Melado River

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Quick Facts

  • Class: Lower: IV/V Upper: III/IV
  • Distance: Lower: 12 miles (20 km) Upper: 27 miles (45 km)
  • Average Gradient: ~60 feet/mile (10 m/km)
  • Maximum Gradient: saltos in the lower section
  • Temperature: cold, snowpack and glacial runoff
  • Water Quality: excellent, but the river is used for livestock grazing
  • Character: drop pool, fast
  • Nearby Rivers: Ancoa River, Achibueno River, Maule River - Upper

General Description

The Rio Melado River is a tributary of the Maule River in the Maule Region, Region XII of Chile. Actually, through a trick of engineering and a need for water by the farmers of the Linares Province, the waters of the Melado River are diverted before the Maule confluence into the Rio Ancoa through a four kilometer long tunnel through the Andes Mountains. However, above the Embalsa Melado hydroelectric dam and the Rio Ancoa tunnel diversion the Melado River is still pristine and unspoiled. The headwaters of the Melado River are generated from the melt water of the thermally active Volcano San Pedro-Pellado and those contributed by Lago Dial.

The Melado River Valley has a unique history in Chile. It was primarily settled by the Arrieros (the Chilean Cowboys) who used the valley for cattle grazing. Due to its remote and inaccessible location the settlers in this valley had little contact with the outside world and retained much of their distinctive traditional cowboy culture. Sadly, in the 1980s, an epidemic of “Foot and Mouth Disease” (Fiebre Atosa) struck the area forcing the Chilean government to slaughter all the livestock in the border regions. This loss of livelihood forced many of the Arrieros from their homes and some even resorted to smuggle Argentine cattle to replace lost livestock. The region is still considered a hot bed for Fiebre Atosa and is heavily monitored by the Chilean agricultural ministry (SAG) and the Carbineros. Have all your paperwork with you when coming to the Rio Melado Valley and expected to be stopped at the agricultural and police checkpoints.

The Lower Melado is accessible with a sturdy 4 wheel drive vehicle. The Upper Melado, from Lago Dial, can only be reached by horseback.


This is a remote, rarely run class IV/V river. Come equipped with all safety gear, water level information and scout everything before running.

River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

The Melado River is fed from snowpack and glacial melt water. If you are planning a trip to the Melado it is best to shoot for the late summer or early fall. This will ensure lower water and clearer roads.

Real-time Steamflow Data

Reporting Stations:

There are three reporting stations on the Rio Melado River. The reporting station of 'Melado en el Salto' will give you the best idea of the flows you will encounter.

Lower Melado:
  • 07317003-6 Melado en Zona Presa
  • 07317004-4 Embalse Melado
  • 07317005-2 Melado en el Salto

Rapid Descriptions


Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Rio Melado River:

  • Put-in: Put-in at Lago Dial. (You will need to contract horses to reach this lake.)
  • Take-out: Take-out in the area of the Rio de la Puente confluence.

Lower Rio Melado River:

  • Put-in: Put-in at the Rio de la Puente confluence or run a short distance of the the Rio de la Puente from Puente Piedra.
  • Take-out: Take-out roadside, somewhere above Puente Látigo bridge.


Getting to the Rio Melado is a lot more difficult than it seems. Most people assume they can access this river from the Rio Ancoa valley using the tunnel. Unfortunately the tunnel is a dual use (water and vehicle) and usually only open during the winter months when they are not supplying the Ancoa River Valley with irrigation water. To use the tunnel you need special permission from the local Melado Canal Association. It has no lights, special tracks cut for the wheels, and is very narrow. No place for the claustrophobic.

The normal way to get to the Rio Melado is through the Maule River Valley. From the city of Talca, the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5) take the International Highway (Ruta CH115) east, toward the Pehuenche Pass and Argentina. You will pass through the town of San Clemente and the Colbun Reservoir on your right. As you head up the Rio Maule Valley you will pass through the towns of Armerillo and Las Garzas and come to the Curillinque Bridge (about 90 km from the Pan American Highway intersection). Go past the Curillinque Bridge about 100 meters and look for a rough gravel road on the right heading toward the Corral de Salas and the LamaLodge. About 18 kilometers on this road and you will reach the Rio Melado River.

Places to Stay / Campgrounds

Check-in at the Lama Lodge, they may have space or suggestions. Otherwise there is plenty of wide open space for wilderness camping.

Maps & Outside Links


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. The diagrams, maps and descriptions found here are only approximations of what paddlers will find on the river once they get to Chile or Argentina. 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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