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Quick Facts

  • Class: IV+
  • Type: Ledge / Drop-Pool
  • Length: 100meters (330 feet)
  • Alternate Names: Cujon, Cushion
  • Previous Rapid: Lower Entrada
  • Next Rapid: S-Turn
  • Interactive Map: Futaleufu River Valley
  • River Section: Lower Futaleufu, Bridge-to-Bridge


A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of Pillow
A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of Pillow

Pillow is one of the most visually spectacular rapids on the Futaleufu River. Here the Futaleufu falls over a river-wide ledge that at first looks like a mandatory portage, however the large rock on river-right creates a huge pillow that overpowers the hydraulic created by the ledge and creates a turbulent path to the calm eddies below. There is a genuine Class III sneak chute on river-right on the other side of the Boulder Bar and Island, to the right of The Pillow.

High an Low Water

Pillow from below showing the river-right sneak route and the two boulders that create the feature.
Pillow from below showing the river-right sneak route and the two boulders that create the feature.

At high water The Pillow becomes more powerful however the same strategies outlined below apply. In low water The Pillow really subsides but there are holes developing on the left side of the entry tongue. In times of flood it never hurts to be safe and take the sneak chute of the right side of The Island.


Boat scout from Last Chance Eddy above the Boulder Bar on river right. If you don’t like what you see you can pick your way through the Boulder Bar to the sneak chute on river-right. Another option is to scout from river-left out of your boat.


Off-line and entering the Submarine Seam.
Off-line and entering the Submarine Seam.

The river wide ledge to the left of The Pillow is the greatest hazard here. Paddlers should give this hole wide clearance. The other hazard is the hole and seam-line created directly behind the Pillow Rock. The hole can be sticky and the seam-line can take any kayak entering it deeper than you would predict. The last hazard is the dangerous Micro-Slot between Pillow Rock and the Truck Rock towards shore. This slot has been run successfully, but it is unpleasant to imagine the consequences of a kayak caught in the Micro-Slot sideways.

Play Opportunities

Big air wave-wheels and kick-flips off The Pillow.

Where to Swim

If you swim through The Pillow, swim river-left into the eddy behind the river-wide ledge.

Where to Rescue

Swimmers exiting the Submarine Seam and heading into the Lower Eddy.
Swimmers exiting the Submarine Seam and heading into the Lower Eddy.

Set up safety in the river-left eddy behind the ledge and be ready to provide a grab loop for any paddlers that might swim through the hole or seam below Pillow Rock. An alternate plan would be to wait in the turbulent eddy, on river-right, behind Pillow Rock to lend support to weaker paddlers in your group. Just be careful of getting accidentally speared by kayakers coming over The Pillow.

Where to Portage

Do-able but difficult on river-left. Consider taking the class III sneak chute on river-right.

Running the Rapid

Penetrating the Pillow and a little too close to the rock.
Penetrating the Pillow and a little too close to the rock.

To run this rapid begin from Last Chance Eddy and paddle out to the right-center. There will be a long series of big rolling waves that lead to the ledge and the adrenalin will begin to build as you get closer. Orient your kayak, pointing to the left, as you get closer to The Pillow. Use the large truck sized rock (Truck Rock) on river-right as your guide. To the left of this Truck Rock lies another smaller rock ("Pillow Rock") that is partly or mostly submerged. This rock is the one creating The Pillow. The perfect run usually involves slowing down your kayak enough to catch a surf on The Pillow and then jet ferrying toward river-left behind the ledge to end up in the Upper Eddy directly behind the major hazard of this run. To execute the “perfect run” paddle down the river-right side of the tongue waiting to make a charge towards the left to thread the needle between the last big wave and The Pillow that is just below. This gets the kayak left of the pillow diagonal and into the river-left Upper Eddy without even getting ones face wet.

If you come in with too much speed you will punch through The Pillow and pop-over the Pillow Rock into the hole and seam-line behind the rock. This can be an unnerving experience but the hole is not likely to hold you for very long. There is also a dangerous “hero route” slot that is sometimes in between the Truck Rock and Pillow Rock that is best left to the most experienced kayakers to attempt.


A perfect kayak run of Pillow followed some off-line carnage. Video

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  • 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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