False Zeta

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Quick Facts

  • Class: III / IV
  • Type: Constriction Gorge
  • Length: 50 meters (150 feet)
  • Alternate Names: Son of Zeta, Hijo de Zeta
  • Previous Rapid: The Perfect Storm
  • Next Rapid: Zeta
  • Interactive Map: Futaleufu River Valley
  • River Section: Upper Futaleufu


A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of False Zeta
A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of False Zeta

While cruising through the beautiful Las Escalas Valley the next rapid on everyone’s mind will be the Class V, Zeta and the telltale constriction that marks this monstrous chute. Jittery paddlers will often mistake the first constriction they see as the entrance to Zeta – and for good reason, both approaches are similar and the Zeta scout and portage area is not one to be accidentally missed. To everyone’s relief the first rapid turns out to be the kayak friendly “False Zeta”.

At False Zeta the river jogs left and right creating some of the best whirlpools on the river. At mid-center the river is split into left and right channels by a large rock. To the left lies the whirlpool playground and to the right a straightforward route that avoids the boat eating whirlpools.

High and Low Water

At low water the rapid becomes tamer and tamer. At high water expect more boils and whirlpools, even at the top.


The first time down scout the rapid from the eddy and shore on river-left. If you prefer not to scout you can run without scouting on either side of the central rock with little risk. Most groups that are not familiar with the river will scout False Zeta to be sure they are not at Zeta – a good insurance policy. If you choose the conservative, river-right route, you can always paddle back up to play in the whirlpools if you like the looks of them.


The primary hazard of False Zeta is the undercut rock at river-center and the subduction zone that can be found there. However it is easily avoided to the left or the right. The river-left channel contains some really large whirlpools and paddlers taking that route ought to expect some significant down-time should they get stuck in one.

Play Opportunities

If you are a squirt boater and love playing in whirlpools be sure to take the route left of the rock. False Zeta has some of the best whirlpools on the entire river.

Where to Swim

A swim here could mean some significant down-time. Have complete confidence in your roll or stay away from the whirlpools. If you swim relax, conserve your energy and your breath. The whirlpools do subside quickly.

Where to Rescue

A good place to rescue is from the bottom of the rapid on river-right. If you peel out from the river-left eddy you may be spinning in the whirlpools instead of giving your grab loop to the swimmer.

Where to Portage

None available.

Running the Rapid

There are two lines on False Zeta. The first line is river-right passing to the right of the large rock at river-center. This avoids all the whirlpool disturbance on the river-left side. The trick here is keeping your boat angled straight against the upwelling current that flows from the river-right shore going toward the left. You want to neutralize this force that is trying to push you back to the left. Take some firm strokes against it. The second line is river-left of the rock directly into the whirlpool zone. This run is a straight shot. After you pass the rock all the fun begins! Enjoy any down-time that you might get from these world-class vortexes.

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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