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Lower Futaleufu Rapids

The lower Futaleufu contains two separate whitewater rafting sections: the “Heart” translated to Spanish “Corazon”, sometimes referred to as the “Bridge to Bridge” section. Below the second bridge comes the Casa de Piedra whitewater section. The Heart serves as our initial training run for the rest of the Futaleufu. Make no mistake; this is a spectacular stretch of whitewater that is bigger and more continuous than almost any other section of whitewater in the world. We will do this section on day one of our Chile rafting itinerary. On the second day we will repeat this run and take a swim test. If everyone feels comfortable with upping the challenge we will continue on to enter the Casa de Piedra section. The Casa de Piedra section contains the first of the “big five” class V rapids you will encounter on the Futaleufu.

Because of the difficulty of this stretch of whitewater Expediciones Chile runs it only after your rafting team has run the easier sections and has built their skills and confidence needed to run this section. Running the upper Futaleufu is optional for all of our guests and is water level dependent. At certain times of the year, or during abnormally wet years, the upper gorge can become too powerful to allow rafts to safely pass through.

Rapid by Rapid:

Entrance (IV+)
After our safety talk and maneuvering drills we get our first look at Entrance, from a river right eddy just above the drop. This will be your first real taste of Patagonia rafting and Futaleufu whitewater. This wide rapid is characterized by a landscape maze of boulders and offset hydraulics created by a landslide that tumbled down from the steep peak on river right.

There are so many holes and boulders that it is difficult to see the rafting route. However your guide will point out the center right entry tongue. It will be easier to believe that this is our route when the safety team paddles down it to set up below on the left. Then the route will be clear. We enter down the tongue paddling to the left so we break through the diagonal wave to get into the quieter whitewater behind and downstream of the ledge holes. This rafting move is important, as going down the center leads into white water chaos that can upset a raft. We need every paddler to drive and listen to the commands on our frothy route. As soon as the storm subsides your guide will command a right turn. We need to avoid a left channel and island and drive across the river to our regrouping eddy on the right, just above the next rapid. Entrance was your very first Futaleufu rapid, the supposed “easiest” section of the Futaleufu. Now you know that you have arrived at a very special river. This is Chile rafting at its best! After the elation subsides we will have a quick debriefing with your team before the next rapid.

Magic Carpet (IV-)
The magic carpet has bigger waves and whitewater than we experienced in Entrance rapid. The raft route is on the right, down the tongue. Staying in the flow keeps us in the huge waves and away from a hydraulic on the left side of our route. This is clean big fun and you will notice on this rapid the safety team surrounds the rafts as we paddle through. At the bottom once again we need to paddle hard to eddy out on the right before we drift into the next rapid.

Pillow (IV+)
From the safety of the eddy we will look down at the horizon line and a huge rock. The mist blowing up from below suggests a river wide hydraulic or worse. This is Pillow and there is a route just left of the huge rock. Again we get to see the safety kayakers go through on our route. However unlike the kayaker, we need to angle the raft and attack perpendicularly, into the potential raft flipping pillow wave coming off the big rock on the right. As we near the vortex of this rapid the raft will pick up speed as we square up to impact the giant pillow wave. The front half of the raft will be airborne and clear the drop. There is a pool directly below this rapid on the left where our safety team waits in case of an unexpected raft flip or swim. Pillow is one of the most exciting and memorable rapids on the Futaleufu river. Paddling as a team is essential. Photos from this rapid are dramatic and can be seen on our home page.

Play wave (III)
As we raft through this S turn rapid we have a chance to see our safety kayaker surf on a wave. Looking to the right we can see boiling turbulence in the right hand eddy, a wise place to avoid.

Cara de Indio (IV)
We gather up and get ready for Cara de Indio. The safety team heads down the middle of the river as we watch their route. We need to be careful of a hole half way down, off the left shore at the start of the standing waves. No relaxing here! Although this rapid is straightforward we need to be precise and perfect. There is very little space between the end of this rapid and the eddy on the right, just above the most technical rapid of the Heart of the Futaleufu section.

Mundaca (V-)
Named for a local pioneer family, this rapid is the climax of this day of spectacular Patagonia rafting. By now your raft team should be ready, but the approach to Mundaca is tricky. We will be rafting near the right shore, so close to the pourovers that we can almost touch them with the right side of the raft. We will weave out towards the center to get around one pourover that extends further out. The raft then accelerates into a several breaking waves that lead into a monster explosion wave that can flip a raft. Everything we do is setting us up go right of the monster explosion wave. You and your guide will use precision and aggressive strokes to counteract the river from pushing the raft into the monster wave. This will be a rapid to remember!

