the lower Rio Futaleufu and Rio Yelcho was one
of the highlights of our trip to Chile. It gave
us a chance to see some of the most beautiful
backcountry in Chile, as well as spend time off
the beaten path, on our own. We can't really compare
the time on the river to the kayaking and rafting
on the upper Futaleufu - that was wonderful too.
They were complementary, and we would highly recommend
the one week combination kayaking, rafting and
unguided sea kayaking tour we did to anyone.
kayaking on the lower Futaleufu was sublime, with
steep forested slopes rising all around us to
distant glacier capped mountains. The river is
lazy, but still with a good current as it winds
towards Lago Yelcho. We enjoyed the pleasant pastoral
Yelcho was a scenic highlight of our trip. Where
else can you paddle a lake with such stunning
mountain scenery, but also with warm waters, abundant
fish, and fabulous camping? We spent the first
night on a beautiful white sand beach, swam, made
a campfire and just watched the sun sink into
waters of Lago Yelcho were kind to us. It was
glassy calm most of the first day, but in the
late afternoon the winds rose and we took shelter
behind one of the many points. I'm sure this lake
can produce huge waves when the winds really blow,
but we never felt in any danger, even with our
11 year old son. He pushed hard whenever we needed
the extra muscle power. You do have to plan your
lake crossings to make sure you don't get caught
out in the open. We enjoyed the remoteness of
the lake and during the whole trip, saw no other
tourists. We passed the occasional farm and fisher,
but that was about it.
Yelcho flowed much faster than we expected - we
thought it was going to be a long slog to the
ocean, but the current moves along, and the lower
section was equally beautiful. Its a valley of
a hundred waterfalls, with long white ribbons
of water cascading off the mountains. Maybe this
is only because we had about 24 hours of rain!
The forests are incredibly steep along the river,
making it seem like what I have thought the River
Yangtze might look like. Camping is a bit scarcer
on the Yelcho, but you can riverside find pastures
with graceful old trees to camp under.
ocean section of the trip is very short, but pleasant.
We managed to cross the tidal flats with only
about half an hour of dragging our boats. If we
had more time we would have enjoyed visiting the
sea lions and dolphins. We found Chaiten to be
a very pleasant town, and if we were to do the
trip again, we would leave a couple of days to
visit the Pumalin Park also.