Texas Big Bend Canoeing and Backpacking

Texas Big Bend Canoeing and Backpacking for Adults

Expand your comfort zone
This multi-element expedition takes place in some of the most picturesque desert and canyon landscapes that the Big Bend area has to offer. Be prepared to engage in stimulating lessons in teamwork, perseverance, and personal development. Throughout the adventure, you will gain the satisfaction that comes from meeting an expedition goal, the growth that comes from learning to work effectively with new peers, and the support that comes from sharing experiences in a challenging environment.

Whether in school, transitioning to the work force, or coping with the demands of an established career, this expedition allows participants the opportunity to push their comfort zones, hone their leadership style, and examine their personal goals while learning technical skills in a unique and beautiful desert setting.

Course Area

Rio Grande, TX
Our Texas course area, one of the most remote and geologically interesting in the Outward Bound system, lies along the US-Mexico border in southwestern Texas. Here, the Rio Grande River carves a huge sweeping bend through the area–earning its namesake, Big Bend National Park. This 750,000-square mile wilderness area is an ideal setting for desert backpacking, canyoneering and rock climbing. In this region, delicate desert flowers exist alongside fossilized trees millions of years old; mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs. Much of this landscape has remained unchanged for centuries.

Adult Courses
Unplug from electronic devices and plug into the fundamentals of the natural world on an Adult expedition with Outward Bound. Acquire essential outdoor skills and experience rugged wilderness adventures as skilled Instructors urge you to surpass expectations and realize “there is more in you than you know.” With physical challenge, time for rest and reflection and conversations dedicated to evaluating life priorities, our adult courses are refreshing, reaffirming and rejuvenating.

  • Build core skills: Receive hands-on training in technical and interpersonal skills as part of a diverse and supportive adult crew. Confront new challenges and re-discover your inner strength.
  • Practice Outward Bound values: Learn to incorporate core values like compassion, integrity, excellence and diversity and inclusion into your daily life on course.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As the course nears the end, Instructors transfer leadership responsibilities to the students. As a crew, apply new skills and work together to achieve team goals.
  • What you’ll learn: Return to home, work and family with a refreshed outlook, renewed confidence in your own abilities, and the satisfaction of challenges met and overcome.

Listed below are a few of the activities:

Whitewater Canoeing

Paddling as a group, you will spend one week traveling down-river through sections of calm currents and whitewater. The waters of the Rio Grande offer beginning paddlers a progressive challenge, and it’s a perfect place to learn and hone skills.

Your instructors will assist you in mastering skills required to paddle the Rio Grande and travel efficiently downriver. You will learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset your internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the moon.

Desert Backpacking

In the Big Bend region located at the Texas-Mexico border, you will learn to backpack through rugged desert up to mountainous terrain with elevations range from 2,500 to 7,500 feet! During the expedition, instructors will help the group learn safe desert travel, teaching them to plan the expedition around water management strategies. The crew will navigate “from tinaja to tinaja’, which are desert water sources vital to desert life. This is a rare chance to experience raw desert solitude in the presence of rugged mountains, canyons and mesas.

Rock Climbing and Rappelling

Regardless of your rock climbing background, you will be sure to find something that will both challenge and encourage the expansion of their comfort zone.

Instructors will teach the group about general rock-climbing equipment, safety, and etiquette before learning how to belay. The ½ to a full day of rock climbing provides ample opportunities to climb, belay, and rappel over the edge while safely descending to the base of a majestic cliff band.


Your overnight Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives you the opportunity to reflect on your Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make significant decisions about their future, journal, and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life.

During solo, everyone will receive sufficient food, water, and shelter to stay safe and healthy. Instructors choose Solo sites to offer as much solitude as possible while retaining some proximity to the group. While you will spend the majority of your Solo time alone, Instructors will check in at least once.


Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. We encourage service to the environment in the form of leaving campsites cleaner than we find them and practicing Leave No Trace® ethics throughout the expedition.

Preparing people to be of service to others -the giving of yourself and your time to individuals, the environment and communities — is one of the core values of Outward Bound. Additionally, you will have an opportunity to put giving back into action through a half day of community service that is an integral part of your course.

Service in Texas is designed to offer as much interaction with local people as possible, as a way of exchanging cultural awareness. The specific type of service project depends upon the local needs and opportunities. Service projects could include helping paint and clean in a border town or working in a local wilderness area.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Visit the Voyageur Outward Bound School frequently asked questions page to learn more about the application process, scholarships, what to expect, how to pack and where your course begins.

Upon enrollment on a Voyageur Outward Bound School course students receive a day-by-day course itinerary, detailed packing list, and detailed arrival and departure information specific to their course.

Scholarship Info

Our Scholarship Program is guided by a single principle: Every person should be given the opportunity to experience adventure and challenge, develop character and compassion, and learn leadership skills and service ethics, regardless of financial ability.

Moreover, we bring together diverse groups of students to instill cultural understanding and teamwork skills that enable them to become principled leaders.

Thanks to generous donations from alumni, parents, corporations, foundations, and others, Outward Bound awards up to $3.7 million in scholarships to 6,000 students each year.

The Voyageur Outward Bound School scholarship program is need-based and in order to be considered, applicants must first enroll on a course, pay a $500 deposit and check a box noting that they are interested in a Scholarship. The deposit payment is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 enrollment processing fee (usually non-refundable). After the applicant enrolls, a Course Advisor will send them a Scholarship Application along with the other enrollment materials. The applicant is required to submit a copy of their most recent 1040 tax return along with the completed Scholarship Application. The average scholarship is 15-30% off of the posted fee. If the applicant receives an Outward Bound scholarship but it’s not enough for them to participate, Outward Bound will refund their $500 deposit, including the $150 enrollment processing fee.

In some cases, applicants can schedule a payment plan with the Voyageur Outward Bound School rather than paying for the whole course in one lump sum. In cases of payment plans, final balances are due at least 90 days prior to the course-start.

Packing for a Voyageur Outward Bound School course

In general, Outward Bound provides sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rain gear, and all group cooking, camping and traveling equipment. Students need to provide their own clothing, footwear, toiletries and a few other items, like a headlamp and water bottle.

Traveling to and from the Voyageur Outward Bound School

MN Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students meet in the Duluth International Airport baggage claim at 1:00 PM on the first day of the course. Students typically return to the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 AM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 1:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

TX Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students arrive in El Paso, TX the day before their course officially begins.  Students spend the night in a local hotel (not included in course-cost) as directed by their Course Advisor. Students typically return to the El Paso International Airport around 1:00 PM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 2:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

Explicit travel directions will be shared with you after you enroll on a course.  Students should refrain from making travel plans prior to being approved for their course and receiving travel details for their specific course as the exact details may differ slightly from the directions listed above.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Upcoming Courses

Dates Days Age Tuition Course #
12/28/16 – 1/11/17 15 18+ $3025 VRAF-641

Spots fill quickly! Reserve a spot and speak with a Course Advisor.

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