Tinguiririca River

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Quick Facts

  • Class: Lower: II/III Middle: III/IV Upper: IV/V+
  • Distance: 37 miles (60 kms)
  • Average Gradient: Middle: 70 ft/mi (14m/km) Upper: 125 ft/mi (22m/km)
  • Maximum Gradient: portages on the upper
  • Temperature: cold, glacial run-off
  • Water Quality: excellent, turquoise blue, silty in high water
  • Character: deep gorge, remote, constrictions, boulders, portages, big water and wider in the lower sections
  • Nearby Rivers: Teno River, Cachapoal River

General Description

The Tinguiririca River is located in the O'Higgins Region, Region VI, of Chile. The river begins as the Rio Las Damas near the Argentine border. The Tinguiririca / Las Damas headwaters were made famous by a Uruguayan rugby team that crash landed on the glaciated slopes of Volcan Tinguiririca in 1972. After a few days they ran out of food and had to resort to cannibalism. Their epic story of survival was captured in the movie and book both titled ALIVE!. The Tinguirica Volcano is still active, last erupting in 1917 and the region is very seismically active. Across the border in Argentina lies the famous ski resort of Las Lenas.

The Tinguiririca River is (was) a Chilean whitewater classic offering a whitewater section for practically every ability level. Unfortunately the Rio Tinguiririca is undergoing EXTENSIVE hydroelectric development in the upper region below Termas del Flaco. The state of the Upper Tinguiririca is currently UNCERTAIN as a whitewater run as the extensive remodeling and diversion of water takes place. Like many projects in Chile that are designed to harness the nation's natural resources this one also is creating a environmental disaster area resulting in heavy fines to the developer, Pacific Hydro of Australia and its Norwegian partner, SN Power of Norway. At the time of this writing these two companies were prospecting even more dam sites further up the Tinguiririca Valley to further exploit the river's hydro potential.

The put-in for the Upper Tinguiririca lies about 120 miles (200 km) from the center of Santiago with the take-out for the Lower Tinguiririca at the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5), lying 75 miles (120 km) south of Santiago. Sections of the Tinguirrica are commercially rafted by outfitters based out of the capital city, as an all-day trip.

The scenery of the Upper and Middle Tinguiririca is spectacular, resembling a mini-Grand Canyon of sorts in the La Confluencia region. The large volume river lies deep in a steep gorge with limited roadside access.


There are several portages on the Upper Tinguiririca River section, plan on scouting these drops and portaging when needed. The Upper Tinguiririca is undergoing extensive hydro power development with river being diverted through canals and tunnels. What effect these diversions will have on this kayak run are still UNKNOWN. Construction of the La Higuera dam, begun in 2005, is nearing completion (est. 2008). The La Cofluencia dam and diversion project is not so far along. Exercise caution along the entire upper stretch of river for man made changes and obstacles.

Expect the Tinguiririca River to be a high volume kayak run during the snow-melt season.

River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

The Rio Tinguiririca River is a typical Chilean river with a season that runs from November through March. Expecting seasonal flooding during periods of excessive precipitation and snow melt.

Real-time Steamflow Data

Reporting Station(s):

  • Middle Tinguiririca: 06028001-0 Tinguiririca Los Briones, Region VI

Rapid Descriptions


Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Tinguiririca River

  • Put-in: Put-in at the Bridge about 7.5 miles (12 km) below the Termas del Flaco. This may be altered by the hyro electric projects.
  • There have also been reports of kayakers putting in at the Termas del Flaco, adding 12 kilometers to the run, and making it a solid class V/V+ with numerous and mandatory portages.
  • Take-out: Take-out roadside, midway between (about 14 miles (23 km))the upper put-in and Puente Negro.

Middle Tinguiririca River

  • Put-in: Put-in roadside, midway between (about 14 miles (23 km))the upper put-in and Puente Negro.
  • Take-out: Take-out at Puente Negro.

Lower Tinguiririca River:

  • Put-in: Put-in at Puente Negro.
  • Take-out: Take-out in San Fernando at the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5) crossing with the Tinguirica River.


From the capital city of Santiago de Chile head south on the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5) to the city of San Fernando. The trip distance is about an hour and a half, 80 miles (120 km). Take Ruta I45 to Puente Negro and onward toward Termas del Flaco. It will be about another 42 miles (70 km) to the upper put-in bridge before Termas del Flaco. Expect road construction, detours and delays due to road construction, especially around the hydro projects.

Places to Stay / Campgrounds

Maps & Outside Links

  • Maps:

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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