Vertical ramparts of columnar basalt tower above the Río Colorado, the Lontué’s major tributary. Compared to the Lontué, the Colorado is cold, turbid, and a much greater whitewater challenge. Coursing through sequentially layered lava flows run amok, the river cuts a sinuous swath through one of Chile’s coolest canyons.
Excellent rapids are found throughout the run, with the best drops situated near the confluence of the Lontué chocked full of big granite boulders. At a low flow of 17 cms, the last 2 km are easy class V. I suspect this section would be much more difficult at higher flows with some drops becoming unrunnable.
Unfortunately, like the neighboring Lontué, access is the most daunting obstacle. The landowner’s concerns regarding wildland fire (notice the charred ridge above the north side of the river from a 1993 fire), garbage, and road maintenance have eliminated access beyond Puente El Baúl. This run is fabulous and we want to go back pronto. If you ever gain access, be responsible so other boaters can follow in your footsteps.
To reach the take-out at Puente El Baúl of the Lontue confluence elevation 580 meters refer to the lower Lontué description. Permission must be obtained prior to traveling upstream from the village of El Yacal, otherwise you likely will not be allowed to pass the through the gates. If you get past the locked gate at Puente El Baúl, climb the steep switchbacks and drive 14 km east on the plateau. Turn north at an obscure crossroads (south to the upper Lontué put-in) and continue approximately 3 km to a point where you must begin to walk. Leave the dirt road and hike down an obscure trail near Estero Agua Fría. As you get approach the river, you’ll have to thrash through bramble and bamboo. Elevation 795 meters.
This class 4-5 river is best run in spring/summer with ideal flows of 500-600 CFS.