Volcan River

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Quick Facts

  • Class: Upper: Class V/V+ Lower: V/V+
  • Distance: 16 kilometers (10 miles)
  • Average Gradient: Upper: 175 feet/mile (35m/k) Lower: 110 feet/mile (20 m/k)
  • Maximum Gradient: saltos / mandatory portages
  • Temperature: cold, glacial runoff
  • Water Quality:excellent, somewhat silty due to glacial till
  • Character: riverbed boulders, tight constrictions, blind drops, continuous
  • Nearby Rivers: Maipo River, Yeso River, Aconcagua River, Colorado River, Mapocho River, Cachapoal River

General Description

The Rio Volcan is so named because it is serves as the primary drainage of the southern and eastern slopes of the still active San Jose Volcano. A trip up the Volcan River Valley is a little like touring a moonscape. Due to the high altitude there is little vegetation growing along the river or slopes. What does grow is scrubby or trees in isolated patches. At the top of the valley are two thermal spas, Banos Morales and Banos Colina as well as Monumento Natural El Morado nestled in a side canyon to the north.

As a result of the defoliated wide-open terrain the Volcan River is fairly accessible from the valley road. The Rio Volcan has two primary kayak runs above and below the small settlement of El Volcan. The upper section is a class V+, high volume steep creek described as “tight, and pushy with blind drops” and mandatory portages. The section below El Volcan is a class IV/V run that is more reasonable, provided the water levels are right.


The Upper Section of the Volcan River has a number of mandatory portages and pushy class V+ drops. Pass on this run unless you are an expert kayaker. Furthermore the Rio Volcan is a rarely run river that has a frequently changing riverbed due to seasonal flooding and landslides. Exercise caution on all sections.

River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

The overall flows on the Rio Volcan mirror those of the Maipo River which is commercially rafted throughout the year. The raft companies consider the highwater season to be from September through April. The period of “high flood” is generally December and January in which all rivers in this region can reach epic proportions. Flows between 500 - 2000 cfs (15 - 57 cm/s) can be considered normal for the Rio Volcan. Higher water makes the runs more difficult. At lower flows, noticable changes can can occur in volume due to the daily warming of the glaciers and snowpack. Expect lower volumes in the morning and increasing steadily throughout the day if the sun is out.

Rapid Descriptions


Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Rio Volcan River:

  • Put-in: Put-in at the Termas Banos Morales Bridge that goes to the El Morado Laguna and Monument.
  • Take-out: Take-out roadside in the settlement of El Volcan.

Lower Rio Volcan River:

  • Put-in: Put-in roadside at the settlement of El Volcan.
  • Take-out: Take-out at the bridge that crosses the Volcan River before the confluence with the Rio Maipo.


From Santiago de Chile head southeast, up the Rio Maipo Valley to the village of San Jose del Maipo. The drive will take you about an hour. The Rio Maipo - Rio Yeso confluence is another 25 kilometers in the direction of San Gabriel. Continue on, about 3 kilometers, until you come to the Rio Volcan - Rio Maipo confluence. Another 16 kilometers on this road will take you to the Termas Banos Morales.

Places to Stay / Campgrounds

There are numerous places to stay in the Rio Maipo River Valley, but the most famous is the Cascada de las Animas Eco-Resort. They have tenting or luxury cabin options depending on your personal preference. Cascada de las Animas is located in the town of San Alfonso, north of the Rio Maipo River, on the right side of the main valley road going from Santiago.

Maps & Outside Links

  • Maps:
  • Outfitters & Lodging:

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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