For ambitious boat hikers, Cajón de González is an outstanding whitewater gem featuring adrenaline packed rapids from start to finish. Below two runnable 3 m waterfalls on Estero de Las Tragedias, the action heats up when the canyon walls narrow. The crux of the trip occurs in the middle of the run, where the gradient increases to 50 mpk turning continuous pool-drop rapids into awesome class V+ cascades. The biggest drops can be casually reconnoitered from the trail, but require careful inspection due to the presence of sieves and undercuts.
On our first descent, Clay Wright, Josh Lowry, and I rented horses from a local huaso named Fredy for our 17 km hike, after waiting two days for the rain and his soccer match to end. The quality of the whitewater makes this strenuous jaunt well-worth the effort. I suggest you run the 4.5 km segment of the González with an empty boat after stashing your food and gear at the confluence with the Río La Zorra which forms the Río Los Sauces. The next day you can continue your journey down the easier Los Sauces with a heavy boat. On our trip we bivied on a beautiful promontory overlooking the confluence of these two rivers after foraging in grove of cherry trees to supplement our meager rations.
Refer to the Ñuble description for road directions. After checking the Los Sauces gauge at Balsadero Pasa Gente 680 meters (optimal water level: 1.0-1.4 m), drive upstream to the end of the road, cross the new bridge, and begin your trek up to the Las Tragedias confluence. After your arrival at the Las Tragedias, consider going another 6 km upstream to the confluence with the Río Salitre (1215 m). Although we did not run this section because of exhaustion and lack of extra food, with a gradient of 31 mpk, it has the potential for more great class V boating.
This 4.5 KM class5, 5+ stretch of whitewater is best run with flows of 600-800 CFS in the spring months and has average gradient of 30 MPK or 150 FPM
Year 2009 update: A road now climbs much of Los Sauces making logistics of reaching the put-in much easier.