Mapocho River

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Quick Facts

  • Class: Lower: Class IV Upper: Class IV/V
  • Distance: 6 miles (10 k)
  • Average Gradient: ~130 feet/mile (25 m/k) in the upper section
  • Maximum Gradient:
  • Temperature: cold, glacier, snow melt
  • Water Quality: good, above the city
  • Character: riverbed boulders from the canyon, ledges, constrictions
  • Nearby Rivers: Yeso River, Volcan River, Aconcagua River, Colorado River, Maipo River, Cachapoal River

General Description

The Mapocho river winds its way through the center of the capital city of Santiago de Chile. Affectionately known as the “Seine of Santiago” after the river that flows through Paris, the well embrasured and tamed Rio Mapocho seems to be a far cry from anything that might attract whitewater paddlers. However, east of the city, toward the ski resorts of Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado the river takes on a markedly different character.

The Rio Mapocho begins where two other rivers end, at the confluence of the Molina and San Francisco rivers. Its headwaters form in the Yerba Loca National Reserve off the Cerro Plomo Peak that hosts Valle Nevado. From the confluence it plunges toward Santiago at a good clip. The name Mapocho means waters of the Mapuche, the name of the indigenous pre-Columbian people that inhabited the area.

If you are going to talk to the locals about this run make sure you refer to it as the Upper Rio Mapocho so as to avoid confusion and the likely grimaces you will encounter when you explain you will be kayaking on the Rio Mapocho. In downtown Santiago the river has the unappealing look of chocolate milk with fair amount of pollution.

The Mapocho River is a fairly urbanized river with its share of manmade debris in the riverbed as well as occasional diversion dams. That said, this river certainly should not be on someone’s “must paddle” list of rivers in Chile.



River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

The Rio Mapocho is considered a “Springtime River” with the best flows corresponding to the runoff months September – November. However, you don’t want to get the river in flood either, so finding the right water levels can be tricky. In the high summer the water levels tend to get to low and the area in general too hot to make for a comfortable paddling excursion. A good level for the Rio Mapocho is around 500 cfs (14 cms).

Real-time Steamflow Data

Reporting Stations:

  • Mapocho River at Los Almendros: 05722002-3 Mapocho Los Almendros, Region V

Rapid Descriptions


Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Mapocho River:

  • Put-in: Put-in at the confluence of the Rio Molina and Rio San Francisco.
  • Take-out: Take-out at the (Ruta G-21) bridge that crosses the Mapocho River on the way to the village of Farellones and the Valle Nevado ski resort area.

Lower Mapocho River:

  • Put-in: Put-in at the (Ruta G-21) bridge that crosses the Mapocho River on the way to the village of Farellones and the Valle Nevado ski resort area.
  • Take-out: Take-out at the (Ruta G-21) bridge next to the village of El Arrayan.


From the capital city of Santiago head Northeast on Highway 21 (Ruta G-21) toward the village of Farellones and the three ski resorts of Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado. Thie drive is about 45 minutes long and about 30 kilometers from the center of the city. Look for the three bridges that will serve as the take-outs and put-ins.

Places to Stay / Campgrounds

The best option for camping (Villa Paulina) in this area is the Nature Sanctuary of Yerba Loca (Santuario de la Naturaleza Yerba Loca) spectacularly located along the switch backed road to Villa Farellones.

Maps & Outside Links

  • Maps:

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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