Ojo Negro (III)
Just beneath Mundaca we need to regroup because the river speeds up again quickly. We enter in the center down the tongue. Big waves and a few holes on the sides but in this rapid we go with the flow and attack the big waves. Again our safety is ahead and the kayaker floats between the rafts. We eddy out to regroup and get ready for the next rapid.

Puma (III)
Wide open rafting fun as we follow the flow through the big standing waves. There are holes on the side but by staying in the big waves and charging them we stay out of trouble.

Last Wave is a Rock (IV)
This rapid looks similar to the last several last rapids… wide open fun. However there is a surprise…. the last wave is a rock and at higher levels a hole. Our safety team is waiting in the eddy on the right. Be careful since the last wave looks enticing….. we will drive the raft to the right to join our safety team in the eddy.

Cazuela (IV)
The river gets serious again and requires caution during high water. The next two rapids need to be rafted in a controlled fashion. Casuela has a route down the right center. However one needs to be cautious to avoid a pounding hole on the right at the bottom. On the left there is a very turbulent eddy with a wall. After we thread the needle between these two hazards we keep our raft squared to the huge waves as we drive into the safe eddy on river right.

Tiburon (IV)
Tiburon is marked by a huge cliff on the left. There is an eddy underneath this wall that is the most hazardous feature on the Heart of the Futaleufu. However this danger is easily avoided by driving right as one enters the tongue. Once the raft busts through the diagonal wave on the right we are safe. On the left wall at water level you will see a rock outcropping that looks like the dorsal fin of a shark that the current runs directly into. Just upstream of this is the hazardous undercut wall and eddy lines that we do not play with.

Home Free (II)
Now we have a few little rapids before our take out. Here, on our second run of this section, we will do our swim test to see if the group is ready to go into the class V Casa de Piedra. Follow instructions as the guides tell you when to slip in the water and where to swim to the waiting rescue raft. We are always heads up. The final take out eddy is on river left just above a concrete bridge and we do not want to miss it as Class V Mas o Menos is just around the corner. Here we will find lunch and our waiting vehicle. This concludes our first day of Chile rafting; on our second day we will continue downstream and enter the Casa de Piedra section.

Casa de Piedra Section

Mas o Menos (V-)
As we pass under the stone bridge and leave the “Heart” behind us we'll immediately hear the roar of Mas o Menos. In Spanish mas o menos means more or less; the rapid earned its name because the line is more or less down the left side between the big holes. This rapid is huge and radiates power. It is somewhat technical but the lines are never obvious. They are more or less!!! We enter the first part of the rapid and enter an eddy on the left. From here listen closely as your guide explains while we watch as the safety craft enter in the exact spot we will want to attack. You will smile as they paddle out of sight into the white water power storm. We enter down the same tongue towards a huge wave charging the weak left side of it, as soon as we pass on the smooth shoulder we angle the raft back towards the center of the river to miss a hole. Then we paddle forward and hard and take our blows from the explosions waves. The safety craft will wait below on the right hand side of the river.

Right Turn (IV)
Shortly after Mas o Manos the river makes a big right turn in easy looking Class II whitewater. The water flows to the outside of the turn exactly where a violent hole is hiding 150 meters above Casa de Piedra. Your team will paddle to the inside to miss this hole completely. Not a great idea to have any swimmers so close to the Class V Casa.

This is serious business now. We will eddy out on river right so we can scout and set up adequate safety for what awaits us below.

Casa de Piedra (V)
Casa de Piedra. The name means “house rock” in Spanish and by looking at the rapid we can see how it might have got its name. At the center of the river looms a large house boulder that could be considered a small island. It splits the river in two; our line will be on the right side of the huge rock. The rapid, however, was not named after this obstacle but after other house sized rocks that have fallen down from the steep mountains above on shore. These huge rocks would over hang a campfire and provide dry shelter for the pioneers on their cattle drives to the coast.

On the river right side this rapid has several entries, depending on the water level, but we must negotiate the entry and we must get to the right of the house rock. Here on the right side half way down the rapid we have our safety kayaker waiting in case of problems. We will angle the raft and stay right to thread the needle between two holes and then drive the raft left for the center of the river to miss another hole all while taking big water hits. This is true class five paddling. For some paddlers this is enough; others will be asking about what is next on the Class 5 calendar.

S-Turn (III)
On any other river this would be considered non-stop whitewater but not in Patagonia Chile. On the Futaleufu we just stay in the center of the current on the S turns and do not let the current drive us into the outside banks. We will eddy out on the right before our last rapid.

Piedra de Barco (Freighter Rock) (III+)
There is a world class kayaker play hole just at the top of the rapid. Our objective is to go either right of left of the ship rock but just do not hit it. If you have a chance to look up and see the view after this rapid it is one of the most dramatic on the river.

El Macal is our take out.

This covers the first two river days of your Patagonia rafting vacation. The following day will be the the Terminator on the middle Futaleufu.

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