When is the best time to kayak Chile?

The best time to whitewater kayak Chile depends on two things: the type of kayaking you want to do and the Chilean season. First, Chile being south of the equator the seasons are opposite to North Americans and Europeans. As you travel north it is hotter and more arid. To the south is more water and the climate is colder. So, think about to kayak Pucon and north for October to December. Then as Chile rivers dry up think of kayaking Pucon and south from January to April. Pucón, which is located in the aptly named Araucanía (or ‘Rivers & Lakes’) district. And what about the world famous Futaleufu? 

Chile Kayak Trips Determined by Weather and Season

Kayak Chile’s Rio Claro +PLUS – NOVEMBER

kayaker Chile waterfall
Ready for the kayak ride of a lifetime. See you at the bottom. 

This is the Chile’s best kayaker destination for waterfalls. The past few years more canyons have been opened as kayakers explore away from the normal playgrounds and access roads are managed. We used to advertise more than 70 clean waterfalls. That number approaches 100 for expedition kayakers.

What to Avoid. Avoid December low-flows. Located in Chile’s arid central wine valleys the low volume is typically dry by early December. We’ve even seen a global warming shifting of water levels. 

Best Chile Kayak Deal. Make the most of your Chile kayaking trip with a week of kayaking in Pucon with the Kayak Pucon Creek Week.   

  • Best Time – Kayak early to mid November.
  • For whom? Class IV Kayakers with excellent rolls and fit conditioning. 

Kayak Chile’s Pucon Whitewater Epicenter 

Kayakers celebrating running Chile’s Las Leonas falls on Rio Fuy.

Pucon Chile is located on the flanks of the Andes within a temperate rainforest where rivers flow based on both rain and snowmelt to the nearby Pacific Ocean. Imagine placing a string of volcanos which multiply the number of drainages, canyons, rivers, and waterfalls. Volcanos, glaciers and tectonic events also formed numerous lakes. It’s a whitewater anomaly with whitewater recreation for all levels from family to expert, and fisherman to rafter.  

Know when is best for your kayak skills. 

Tinkerbell is a favorite feature to develop eddy piercing and peel outs. Fast-Safe-Fun features.

October to November Chile Kayaking. The late spring season Chile’s rivers are flowing with lots of waterfall and river options. 

December to March Chile Kayaking. These are the core summer months of the Chile kayak season offering everything including beginner, intermediate, and advanced kayaking adventures. The sun is shining, its warm with long days and the rivers are inviting kayakers. The northern rivers tend to dry up and kayakers migrate to Pucon for the many options and adventures. Pucon Kayak Retreat offers kayak trips based on skill levels. 

ROAD TO FUTA TRIPS

Anyone whom has ever dreamt to whitewater kayak the Rio Futaleufu will enjoy the Road to Futa road trip of a life time. Road to Futa not only embraces the challenge of just getting to Patagonia’s world famous Futaleufu River we highlight every kayaker’s mission to get to the remote Futa Valley. PKH arranges logistics via Chile’s famous Carretera Austral, Southern Highway, taking kayakers along a series of ferries, fjords, volcanoes, glaciers, and Patagonia magnificent en route to the Futa. Once there kayakers fall in love with one of the world’s most magical rivers. Ultimately, kayaking the Futaleufu is every kayaker’s dream come true.

  • Best Time – With rugged Patagonia weather we recommend late January to mid March for best levels and sunny days. Pre-season the Futa is often dangerously high and flushed out and kayakers are smattered by heavy weather.
  • For Whom? Most kayakers think the Futa is only for experts. And the river certainly keeps the best kayakers in the world happy. But it also has remarkable sections for beginners and intermediates. 
  • Tips – Bring your camera, good coffee, and winning attitude. Ask about adding a Pucon leg. 

Know Chilean Geography 

As you travel north to south you go from the warmer arid regions to the cooler temperate rainforest regions. Keeping these facts in mind, the ideal kayak adventure can be planned allowing you to hit rivers at their optimum flows with optimum weather conditions. And in Chile, water levels make all the difference. Basically, you’ll be moving from north to south OR from south to north — depending on what time of year you plan to travel (more on that in a second).

Central Valley

Santiago lies at the northern end of Chile’s central valley and wine district. There is notable whitewater to the west of Santiago, in the Maipo Valley, but 99% of Chile’s whitewater remains to the south. The Andes spine has annual snowmelt flowing west to the Pacific. Traveling south from Santiago looking east to the Andes it’s hard not to imagine what rapids lie hidden upstream.  As you travel south, the weather cools and moisture increases, meaning the snow pack lasts longer into the season. Pucón has one of the longest whitewater seasons in Chile, with quality rivers running year-round.

Chile Kayaker Tip: Pre-December you’ll find the rivers in Pucón and anywhere to the north offer warmer climates and plenty of water in smaller creeks and classic, larger volume rivers. River flow becomes less and less reliable throughout December, with many tributaries running dry by new year. Guides from the Futaleufu and surrounding area travel north to Pucón, and even the central valley, during this time of year. We recommend the Maipo, Seven Teacups National Park, Nuble, and Achibueno Valleys.

Pucón Whitewater Kayak Epicenter 

Geographically, Pucón is the epicenter of Chile whitewater kayaking. It lies to the south of Santiago and just north of the famous Rio Futaleufu. The summer vacation destination was originally established as a military trading route to Argentina, making it extremely accessible. Pucón is close to the Pan American highway (Ruta 5) and near a major Argentinian border. During early development the town — surrounded by lakes, rivers, and volcanoes — developed as an elite head-of-state fishermen’s destination. The perfect location with breathtaking beauty makes Pucón one of Chile’s top summer vacation destinations – for locals and foreigners.

Pucon Chile’s Kayaker Heaven on Earth

For kayaker’s, Pucón is Heaven on Earth. Tourism, infrastructure,  highways, and roads to river put-ins and take-outs provide something many other countries simply cannot deliver — access. The high annual precipitation and gradient between the Andes and the Pacific make this region one of the most congested whitewater locations on the planet. Now, imagine the Andes slopes speckled with volcanoes, each with their own glacial drainage. Chile’s volcanoes were formed separate from the mountain range, during different geological events — and they exponentially multiply the number of waterfalls and runnable rivers. In Pucón, for example, the Rios Turbio, Palguin, Truful Truful, and Llancahue are all volcano drainages. Surrounded by more rivers than you can possibly paddle in an area that also offers convenience, night-life, grocery stores, infrastructure, medical facilities, restaurants & cafes, and the opportunity to socialize with other travelers or just as easily seclude yourself far off the grid — it’s easy to see why Pucón has become one of the top kayak destinations in the world.

Pucon Kayak Tip – Pucón has one of the longest kayak seasons in Chile. October and November are rainier periods great for notching lots of class IV+ and big drops. Everything is running. December may be the most popular month due to the holidays. The peak months of summer, from January thru March, see many of Chile’s rivers dry up, but Pucón continues to hold flows and attract kayakers. The sun is shining and the rivers are running.

Weather is King!

North is hotter. South is cooler. The weather gets almost unbearable near Santiago from January to March. Chile even takes a month-long national summer break to beat the heat. Chileans flock south to the cooler weather and any sources of water in forms of creeks, rivers, lakes, and lagunas. This is one reason why you see so many tourists in the south of Chile during February. As the weather gets hotter the rivers get lower.

The opposite is true of the south. Even Futaleufu guides avoid the Futa during October to December months due to dangerous high flows and extreme cold weather. But as the rivers of the north get low during summer months the Futaleufu Valley offers the perfect summer climate and an unlimited number of river cooling spots. During these months the river is at perfect flow, attracting kayakers from around the globe.

Chile Kayaking Tip – Go with the flow of Chile’s river levels and enjoy the Patagonia summer weather. Plan your Futa trip for the months of January to March. Since many rivers are dry by this time, many kayakers arrive to Pucón seeking to get on reliable runs like the Palguin, Liucura’s play wave, Trancura, San Pedro or Truful Truful.

