Rafting down the white waters of a river is an exhilarating sport.
The raft is driven by a guide who is normally seated in the back of
the raft. The other participants sit on both sides and help to steer
the raft. When rafting, you need to wear suitable clothes, suitable
for the season, as well as for getting wet. The agency or the operator
that is offering the service will provide the rest of the equipment.
Rafting is one of the most popular adventure sports which does not require great preparation. The rafts have a capacity of between 4 to 8 people. The level of difficulty and risk depends
on the characteristics of the river, therefore it is worthwhile to do a little research before attempting to navigate it. The routes are of variable lengths and levels of difficulty (between
1.5 and 35 km/1 and 22 mi).
The temperature of the water is usually low so neoprene suits are used to insulate against the cold and humidity. As falling from the raft is common and there are many rocks in the river,
the use of helmets and life jackets (PFDs) is essential.
This is an activity that can be practiced both by families on easy rivers, as well as those who prefer the extra adrenalin that is offered in the challenge of faster, white rapids.
Rafting originally developed from explorers who used canoes, small boats, and rafts to travel on the river. It became a hugely popular sport first in Europe and the United States and has spread worldwide.
The Europeans have dominated the international competitions that began in 1950.
Rafting in Chile
"White water" fanatics consider the rivers of Chile to be of worldwide class. They are perfect for practicing rafting as well as kayaking. The rivers that attract the most attention at international and national levels are the Bio-Bio and the Futaleufu, both class V. The other Chilean rivers are between class III and IV.
Nevertheless, rafting in calmer waters is becoming an excellent choice for family trips which can combine the fun of descending a river while enjoying the scenery and nature.
Rafting is normally practiced through an agency or tourist operator
who provides all the necessary equipment.
Before choosing your trip, check that the grade of river matches your own skills. Certain levels can require being in good physical and psychological conditions, besides being a good swimmer.
Inform yourself about the rescue procedures in case of falling from the raft. Listen carefully to the instructions of your guide.
River Classification according to difficulty degree
Class I. Easy. Moving water with a few riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions. Low risk for swimmers and self rescue is easy.
Class II. Beginner. Easy rapids with waves up to 3 feet, and wide, clear channels that are obvious without scouting. A little maneuvering is required. Small to medium sized rocks and waves that can be easily surpassed with little training. Little danger for swimmers and hardly requires help from the group.
Class III. Intermediate. Rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping a canoe. Narrow rapids that often require complex maneuvering. Big waves and strainers are easily avoidable. Previous exploration is recommended for non-experts. Injury to swimmers is rare and self-rescue is easy but may require some help from the group to avoid prolonged exposure in the water. May require scouting from the shore.
Class IV. Advanced. Long, difficult rapids with constricted passages that often require precise maneuvering in very turbulent waters. Depending on the characteristics
of the river, large waves and holes may demand fast maneuvering under pressure. Quick eddy turns are necessary to initiate other maneuvers, explore the rapids, or rest. Scouting from the shore
is often necessary, and conditions may make a rescue difficult. The risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high. Decked boaters should have ability to Eskimo roll before attempting class
Class V. Expert. Extremely difficult, long, and very violent rapids with highly congested routes which nearly always must be scouted from the shore. Descents may
present large, unavoidable waves and holes, steeps falls, and demanding and complex routes. Some routes are long distances which require excellent physical condition. Rescue conditions are
difficult and there is a significant hazard to life in the event of problems.
Class VI. Extreme. Difficulties of class V carried to the extreme of navigability. Unpredictable and very dangerous. For teams of experts only, after close study
and with all precautions taken. Mistakes will lead to serious injury on this type of water and rescue can be almost impossible at times.
These places are among the better known to practice rafting in Chile:
When and where
- Maipo River: Metropolitan region, in the Melocoton sector, 22 kilometers (14 mi) from the small village of Guayacan. Season from spring to summer. Class III and IV.
- Teno River: VII Region of the Maule. Season in the spring. Class III.
- Maule River: VII Region of the Maule. Season in the spring. Class III.
- Claro River: VII Region of the Maule. Located in the Radal 7 Tazas National Reserve. Waterfalls characterize it
- Bio-Bio River: VIII Region of the Bio-Bio. Located to southeast of Los Angeles. Class V.
- Trancura River: IX Region of the Araucania. Located 14 kilometers (9 mi) from Pucon. The season is from November to March. Class III and IV.
- Petrohue River: X Region of the Lakes.
- Futaleufu River: X Region of the Lakes. Located 155 kilometers (97 mi) southeast of Chaiten. Season from mid January to the middle of March. Class V.
- Espolon River: X Region of the Lakes. Considered as the training river for the Futaleufu.
- Baker River: XI Region of Aysen. Located 10 kilometers (6 mi) northeast of Cochrane. Season is in summer. Class V.
- Serrano River: XII Region of Magellan and Chilean Antarctica. Class I.
For suggestions of sites, visit our Chile Attractions section.
In order to keep these sites in their best condition, bear in mind the following recommendations:
- Take care of nature.
- Do not throw garbage into the river. Keep it in a safe place so that it does not fall into the river.
Rafting is normally practiced with a company that has specialized
equipment and personnel. The equipment that is normally used is the
- Select a reputable and experienced agency.
- Demand qualified guides and complete safety equipment.
- It is a great advantage to be a good swimmer.
- Neoprene suit
- Bathing suit or clothes for getting wet
The following books contain information on places where you can go
rafting, as well as facts on tour operators, rates, conditions, etc.
More alternatives on texts in our Book section.
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