Asleep at the Wheel

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Quick Facts


A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of Asleep at the Wheel
A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of Asleep at the Wheel

The first rapid of the middle section of the Futaleufu River is Asleep at the Wheel. A river-wide horizon line marks the start of this rapid. The main current funnels down a classic v-tongue meeting the central wavetrain. The wavetrain is a long one and offers less experienced paddlers a lot of fun, big-water practice in staying upright through crashing waves and general river turbulence. There will be reactionary diagonal waves coming off the steep river-right wall. At about the midpoint of the rapid, in the approximate center of the river, lies a large hidden wave-hole called Titanic that can easily catch a paddler off guard or “Asleep at the Wheel”.

High & Low Water

At low water the rapid tends to become segmented offering more slack areas for rescues. At high water the rapid tends to washout.


Boat scout from the center of the river. If you are running the sneak route on the river-left, boat scout from the river-left eddy half way down the run. This midway eddy is a good eddy to use to sneak the rapid on river-left.


The main drop of Asleep at the Wheel with Titanic Hole at the bottom.
The main drop of Asleep at the Wheel with Titanic Hole at the bottom.

The greatest hazard of Asleep at the Wheel is the enormous length of the rapid itself. At medium and high water levels the rapid is essentially continuous. Exiting a kayak in the early stages almost always ensures a long swim before final rescue at the bottom. The other hazard is Titanic, the central feature of the rapid, a wave-hole sure to capsize the unwary kayaker but with few retentive characteristics. The sneak route on river-left is not a bad choice for those who believe they are not ready for the big water in the center.

Play Opportunities

On the river-right side, just after the horizon line, there is a catch-on-the-fly surf-wave. The next spot to play is off the pillow formed by the large boulder on center-left, if water levels are high-enough. After the main drop there are wavewheels to be had off some of the bigger waves in the wavetrain and trying for some more catch on-the-fly surfing.

Where to Swim

A swimmer in the first part of the rapid should try to get out of the main current as quickly as possible by heading to one of the eddies on the river-left side. This will avoid an encounter with Titanic and a potentially long downtime associated with that wave-hole. After Titanic, swimming river-left is still the best choice as it avoids the reactionary waves off the river-right wall.

Where to Rescue

At lower water levels the rapid will develop distinct slack areas of a drop-pool nature. These can often be used to pick up the pieces and rescue a swimming kayaker. In medium to high water conditions rescue will need to happen on-the-fly or at the bottom of the rapid.

Where to Portage

A kayaker can walk around Titanic on river left, but the rapid itself is too long to portage entirely.

Running the Rapid

The upper section of Asleep at the Wheel showing the run-in to the main drop.
The upper section of Asleep at the Wheel showing the run-in to the main drop.

This rapid should be run with the aim of avoiding the Titanic Wave-hole at the center of the river. Approach the center of the horizon line and drop on to the v-tongue into the central wavetrain. Stay on the wavetrain with your kayak angled toward river-right. At each crest lookout for Titanic. When you see it begin moving to the right and around the hole. You will need to look out for reactionary waves coming of the right wall that will surf you back out to the center of the river toward Titanic if you move toward river-right too early. Once past Titanic head out to the center of the wavetrain and enjoy the rest of the run. For paddlers new to big water and with a less than reliable roll a sneak route can be found on river-left.


Punching the river-right side of Titanic Wave-hole in Asleep at the Wheel. Video

Copyright & Terms of Use

  • Copyrights: (Copyright © 2006, Expediciones Chile) All photos, maps, diagrams, text and computer code is the copyrighted property of Expediciones Chile with all rights reserved.

  • Terms of Use: Any type of reproduction, republication, or re-transmission for commercial use is prohibited without the expressed, written permission of Expediciones Chile. Users of this Wiki guidebook may print copies of the text, images and diagrams for personal river running use only. Users may not alter the diagrams or text without expressed written permission of Expediciones Chile. Users must read and acknowledge the disclaimer before printing. Printing implies acknowledgment of the disclaimer.


  • Disclaimer: Under no circumstances should paddlers substitute the information and diagrams in this guidebook for their own sound judgment on the river and their collective experience running rivers. This guidebook is based on Expediciones Chile's twenty years of experience running the Futaleufu River. However, the diagrams and descriptions found here are only approximations of what paddlers will find on the river once they get here. They are not to scale and nor are they completely accurate. Water levels change, rocks move around, landslide debris can enter the river at any time making the diagrams obsolete. Expediciones Chile also reserves the right to update these diagrams and descriptions at any time as we find better ways to illustrate and discuss the rapids. Use this guidebook at your own risk.

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