dam in New Mexico.

The Rio Grande is the fourth longest river in North America. The Rio Grande Valley provides water for habitat, agriculture, and a growing population. In northern New Mexico, where the river has carved a pair of spectacular canyons, the Rio Grande also provides some of the most exceptional recreation opportunities and scenery in North America.

The geology of the region is likewise exceptional. The river spills from the San Juan Mountains into the Rio Grande rift, where several million years of erosive action have exposed a geologic cornucopia, including three major volcanic fields (including the Jemez supervolcano), seismically active faults, extinct Pleistocene lakes, and ancient rocks of the Rocky Mountains. Bauer uses non-technical language and lavish illustrations to interpret the evolution of this magnificent landscape.

Divided into 11 river stretches – including the popular whitewater runs in the Taos Box, Racecourse, and White Rock Canyon – the guide covers stretches that range in difficulty from placid canoe tours to gripping kayak descents. The river maps are developed on an aerial photographic base.

Bauer has spent more than two decades researching the geology of the upper Rio Grande. He also has spent about 30 years boating the rivers of New Mexico and the Southwest and working with outfitters and river guides.

As he wrote in the preface, Bauer “morphed into a river rat” over the years. He has become familiar with the river as an exhilarating recreational feature of New Mexico. The book allowed him to share his vast geological and hydrological knowledge of the river, further enticing the reader to explore New Mexico’s signature river.

He began work on the book about 15 years ago. The labor began as a spare time project and evolved into a full-fledged publishing project in the last few years.

“My first priority was to get really good base maps that show the river corridor and landscape,” he said. “Geology is a natural part of it. That’s where I could provide some technical expertise.”

In addition to the national award, he’s received overwhelmingly positive reviews from friends and colleagues.

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 The award winning book

“People think it’s a terrific practical resource and education tool,” he said. “I feel really lucky to have been able to work on this as part of my job at the Bureau.”

Although the focus of the guide is on geology and landscape, the guide is packed with information and photos on geography, hydrology, climate, boating safety, river management, rock art, and much more. Providing detailed information on access and trails, history and landscape, railroads and mining, this guide is also an invaluable resource for hikers, anglers, cyclists, day trippers, historians, philosophers, and casual visitors.

The book’s introduction includes concise descriptions of the categories of rapids, water flow and climate histories, water quality, river ethics and hazards. The meat of the book is devoted to spectacularly detailed maps and photos of the river and its surroundings. Bauer gave all the credit for the maps to Brigitte Felix, a GIS specialist at the Bureau.

“Brigitte and I talked about what was possible – what was technically feasible,” Bauer said. “These maps are spectacular. I’ve never seen anyone make maps like this.”

In announcing the award, the Outdoor Book Association website noted that the “maps are first rate. … The geological information, both textual and illustrative, is some of the best the judges have seen in a river guide.”

The body of The Rio Grande: A River Guide is filled with fascinating information. Each of the 11 sections includes both geologic and human histories. Bauer provide much of the modern river photography for the book, which is equally as striking as the maps. Other images were provided by a host of contributors, including historic photos from New Mexico museums and archives.

Each chapter heading opens with bulleted information about the various sections of river: level of difficulty, season flows, hazards, camping, parking, launch and takeout sites and other details.

Bauer has become a champion for New Mexico’s rivers over the years. Since 1993, Bauer has taught a river geology class at the Rio Grande Rendezvous, which caters to river guides and outfitters. That class – and his regular river trips and research – have helped him develop strong relationships with the people whose livelihood is the river.

“Guides are really interested in the environment and geology – and they want to be able to communicate that with passengers,” Bauer said. “They host tens of thousands of people each year. In total, 40,000 to 50,000 people participate in recreational rafting on the upper Rio Grande each year. It’s a huge audience. If I can communication with river guides through this book, I hope I can help them communicate with their passengers.”

Bauer also led a memorable river trip with state legislators and officials during the 2005 Decisions Makers Conference, which aims to bring together state leaders to educate them on New Mexico’s history, geology and natural resources. The trip was a high-water, paddle-raft adventure through the Taos Box.

“They’re still taking about that trip. It was fascinating because we had Republicans and Democrats paddling together in the front of the raft – all in survival mode,” Bauer said. “We all had to take care of each other. We had to work together. Living on the river is a good way of bringing people together – in more ways than one.”

Bauer also is a leader of the annual Connecting People With Rivers expedition, which is a three-day wilderness rafting trip on the Rio Chama. That event, hosted by Rio Grande Restoration, also targets state leaders to inform and educate them about natural resources and geology, all the while using the river as a teaching tool.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech