Maule River - Upper

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Quick Facts

  • Class: IV/V/V+
  • Distance: 35 miles (55 kms)
  • Average Gradient: 100 ft/mile (Banos Ridge to Rio Cypreses) 45 ft/mile (Rio Cypreses to Lago Colbun)
  • Maximum Gradient: saltos / waterfalls
  • Temperature: cool water, moderated by the lake
  • Water Quality: good, turquiose blue
  • Character: steep drops, saltos, class IV noise, continuous, diversion dams
  • Nearby Rivers: Melado River, Claro River Seven Tea Cups, Ancoa River, Maule River - Lower

General Description

The Maule River is located in the Maule Region, Region X of Chile. In the Mapuche language, the mother tongue of the pre-Columbian Amerindians it means “river of fogs”. The Maule River was the southern most river in the Incan empire and demarkated it’s southern border. The Maule River is born from the waters of Laguna del Maule in the Talca Province, at an altitude of about 7100 feet (2150 meters) near the border of Argentina. Over a course of 150 miles (240 km) from headwaters to the Pacific the Maule River is joined by an extensive number of tributaries including the Rio Melado, Rio Ancoa and Rio Achibueno. The Maule River also lends its name to one of the greatest wine making regions in Chile, “The Maule River Valley”.

Unfortunately, in the modern era, the Maule River leaves a much uglier legacy. Currently the Rio Maule is one of Chile's most “plumbed” rivers due to exploitation by the hydropower industry. Significant portions of the Rio Maule are dewatered with all of the flow traveling through underground tunnels to power electricity generating turbines. It is a rare kayak run down the Rio Maule that won’t encounter these dewatered sections. Because the environmental protection of rivers in Chile is still in its infancy there are no scheduled releases for recreational boaters on these sections. If you want to kayak the Maule River you will have to take your chances.

Except for up top, and a few diversion dams and waterfalls below, the Maule River can best be characterized as a class IV/IV+ river of continuous noise.


Before the river was developed for hydropower, Chris Spelius ran the entire river from Laguna del Maule to the ocean, portaging around waterfalls and other hazards whenever necessary. Most of the natural hazards occur above La Mina Fortuna. Plan on portaging these. Below La Mina Fortuna there is mostly class IV/IV+ continous action. However, as you get closer to Lago Colbun be on the look-out for one huge waterfall (80+ meters) that you will need to portage. Because the Maule River is so plumbed for hydropower, be on the lookout for man made hazards like diversion dams, etc.

River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

There are two reporting stations on the Rio Maule River that will help in determining flows on the runnable sections. One of these lies at the top of the Rio Maule at Laguna del Maule. The other lies at the bottom, in the small village of Armerillo just before Lago Colbun. These two stations will provide you with minimum / maximum flow rates.

Real-time Steamflow Data

Reporting Stations:

  • Upper Maule River: 07300000-9 Laguna del Maule, Region VII
  • Rio Maule at Lago Colbun: 07321002-K Maule en Armerillo, Region VII

Rapid Descriptions


Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Section:

Put-in: The bridge that crosses over the river going to the Banos Campanario hot springs.

Take-out: The La Mina Fortuna outpost.

Middle Section:

Put-in: The La Mina Fortuna outpost.

Take-out: Roadside, after the confluence with Rio Cypreses.

Lower Section:

Put-in: Roadside, after the confluence with Rio Cypreses.

Take-out: Lago Colbun.


From the city of Talca and the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5) take the International Highway (Ruta CH115) to the city of San Clemente. Continue East on Ruta CH115 past Lago Colbun to the La Mina Fortuna outpost, following the Rio Maule all along the way. The total distance is about 65 miles (105 km)over paved and unpaved roads.

Places to Stay / Campgrounds

The Lago Colbun region is a great aquatics recreation area with numerous places to camp or cabins to rent.

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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