Michimahuida River

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Quick Facts

  • Class: IV / V
  • Distance: 36 k (22 miles)
  • Average Gradient: 10m / kilometer (55 ft / mile)
  • Maximum Gradient: Cascadas / Waterfalls
  • Temperature: 5-10 C (40-50 F)
  • Water Quality: Crystal Clear, Glacial
  • Character: Steep Creek, Drop Pool, and Continuous
  • Nearby Rivers: Futaleufu River, Azul River, Espolon River, Palena River, Tigre River

General Description

The Rio Michimahuida is a downstream tributary of the Rio Futaleufu, joing the main-flow below Lago Yelcho where the river is known as the Rio Yelcho. The Michimahuida River runs off the side of the glacier covered, Holocene volcano, Volcan Michimahuida, which last erupted in 1835. The Rio Michimahuida is a steep creeker's paradise with numerous side streams and waterfalls plunging into a narrow gorge. After plummeting over numerous drops and a gauntlet of twists and turns the Michimahuida eventually makes its way to the calm Rio Yelcho. The Michimahuida is a great choice for boaters who want to take a break from the big water kayaking of the Futaleufu River.


The hazards that can be experienced on this river are many:

  • Remoteness: After the roadside put-in the Rio Michimahuida runs through an inaccessible wilderness area that will make walking out or rescue very difficult.
  • Sweepers: The Michimahuida is subject to periodic flooding from time to time. Often, after such floods, submerged and downed trees can clog the river making pinning a real possibility.
  • Shallowness: The Michimahuida is a quite shallow river with many exposed or partly exposed rocks. It is normal for a group to break a paddle or two on this run. Taking a few spare breakdown paddles is imperative when running this river.
  • Temperature: The Michimahuida consists primarily of glacier run-off and can be quite cold.
  • Gradient: The Michimahuida is steep producing drops that many paddlers will want to portage. Take along enough throw rope to safely back-up the paddlers that do decide to run some of the bigger drops.
  • Flow Variability: The Michimahuida is a run-off river that is best paddled after a period of stable weather. Think twice before putting-on the Michimahuida if continuing rain is in the forecast.

River Flows / Gauge Information / Season

Unfortunately, the best way to assess the flow in the Michimahuida is through direct observation. Short of that you can keep an eye on the weather and plan to visit the Michimahuida after a period of stable weather. An experienced creek boater may be able to assess the condition of the river by the outflow at the bridge crossing of the Chaiten-Futaleufu road (Route 231). Another idea is to gauge the Michimahuida of the flow of the Azul River in the Futaleufu River Valley. Both rivers draw upon the same headwaters with the Michimahuida being somewhat wetter. If the Azul is consistently running, chances are the Michimahuida will be too.

River Sections

  • Upper Michimahuida: (6 k) The Upper Michimahuida contains three to four miles miles of class III/IV water which may be suitable to intermediate boaters. This is a very rarely paddled section, so everything should be throughly scouted before running.
  • Lower Michimahuida: (30 k) The Lower Michimahuida runs from the put-in a few miles above the Termas de Amarillo to the take-out at the Chaiten-Futaleufu Bridge. This class IV/V run is a very long one that will require a FULL day to paddle. There are four distinct canyons in this section. Plan on taking time to scout the various drops. When this section was originally run it was done over two days with a bivoac in the middle.

Rapid Descriptions

Not Described

Put-Ins and Take-Outs

Upper Michimahuida:
  • Put-in: The access to this stretch is by horseback but this may change as a road is being constructed through the valley. Go as high as you feel comfortable and scout everything, this is a rarely paddled stretch of river that can contain many downed trees.
  • Take-out: Take-out river-right alongside the gravel bars above the gorge section. The take-out is the spur road that is the put-in for the Lower Michimahuida.
Lower Michimahuida:
  • Put-in: Drive past the Termas de Amarillo (Hot Springs) to where the road approaches the river and then diverges again. About 2.5 miles (4k) from the hot springs you will find a spur road, going eas, that leads to the gravel bars above the main gorge. Put-in along this gravel bar section.
  • Take-out: Take-out at the highway bridge of the road that runs between Chaiten and Futaleufu.


The Rio Michimahuida can be accessed from the road leading to Termas de Amarillo (Amarillo Hot Springs). To get to the hot springs from Chaiten, head south on the Careterra Austral(Southern Highway) then go left on the hot springs road - follow the signs. The drive is about 30 kilometers (19 miles). Coming from Futaleufu Valley reverse take a right on the hot springs road before getting to Chaiten (Route 231).

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: www.futaleufu.cl 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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