Futaleufu itinerary



DAY 1: U.S.

Participants take an evening flight (On their own) from the U.S. to Santiago, Chile.


Arriving in Santiago this morning, we pass through customs and transfer upstairs (in the same airport) to our hour and a half flight south to Puerto Montt. We arrive in Puerto Montt in the late morning, walk outside and take a taxi to the Cumbres Puerto Varas Hotel in the gorgeous Chilean town of Puerto Varas where a room will be waiting in your name. With Mount Fuji, snow-capped, Vulcano Osorno, rising directly out of it, Puerto Varas is one of the most beautiful towns in all of South America. The afternoon is free to explore the town. In the early evening we meet the Earth River guide, Maria, in the hotel lobby and go out for a welcome dinner.


After breakfast Maria escorts us to the commuter flight to Chaiten. The 45 minute flight is spectacular as we follow a rugged coastline of lush deep fiords that connect to wild rivers framed within a verdant rain forest to the snow line of the jagged Patagonia Andes. Just before landing we get a bird's eye of the still smoldering Chaiten Volcanoe which erupted in 2008 burying much of the town of Chaiten in cement-like ash. We board the van and drive past roaring turquoise rivers, hanging glaciers and deep blue lakes to our starting point on the Futaleufu. After a safety talk and flip drill we run a series of marvelous class 4 rapids including Mundoca, Wina and Tiburon. Two safety catarafts escort us down the river. In the afternoon, we take out and drive half an hour to beautiful 7 mile long Espolon Lake. A gorgeous 30 minute ferry boat ride takes us deep into the Patagonia wilderness to the isolated Espolon Lodge. Situated in its own private valley, the lodge is ideally located between the upper and lower Futaleufu Canyons. This unique wilderness lodge, on the far side of eight mile long Lago Espolon, is only accessible by horseback or boat.  The lodge has a large wrap around deck and wooden hot tub with stunning lake and mountain views. Void of internet or phone service, electricity is generated by the lodge’s own mini turbine.  Within walking and boating distance of the lodge are half a dozen, adventure activities including; canyoning, sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, hiking and horseback riding. The view from the dining room, deck and wooden hot tub of the snow-capped mountains rising from the water is the type of view that people imagine when they think of Patagonia.


This morning we ride horses and mountain bikes deep into the upper Espolon Valley. This is a rare glimpse into old world style Patagonia. Far from electricity, telephones and the modern world, the homesteads in this area have not changed in hundreds of years. The gorgeous 5 mile ride takes us along a crystal clear, green river and beneath towering snow-capped peaks. After an hour we reach our kayak put in on the class 2 upper Espolon River. We paddle down the beautiful, crystal clear, class 2 stream down to Espolon Lake. With the wind at our backs, we paddle another mile arriving at a vast expanse of white sand where our dinner where he have dinner on the beach; a traditional Chilean Asado (roasted lamb over a fire). Our evening is at the Espolon Lodge.


This morning we transfer by ferry and a 20 minute drive to the Obsession Lake trail head. We hike two and one half hours steeply out of the Azul River valley through an enchanted forest of ancient hardwood trees, passing thousand foot walls and impressive waterfalls. The strenuous, 2,500 vertical foot hike takes us past beautiful waterfalls and breathtaking vistas of the turquoise Azul and Teal colored Futaleufu as they course through the rugged snow capped Sierra Nevada Range. We crest the ridge and arrive at stunning Lago Obsession. With its dramatic landscape of sculptured stone, snow and ice, this miniature, hanging blue lake is a masterwork of nature’s artistry and a rarely visited scenic highlight of Patagonia. Rarely does one find so much dramatic scenery in such a relatively small area. Shrouded in a vast expanse of old growth lingue trees and clinging to the canyon’s northern wall, the views in every direction from the stand up paddle board are astounding. Cut by the glacier, the intimate 10 acre body of water is like a giant bottomless swimming pool. There’s a surreal feeling from the deck of a stand up paddle board as the water suddenly goes from a few feet to an over one hundred deep blue abyss. The lake is surrounded by native old growth forest on 3 sides. A dramatic 2,500 vertical foot partially ice-enshrouded granite tooth is on the fourth. Cut by the glacier, in a wind free bowl, the glass-smooth water often reflects a perfect mirror image of the other worldly landscape. Condors can often be seen soaring in the updrafts. Later in the afternoon, we hike back down and transfer to the Espolon Lodge for the evening. NOTE: Optional day’s activity: For those people not wishing to make the strenuous hike up to Obsession Lake there will be a gorgeous horseback trip up the turquoise Rio Azul Valley.


A spectacular hike this morning, along the mile long Espolon cataract as it spills from the lake, takes us to our inflatable kayak put-in on the lower Espolon River where we spend the next three hours running the class 2-3 rapids down to the 1,000 acre Uman Lodge property and a gorgeous beach at the confluence of the Espolon and Futalefu Rivers. (Note: Clients who prefer not to go in individual kayaks have the option of paddling in a small raft.) A 10 minute hike takes us up to the hand-crafted wooden cliff-side lodge which sits on a sheer precipice 500 feet above the upper Futaleufu Valley. This lodge is among the most dramatic to be found anywhere in Patagonia, or for that matter, in all of South America. The 180 degree view of the upper Futaleufu Valley and surrounding snow-capped mountains from the expansive deck, hot tub and infinity pool is other worldly. The massive 30 foot picture widows in the dining room and great room, almost gives one the feeling of being outside. A ‘Room with a View” is perhaps the best way to describe this unique one of a kind lodge.


Today, *depending upon water levels, we run the class 5 Infierno Canyon, with four major Rapids; Infierno, Purgatorio, