Nestled among the high volcanic peaks of southern Chile, generally referred to as Northern Patagonia, lies a heavily forested region known as the “Andean Corridor of Lakes”. This vastly undeveloped region of Chile is by far the most stunning landscape you could imagine. This jaw-dropping landscape contains hundreds of pristine glacial lakes and thousands of kilometers of wild rivers; the heart of which is the Futaleufu River, home of the "Greatest Whitewater on Earth".
" Flying over the headwaters of the Futaleufu on Expediciones Chile 's direct flight"
Formed bFormed by the subduction collision of tectonic plates over 70 million years ago, the landscape of the Andes is more than merely impressive. If laid across North America, the mountain range would stretch from Havana, Georgia to Juneau Alaska, some 4,500 miles in length. Towering at heights of up to 22,000 feet, these peaks are second only in magnitude to the Himalayas. The range's lofty spine creates a naturally defined border that is shared by Chile and Argentina along a 2,000-mile section. To the north, the range is high and arid while to the south - in the Andean Corridor of Lakes - the peaks are less extreme (14,000 feet around the city of Temuco), glaciated, and blessed with hundreds of pristine lakes joined by wild rivers. This Andean Corridor of Lakes lies both in Chile and Argentina and is commonly referred to as the Lake District-Chileno and Lake District-Argentino. This region is a dramatic wonderland of glaciers, native old growth forests, lakes, rivers, fjords, volcanoes and sentinel mountains, all making for a spectacular Patagonia travel destination.
A brief look at the lay of the land and the region's moisture patterns explains why the world's best whitewater rafting, kayaking and fly fishing is found here. This is a region of geological and climatic extremes. If you were to take a cross sectional slice of the continent and trace a vertical line down the highest peak of the Andes, you would note that on the Chilean side the land descends quickly towards a central valley, then rises to a much smaller coastal range, and finally descends to the ocean. On the Argentinean side, the land gently plateaus off into an arid region known as the Patagonian Steppe. Our Patagonia travel and adventure trips run during the peak of both Chile and Argentina's summer season. December in Chile is the equivalent of June in the U.S. and thus January like July and so on, and so forth. So when you join us for a winter getaway you’ll return home tanned and happy!
Geographically speaking, Patagonia is primarily located in Argentina between the Andes and the Atlantic Ocean. At the extreme southern end of Chile, however, the border jogs eastward to reach the Atlantic Ocean thus becoming part of Patagonia. Patagón means "big feet," referring to the Tehuelche Indians who, when first seen by Fernando de Magallanes, in 1520, were wearing raw leather footwear wrapped around their feet, which left big footprints where they walked. Thus, Patagonia is the place of the people with big feet. The regional governments in both Chile and Argentina are embracing the name Patagonia as a collective name for this southern region. The idea is to assist both countries in the development of tourism within this sparsely populated and rarely traveled area.
" One of the most beautiful drives in Chile. From the Pacific Ocean to the border with Argentina"
Chile was derived from an Indian word, Tchili, meaning "the deepest point of the Earth." If the country were superimposed on North America (as we did with the Andes Mountains) it would stretch as a narrow ribbon - averaging 110 miles in width - from Mexico City to Juneau Alaska (2610 miles). Its total square mileage is slightly larger than the state of Texas and the population of 17.9 million is weighted with 45% living in Santiago, the capital city. Chile achieved independence in 1818 and now has a democratic form of government under the center-left president Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet is the first female president in South America to reach office that did not reach office on her husband’s coat tails.
The area in which we raft, kayak and fly fish, is in Northern Patagonia in the Andean Corridor of Lakes, which spans 800 miles between the cities of Temuco and Coyhaique. The most spectacular section of the Corridor of Lakes is in the heart of Patagonia, the Futaleufu River Valley. This is the sweet spot of patagonia with its thick forests, pure water, and reasonable weather. Further south, the ice fields contribute to extreme weather wind conditions with stark pampas and less forest.
Some 760 miles wider than Chile at its widest point, Argentina is some 500 miles shorter north to south. The country's square mileage is three and a half times that of Chile's and its population is almost two and one third times larger (43,533,256). Buenos Aires, the capital city, is home to 9% of the population. Like Chile, Argentina has a democratic form of government. The current president is Mauricio Macri, the opposition of the Peron party. Some of our fly fishing and kayak safari trips venture into Argentina.
Getting Here: Patagonia Travel
How to get here. Through Argentina: The Futaleufu river valley is in the heart of northern Patagonia, one of the most secluded regions on our planet. The easiest way to get here is byflying to Buenos Aires Argentina, and then flying to Esquel. From here a taxi takes you to Trevelin and the border the next day.
The Futaleufu Valley and village of Futaleufu (population 2,326, elevation 1,181 ft, or 360 meters)
This remarkable area is truly an ideal destination for the vacation of a lifetime. Imagine a setting that is a blend of both Glacier and Yosemite National Parks with their spectacular views of snow-capped peaks. Nestled deep in an emerald green valley with unusual looking vegetation. This village is probably like no other you've ever seen before. It resembles that of a small Colorado mountain mining town of the early 1900’s. No vehicles are needed here. One can easily walk to any part of town within minutes. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and cowboys still make their way around on horseback, greeting everyone they meet along the streets. Right outside our doorstep are the legendary Ríos (Rivers) Futaleufú, Espolón and Azul, as well as numerous lakes, canyons and trails. This is the home of the Expediciones Chile Centro Aventura Lodge and operations office. We are the experts for getting you here smoothly and are prepared to give you the Patagonia travel and adventure trip you desire.
Río Futaleufu (Rafting, Kayaking, Fly-fishing, Hiking, Sea Kayaking, Horseback Riding)
Imagine a fantasy river, majestic beauty in an alpine setting, brilliant blue water, ultimate exploding waves, adrenaline-charged rapids, sunshine and warm weather. The fantasy is real. It is the Futaleufu, the crown jewel of South America, set in Patagonia. This river flows from a chain of high, sunny lakes in Argentina through a rugged, glaciated area of Chilean Mountains. During the southern summer, (December to April) the Futaleufu runs between 7,000 and 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The rapids drop into crystal clear pools where huge trout are often seen. Chosen as the site for World White Water Rafting Championships in 2000, this is truly a world-class whitewater river. We often refer to these Class 5 rapids as the BIG FIVE: Inferno, Zeta, Throne Room, Terminator, and Casa de Piedra. Other sections of the Futa are continuous, action-packed Class 3 and Class 4, with huge, pulsing waves and steep drops. Many sections of the Futaleufu are slower and are great fishing spots for Brown and Rainbow trout. The Futaleufu has it all. At high water levels some of the Class 5 rapids are considered unrunnable in rafts. Even some of the best kayakers have been known to walk these occasionally. Expediciones Chile was the first to lead trips on the river in 1986, and have been running safe trips ever since. Our founder Chris Spelius named many of the rapids.
" The start of the Whitewater section"
A rapid tour A MUST SEE map for an overview of the Futaleufu valley.
Then return to Continue the Secrets of Patagonia Travel tour:
The upper Futaleufu River