The Futaleufu River runs from Los Alerces Lakes in Argentina through the Andes and the Patagonia region of southern Chile. With amazingly clear turquoise waters and huge Class V rapids the "Fu" is considered one of the premier whitewater rivers in the world, topping many boaters' bucket lists.
Getting to and boating the Futaleufu poses challenging logistics and deter many from experiencing it. There is not an official or infra-structured put-in or take-out, and most all of the land along the shore is private. There are three sections of the Fu that are the most commonly run - the Inferno Canyon and Las Escalas section, the Terminator section, and the Bridge to Bridge section. Often, boaters run the lower "Bridge to Bridge" section first to test their skills before advancing on to do the upper sections described here.
Inferno Canyon is the most difficult in terms of accessibility. The canyon walls are much steeper and at high water, portaging can be extremely difficult to impossible. There is one public put in and a long shuttle if only running the canyon. After the canyon, the Las Escalas section has the rapids Zeta and Throne Room. They are the largest, Class V/V+ rapids on the Futa and, depending on flow, most people choose to portage. This section contains a lot of flat water but is very scenic.
The Terminator section adds five quality rapids including the famous Class IV rapid, Terminator. It is a good section to add to the Bridge to Bridge section if paddlers are looking for a longer trip.
Mile 0: Put-in at the Espolon River Bridge right outside of the town of Futaleufu and paddle down to the Futaleufu. There are places to park on both sides of the road. This is the easiest access to the river.
Mile 3.5 - 5: Inferno Canyon, a series of 5 Class IV-V rapids. Entrada, the first rapid, can be easily scouted on river left. At high water, there are not many eddies to recover in, but at low water, the rapids become much more spaced out.
Mile 9.5: Son of Zeta (III) has a big, swirly eddy on river left at high water with a sneak down the right side. Insignificant at low water.
Mile 11: Zeta Rapid (V+) is a dangerous rapid full of undercuts that is portaged by most boaters on river right.
Mile 12.5: Throne Room (V+) can be portaged and scouted on river left, at the top of the pool above the rapid. Throne Room ends in a big pool and the line for adventurous boaters is starting right and staying right until just above the rock known as the Throne. The crux move is surfing the pillow off the throne over to the left to avoid going into the toaster on the right.
Mile 13.5: The Wild Mile is a series of three III/IV rapids. In total, this stretch is closer to two miles long.
Mile 15.3: Puente La Difficultad crosses the river. This is a possible put in for kayakers willing to bushwhack down the river.
Mile 15.5: Confluence of the Rio Azul and the Futa. There is another put in on the Rio Azul. Driving from town on CH-231 (the main road to the Futa) take the first right after crossing the Rio Azul and drive .6 miles keeping left at the Y. The road ends at the Rio Azul and boaters have a mile paddle down to the Futa.
Mile 17: Asleep at the Wheel (III) has a nasty hole in the middle at the bottom of the rapid that can be easily passed on the right.
Mile 19: Confluence of the Rio Blanco. This is a good indicator that Terminator is close.
Mile 19.5: Terminator (V) is a big long rapid named after the first raft descent terminated their trip here. The entrance can be run on the left down to the scout eddy where boaters can get out and scout. There are many lines here but conservative boaters can portage on the left or sneak the big holes via a left line.
Mile 20.2: Son of Terminator (III) is immediately after Terminator. There are many lines, but a safe line is on the left and then between two offset holes.
Mile 20.4: Keiber's Pass (III/V) is a fun rapid with big holes.
Mile 20.5: Himalayas (III) is a large wave train and the last rapid before calmer waters.
Mile 21: Chaucoa is a public take out on river right with a nice beach and covered plateform.
Mile 21.5: Zona de Rafting is the last take out, on river right, before the Bridge to Bridge section