Pro Tips: Rafting the Futaleufu River
Known as one of the best places to go rafting, the Futaleufu River has a few different options for your experience. Each different section is easily accessible from the small town of Futaleufu. Time and money constraints will play a part in determining which section is right for you. Luckily, there are quite a few different rafting companies with different trips to choose from. This is a beginner's guide to rafting the Futaleufu River and descriptions of each different section.
What to expect for any trip rafting the Futaleufu River
First and foremost, all the trips start the same. After a bus ride to the put-in, or start of the rafting trip, the guides will fit you with a wetsuit, splash jacket, helmet, and PFD (personal flotation device). Some companies also offer booties or an extra fleece for cold days. Next, your guide will go over safety information and how to paddle in the raft. Regardless of which section your trip is on, the guide will go through some raft training before the whitewater. Their goal is to turn you into efficient, strong paddlers so you can navigate the rapids successfully. If the guide asks you to jump in to the river to practice pulling each other in, do not be surprised. Be sure to listen carefully to your guide for the best experience possible.
Bridge to Bridge (Puente a Puente)
There are a few reasons this is the most commonly rafted section of the Futaleufu. First, you get to enjoy twelve back to back rapids so get ready for non-stop action. Within this section, there are two class IVs and one class V and the rest class III. Furthermore, you will be launched into the rapids immediately after training starting with Entrada, one of the longest rapids. The guides will give you a break to catch your breath in between the chaos, but do not relax too much, the excitement does not stop until the take-out.
About halfway through you will pass through the biggest rapid of the day, Mundaca. Be sure to paddle hard and look good here, as company photographers often stop here to document the action. The rest of the trip is continuous class III/IV rapids. If you are looking for the best bang for your buck, this is the option for you.
Terminator Section (Azul a Puente)
Rafters wanting to be on the river for a little bit longer but not an all day should choose this section. A bonus of this section is that you get to raft on two rivers. The trip will start on the Azul River, one of the main tributaries to the Futaluefu. After the confluence, there is some time on flat water for training before the excitement begins. There are only a couple class three rapids to warm up on before Terminator. Terminator is a notorious Class V rapid that is sure to get your heart pumping. However, most companies stop before the crux of the rapid to let everyone get out and take a peek, known as scouting in rafting terms. Depending on who you talk to, it is either very scary or really cool to be able to see the rapid before you run it.
Once you have survived Terminator, there are three back to back big rapids. The last rapid, Himalayas, finishes this section with a huge wave train. Finally, you are back to the start of Bridge to Bridge. Most companies offer the Terminator run with Bridge to Bridge for a fun, few hour day trip rafting the Futaleufu River.
"Full Day" (Azul a El Sapo)
Many companies also market a trip known as the Full Day. In addition to the Terminator and Bridge to Bridge sections, you will go beyond the second bridge and run two more rapids. The final two rapids are big class IV/Vs, Mas o Menos and Casa de Piedre. In my opinion, it is worth the extra cash and time to experience them. Casa de Piedre is one of my favorite rapids on the Futaleufu. It is a technical rapid full of must make moves to avoid the many huge rocks. Taking out at El Sapo gives you an amazing view of the river to end your full day of rafting the Futaleufu River.
Inferno Canyon and Las Escalas
This is the least rafted section, but by far not the least exciting. The trip starts on some flat water but shortly leads into Inferno Canyon, five back to back class IV and V rapids. The guides will take their time getting through these rapids, stopping often to scout the safe lines. Rafting through Inferno, you will forget about everything else in your life. The steep granite walls and flurry of whitewater are sure to marvel even the most experienced rafters. After passing through Salida, the exit rapid, the river opens and the landscape drastically changes. The next few miles are calm and offer a chance to simply enjoy the beauty of the Futaleufu Valley.
The next excitement is at Zeta, where the whole river funnels into a tiny constriction bending into the shape of a "Z". Zeta is by far the hardest rapid on the Futaleufu. Everyone will get out of the rafts and you will get to watch your raft guides use their rope skills to maneuver the passenger-less rafts safely through. Enjoy, because it is a truly beautiful place to spend time. Shortly downstream of Zeta is Throne Room, the other big class V rapid commonly portaged around. There is a nice trail to walk around the rapid along and you will get a good view of the rapid. Watch the raft guides send the boats through alone and catch them at the end.
This section finishes with the Wild Mile, a fun action packed mile of whitewater. Due to the long periods of flat water and challenging portages, only a few companies offer this trip as a day trip.
Which section of the Futaleufu River do you want to raft?