The Palena is a beautiful, although blustery, multi-day trip with nary a trace of whitewater. A dense pall of fog clings to Volcán Melimoyú (2400 m), the lofty summit that overlooks the lower river west of the Carretera Austral. Much of the forest is uncut, having escaped the fire-ravaged scenarios in other parts of Patagonia. Endless flatwater and hellacious upstream winds in the afternoon make this trip best suitable for experienced sea kayakers or motorized sport boaters. A gauntlet of logs in places, and a swift, powerful current are the only significant hazards.
You can resupply where the river nears the road by parking your vehicle at Balsa Palena or La Junta on the Carretera Austral. A private hot springs on river right near Melimoyú is a nice respite from the sometimes nasty weather. To soak, ask permission first and then be prepared to pay a fee.
From Chaitén, drive south 76 km to Villa Santa Lucia. At the crossroads, continue east 84 km to Palena. Put in outside of town at Puente Palena elevation 305 meters. Near the end of your trip, take the right channel around Isla Los Canales, then paddle north in Estero Pitipalena to the take-out. to arrive at the coastal hamlet of Puerto Raúl, near Balmaceda
Note: In year 2008 a new road was built connecting La Junta with the coast
This 170 km multi-day class I•II float trip starts out small and finishes much larger with the entrance of several major rivers including Figueroa/Rosselot, El Tigre, Rio del Oeste, etc. Flows at takeout can vary from 1000 to 20,000 CFS depending on time of year. The river is runnable at anytime of year but nicer in summer due to weather.
Topo maps include Palena, El Malito, Cerro Tictoc, La Junta, Río Risopatrón, Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda