- Class: IV/V
- Distance: ~6 miles (10 km)
- Average Gradient: ~100 feet/mile (19 meters/kilometer)
- Maximum Gradient: saltos/waterfalls
- Temperature: cold, glacial and snow melt
- Water Quality: excellent
- Character: narrow, riverbed boulders, some drop-pool
- Nearby Rivers: Laja River, Bio Bio River - Upper, Lomin River, Queuco River
The Rio Ralco River is a tributary of the Lomin River which is in turn a tributary of the Bio Bio River. The Ralco River is located in the Alto Bio Bio Region, Bio Bio Region, Region XIII of Chile. The river itself flows through the Ralco National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Ralco) off the flanks of the still active Volcan Callaqui. The Alto Bio Bio region is home to the Pehuenches Indians of the indigenous Mapuche people. The name Ralco in their language means “saucer of water” – headwaters of the Rio Biobio. The land of the reserve is covered with groves of the prehistoric Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria, araucana), and lakes and hot springs abound. Because the area is so remote visitors and paddlers are fairly infrequent to the river and region.
The Ralco River runs along the road leading to the park. There are saltos up top and class IV/V whitewater below. The river lies deep in a canyon in spots then opens up into a valley as one descends toward the Lomin river confluence.
This is a rarely run river. Scout everything and keep an eye out for sweepers and other obstructions.
River Flows / Gauge Information / Season
There is no real-time streamflow data available for the Rio Ralco River. Use the seasonal snow melt patterns as a forecast. In general the summers are quite dry in the Alto Bio Bio region making river levels more dependent on the winter snowpack than on precipitation.
Put-Ins and Take-Outs
- Put-in: Explore the upper regions of the river then put-in roadside where you feel comfortable.
- Take-out: Someplace before the Rio Lomin River confluence.
Head south on the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5) and take the Highway east to Santa Barbara (Ruta Q61R). Continue on Ruta Q61R toward the town of Ralco along the Biobio River. Go past the town of Ralco. At this point Ruta Q61R will converge with Ruta Q75 going toward Alto Bio Bio. After a few kilometers the road will turn to dirt. Follow the road to the intersection and head north (away from the village of Casas Villucura) toward the Reserva Nacional Ralco. At first the road will follow the Lomin River, but will veer left toward the entrance of the reserve. It will follow the Rio Ralco River for the final few miles. Be forewarned, these roads are bad and are only suitable for a 4 wheel drive vehicle with plenty of clearance.
Places to Stay / Campgrounds
Copyrights: (Copyright © 2006, Expediciones Chile) All photos, maps, diagrams, text and computer code is the copyrighted property of Expediciones Chile with all rights reserved.
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.Read More: Disclaimer