You are warmly invited to white water kayak with Pucon Kayak Retreat. Email David@puconkayakhostel.com to learn more. 

KEEP KAYAKING.  

Five Kayaker Gems in Pucon Chile

Four days into our 2016 Teacups +PLUS trip we’re reminded why we first chose to come to Pucon to kayak. It’s the little things that few speak about that we cherish daily in our kayaking lives. Here are a few we identified this week. 

#5 – Putting in and taking out at your riverside base.

Where else can you boof with a volcano as your backdrop? Just 30 minutes upstream of your hot shower, dinner and copa de vino tinto.
Where else can you boof with a volcano as your backdrop? NOC’s Jonathan Ortiz gets his boof on prior to taking out on our riverside property.

For kayakers it’s a special feeling to put in just steps away from your bed. Maybe the only thing better is a class IV+ run on the same river taking out at your base to be followed by having a hot tree house shower and a cold beer. Pucon Kayak Hostel’s base is located at the takeout for the Upper Trancura and putin for the Lower (III) section right in the heart of all the local runs. 

#4 – Upper Palguin Putin.

Few talk about the Upper Palguin putin, but they should. After driving past vistas of Volcan Quetrupillan you’ll next hike into the Palguin Canyon. At the base of the 85’ boof Salto Palguin is a land bridge seal launch. Slide in and the cascades await on South America’s most popular whitewater creek. 

One of coolest putins you'll experience is the Upper Palguin land bridge. Tip - stomping the seal launch is easier than you think.
One of coolest putins you’ll experience is the Upper Palguin land bridge. Tip – stomping the seal launch is easier than you think.

 

#3 – Canyon runs on the Rio Maichin.

Driving east from Pucon toward Argentina is a pristine class III-IV gem known as the Rio Maichin Canyon. Some parts are reminiscent of the Upper Yough with slots and boofs galore. The run does have three runnable V’s with option for sneaks and portages. This river gives you that deep canyon feel… because it’s a deep canyon.

#2 – Shuttles.

Shuttle bunnies on the Upper Palguin near Pucon Kayak Hostel. Come see what all the fun is about.
Shuttle bunnies on the Upper Palguin near Pucon Kayak Hostel. Come see what all the fun is about.

With three volcanoes surrounding Pucon, farmers working the land with ox and cart, and a region known as the rivers and lakes district it’s no wonder Pucon Kayak Hostel maintains a fleet of 4 por 4 trucks for kayakers. Every kayaker knows the anticipation to new river runs and cascades. Your shuttles are grounds for making lifetime friendships.

#1 – Paddling the Rivers.

Pucon Chile has been attracting kayakers to it’s clean river playgrounds for over four decades and for good reason. Kayakers seeking a great winter destination enjoy Pucon’s multitude of cascades and rivers including from class II beginner sections, class III rolling waves and eddies under towering volcanoes, class IV big water and cascades, and even the pros come to test their skills.

Popular Trips 

Teacups +PLUS Maipo, Nov 19 – 25

Teacups +PLUS Nuble, Nov 26 – Dec 1

Pucon Classics Trips Jan – Feb 2018 

Vacation Certification Courses +PLUS Kayaking

Road to Futa 2018 Itinerary Coming Soon 

Keep Kayaking. 

Why are Chile Cascades So Perfect and Blue?

From north to south, Chile extends 4,270 kilometers, and yet it only averages 177 kilometers east to west.

You are warmly invited to the hospitality of Pucon Kayak Hostel.

Chile Geography and Geology Working Together

To the east are the Andes mountains and to the west lies the Pacific Ocean.  The cordillera of the Andes is the central part congested with rivers, lakes, glaciers and volcanoes.  Peaks Aconcagua and Nevado del Salado are the Americas two tallest peaks at 6,959 and 6,880 meters.  All meaning an extended high altitude ridge carries water to sea in a short distance. About 80 percent of the land in Chile is made up of mountains of some form or other.  The majestically snowcapped Andes and their elevations combined with heavy winter snows and spring rains (November) offer kayakers some of the cleanest waterfall runs in the world.

Andes Spine + Abundance of Water + Bedrock often in Granite or Basalt = Whitewater Geological Phenomenon

Chilean Blue Water Colors, How?

Clean pure water emits short-wave length blue rays that are reflected making spectacular shots for kayakers.

**Excerpt taken from “Colors of Water at Earth’s Surface- Lakes, Rivers, Glaciers” Did you know water molecules absorb long wavelength red light and scatter short wavelength blue light.  This is why clear bodies of water appear blue.  Clean bodies of water appear deep blue.  The water is virtually pure as water molecules scatter blue light efficiently.  Lakes will be a duller colour after rain or in cloudy conditions. 

What about the clear blue colors of Chilean rivers? 

Often rivers in Chile overflow out of a lake after several runnable gem tributaries flow into that same lake.  This is the case with Pucon’s Rios Trancura and Tolten drainages.  The Trancura is a catchment for many of Pucon’s best cascade runs including classics Palguin, Puesco, Liucura, Nevado, Coilaco, Desague, Turbio, Maichin and Carhuelo.  Short lived the continuous Trancura rapids flow into the volcanic formed Lake Villarrica.  After being solar heated those same waters become the clear blue Rio Tolten (a beginner kayaker and SUP boarder’s warm water delight).

Water color is a matter of bedrock or sediment on many rivers.

Trancura tribuataries are often clear and blue too?  Let’s examine the Rio Turbio which flows direct off the snow pack and rains of Pucon’s Volcan Villarrica.  The lower main highway stretch of the Turbio after rains runs brown.  Yet, higher up on a class V+ cascade stretch dropping off the volcano’s horizon are dazzling blue drops on those same lower section brown days.

The Palguin exhibits the blue nature of Chile's pure water runs. This water's source is from a glacier on Volcan Villarrica.

The Turbio’s black basaltic bedrock in it’s steeper reaches might be imagined as the more famous Seven Teacups runs a couple of million years ago prior to being carved, milled and polished to perfection.  You can walk next to every drop just beginning to cut it’s way into the Turbio’s more jagged versus slick polished basaltic bedrock of the Teacups.  High on the volcano the water was snow just the night prior (unless due to rain) and the basalt bedrock holds little sediment.  As the run exits the lava field granite boulders and sediment become apparent.  And hence the lower reaches of the run exhibit the color brown.

What does clear or blue water color mean for kayakers?

It means Chilean rivers are pure and clean as they emit those fore-mentioned shortwave blue rays.  For us kayakers it’s simply spectacular to boof blue water drops and to peer deep into pools.  Based on the geography there are lots of rivers often in close proximity to one another.  Yes. There are plenty of days when the water is brown.  Meaning a recent rain or higher than normal flows.

Are there still first descents to be discovered in Chile? 

Kurt Casey may have notched more First Descents than anyone in Chile. Whether you come to Chile to explore First D's or experience why so kayakers return annually you'll love Chile's blue waters.

Top kayak explorers are still notching annual first descents.  In 2011 Kurt Casey notched 6 first descents in 4 days.  Researching a drainage away from explored areas and finding the right levels plus access ultimately means Chile has lots of first descents available.  Maybe you’ll be the one to discover the next Rio Nevado.

Pucon's favorite run, los Nevados for it's two sections, was discovered only in recent years. The slide is walkable for those wanting to lap it.

Cool Ways to Explore Chile’s Rivers:

Patagonia Gap Year is New River Academy’s favorite choice for high school grads and university students.

You are warmly invited to the hospitality of Pucon Kayak Hostel. 

Links to rivers related to this article:

Palguin River– Class IV

Rio Turbio– Class V+

Rio Trancura Class III and IV stretches

Rio Desague  Class V

Rio Puesco  Class V