During our failed attempt to explore the headwaters of the Río Melado in December 1997 (a wicked high El niño year) , John Foss, Josh Lowry, Robby Dastin, and I came upon this little creek. Quebrada El Toro is a beauty, one of a dozen of such torrents tumbling out of the southcentral Andes. It drains the northeast flank of Cerro El Toro (3081 m), a glaciated peak situated west of the main cordillera that also supplies the juice for two other great whitewater rivers: the Ancoa and Achibueno.
El Toro’s continuous, steep gradient requires precise boat placement. The higher you ascend, the steeper the gradient. A highlight of the run is an intimidating double drop we named El Vulcanizador, located 500 m upstream from the take out.
To reach the put-in follow same directions as for the Melado which are from Talca, 259 km south of Santiago, drive east through San Clemente to Embalse Colbún. After the pavement turns to gravel, continue upstream along the Maule, crossing Puente Claro en route. Follow the Camino Internacional signs. Just after crossing the Maule, turn west at the Y junction. Stay on the main track—veer to the right if in doubt—until you reach the Río Melado. Drive upstream to Puente Curillinque, then continue on the river left side of the Melado along the Canal de Linares. Keep your eyes peeled for El Toro cascading under the concrete aqueduct. Take out here (800 m elevation) or downstream on the Melado at Puente Curillinque.
To reach the put-in, climb up on top of the concete embankment where you’ll find easy hiking for a few hundred meters in a dry irrigation canal. When the canal disintegrates, climb high up the river right side of the canyon. After a couple of hours you will reach a valley, where the gradient tapers off dramatically. Put in elevation is 1075 meters. We didn’t reach this point only for a lack of time and better planning.
This 5 km long class V•V+(p?) has average gradient of 55 mpk or almost 300 FPM. You need 200 to 300 CFS to run the creek which in a normal water year is only likely during PEAK spring runoff which is usually late October.
Topo map of the area 1:50,000 scale is titled Melado