Espolon River

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Quick Facts

General Description

Rio Espolon begins in the high alpine lake, Lago Espolon, and flows about six miles to the confluence with the Rio Futaleufu. The Rio Espolon is divided into two sections. The top section (6k) starts just below an un-runnable cascade called the Devil's Throat (Garganta Diablo) that plunges 50 meters (175 feet) to the valley floor. Below the waterfall there are six kilometers of class II/III whitewater before the Puente Espolon (Espolon Bridge) that divides the upper and lower sections. Below the bridge lies another four kilometers of class III/III+ whitewater before the confluence with the Rio Futaleufu. The Rio Espolon, with its warm turquoise water and numerous class II/III rapids makes for an ideal kayak school and teaching river. Near town there is a great surfing wave on which to learn the elements of play boating.


The greatest hazards on the Espolon River are strainers caused by trees that have fallen in the river. The river does not flow straight, but meanders down the valley with numerous twists and turns with which to contend. These turns, coupled with downed trees, can make this river particularly hazardous in certain areas.

River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

The Espolon River typically flows around 43 cms (1500 cfs) during the Summer months, with highs and lows between 37 - 60 cms (1300-2100 cfs). The water comes from the top of Lago Espolon making the flow dependable and surprisingly warm.

River Sections

  • Upper Espolon: (6 k) The Upper Espolon runs from the Devil's Throat cascade to the Espolon Bridge in the village of Futaleufu. The upper section is characterized by a sandbars, loose gravel, teaching lagoons and a meandering river course with numerous class II/III rapids.
  • Lower Espolon: (4 k) The Lower Espolon runs from the Espolon Bridge in the village of Futaleufu to the confluence of the Futaleufu River. The lower section is more constricted than the upper and here the Rio Espolon flows over numerous ledges and past large boulders. The rapids in this section are class III/III+ with one surfing wave that is ideal for learning.

Rapid Descriptions

Upper Rio Espolon

Magic Pool
Valle Bonita Bridge
First Rapid (Class II)
Tree Shot (Class III)
Secret Blue Lagoon
Secret Beach
Hairy Ferry
Rite of the Tree (Class III)
Green Channel
Tres Pointes (Class III)
Mini Wall Shot (Class III)

Lower Rio Espolon

Puntilla (Class II-III)
Teaching Beach
Garganta (Class III)
Pasarela Montana (Class III)
Tocuyon (Class III+)

Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Espolon:

  • Put in: Just below the Devil's Throat waterfall.
  • Take out: Take-out river-left, immediately after the Futaleufu town bridge.

Lower Espolon:

  • Put in: River-left, just downstream of the Futaleufu town bridge.
  • Take out: Take-out at Puenta Montana, the old bridge crossing, by the cabanas, on river-right.

Getting to the Futaleufu River Valley

Charter flight between Puerto Montt and Chaiten, Chile.
Charter flight between Puerto Montt and Chaiten, Chile.

The Futaleufu River Valley can be accessed from either Chile or Argentina.

  • Chile Option: Flying in through Santiago de Chile, one must take a bus or plane to Puerto Montt, Chile then take another flight (or ferry boat) to Chaiten, Chile. From Chaiten there is a three hour drive over a dirt road to the village of Futaleufu.

  • Argentina Option: Flying in through Buenos Aires, one must take another flight to Esquel, Argentina or to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Esquel is the closest but flights only arrive and depart on certain days of the week. For either of these two points a bus, taxi or private shuttle will get you to the Futaleufu Valley. From Esquel the Futaleufu Valley is 2.5 hours away and from San Carlos de Bariloche it is 6.5 hours away.

You can consult the Expediciones Chile Patagonia Maps page to get detailed information on navigating the region. The Expediciones Chile Travel Information Page goes over the travel details and the pros and cons of each route.

Places to Stay / Campgrounds

In town lodging at the Expediciones Chile Lodge.
In town lodging at the Expediciones Chile Lodge.

There are numerous places to lodge and camp in the Futaleufu River Valley. However, many of these places change ownership, email addresses and telephone numbers frequently. We recommend that you check the Futaleufu municipality website for the most up to date and complete information: Check under the "Servicios" section. Frommers Guidebooks also does a good job of keeping their information accurate and current. See: Frommers Futaleufu.

Maps & Outside Links



Copyright & Terms of Use

  • Copyrights: (Copyright © 2006, Expediciones Chile) All photos, maps, diagrams, text and computer code is the copyrighted property of Expediciones Chile with all rights reserved.

  • Terms of Use: Any type of reproduction, republication, or re-transmission for commercial use is prohibited without the expressed, written permission of Expediciones Chile. Users of this Wiki guidebook may print copies of the text, images and diagrams for personal river running use only. Users may not alter the diagrams or text without expressed written permission of Expediciones Chile. Users must read and acknowledge the disclaimer before printing. Printing implies acknowledgment of the disclaimer.


  • Disclaimer: Under no circumstances should paddlers substitute the information and diagrams in this guidebook for their own sound judgment on the river and their collective experience running rivers. The diagrams, maps and descriptions found here are only approximations of what paddlers will find on the river once they get to Chile or Argentina. They are not to scale and nor are they completely accurate. Water levels change, rocks move around, landslide debris can enter the river at any time making the diagrams obsolete. Expediciones Chile also reserves the right to update these diagrams and descriptions at any time as we find better ways to illustrate and discuss the rapids. Use this guidebook at your own risk.

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