- Class: Lower III/IV, Middle IV/V, Upper IV/V+
- Distance: 40 kilometers (25 miles)
- Average Gradient: 80 ft/m (16 m/k)
- Maximum Gradient: mandatory portages on the upper section
- Temperature: depends on the source of the water (snow melt/ lake)
- Water Quality: brown silty
- Character: big water, riverbed boulders, wide spaces and constrictions
- Nearby Rivers: Yeso River, Volcan River, Aconcagua River, Colorado River, Mapocho River, Cachapoal River
Maipo River is the principal waterway flowing through the metropolitan region of Santiago de Chile. The glaciated slopes of Volcan Maipo serve as the headwaters of the Rio Maipo high in the Andes. Tributaries of the Maipo River include, the Rio Yeso, Rio Volcan, Rio Colorado and the Mapocho River. The Maipo River is run year round with different sections of the river becoming runnable at different water levels / seasons. The Rio Maipo is a very attractive river for thrill seekers and outdoor adventure lovers because of its close proximity to the capital city of Santiago.
The Rio Maipo is a silty river, typically with a brown or dark cast caused by glacial till. It lacks the appeal of some of Chile’s other rivers, like the Rio Futaleufu in the south, which are usually an iridescent turquoise color. Despite its dingy hue the water of the Rio Maipo is very clean.
Boulders (lots of them) are the principle feature to be found on the Maipo River, creating a challenging obstacle course for rafters and kayakers. The Maipo River has a big water feel, sometimes greater than reality, because the constrictions force the water into narrower channels. At high water, when the boulders get covered, eddies to stop and regroup get quite scarce. When the river is high the Maipo is worthy of its class IV/V rating. Usually high water can be found on the Maipo River from November through February. The upper section, starting from the El Manzanito Hydropwer Station should be left to experts only.
The hazards become more extreme the higher you go on the Rio Maipo. The upper section, from the Rio Maipo should be left to true experts. Only the first 8 kilometers of river are runnable before you come to an impassable canyon, described by Lars Holbeck as a “death gorge that you'll see on the approach drive”. Scout everything on the upper section as it is not frequently run. On the middle and lower sections the volume of the Rio Maipo will increase dramatically as it takes in water from the Rio Yeso and Rio Volcan. At high water, flush drowning is a real possibility due to the lack of good eddies. Plan on one or two portages if you put-in at the Rio Yeso Bridge as there two class V/V+ rapids.
River Flows / Gauge Information / Season
The Maipo River is commercially rafted throughout the year. The raft companies consider the Lower Maipo to be class IV from about September through April and class III the rest of the year. The period of “high flood” is generally December to January in which the river can reach epic proportions. During these months the middle and lower sections of the Rio Maipo can reach volumes of 10,000 cfs (280 cm/s) or greater, rivaling the Rio Futaleufu in volume. Flows in the upper canyon were estimated to be about 2000 cfs (57 cm/s).
Real-time Steamflow Data
- To get Real-time Steamflow Data for the Maipo River click here: Real-time Streamflow Data
- Upper Maipo: l05710001-K Maipo en El Manzano, Region V
Between the towns of San Alfonso and El Melocoton there are four major named rapids: El Rey IV. La Reina III, Pinocho IV, Remolino III (The King, The Queen, Pinocchio, and Eddy.) Beyond that lies El Basurai IV, about midway to San Jose.
Put-Ins and Take-Outs
Upper Maipo River
- Put-in: Put in at the El Manzanito Hydropower Station.
- Take-out: Take-out roadside, before the un-runnable “death gorge”.
Middle Maipo River
- Put-in: Put-in at the Rio Yeso Bridge or in the town of San Gabriela.
- Take-out: Take-out in San Alfonso.
Lower Maipo River:
- Put-in: Put-in at San Alfonso. If you want to avoid most of the larger rapids on this run put in at El Melocoton as an alternative.
- Take-out: Take-out in San Jose del Maipo.
From Santiago de Chile head southeast, up the Rio Maipo Valley to the village of San Jose del Maipo. The drive will take you about an hour. The Rio Maipo - Rio Yeso confluence is another 25 kilometers in the direction of San Gabriel.
Places to Stay / Campgrounds
There are numerous places to stay in the Rio Maipo River Valley, but the most famous is the Cascada de las Animas Eco-Resort. They have tenting or luxury cabin options depending on your personal preference. Cascada de las Animas is located in the town of San Alfonso, north of the Rio Maipo River, on the right side of the main valley road going from Santiago.
Maps & Outside Links
- Outfitters & Lodging:
Copyrights: (Copyright © 2006, Expediciones Chile) All photos, maps, diagrams, text and computer code is the copyrighted property of Expediciones Chile with all rights reserved.
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.Read More: Disclaimer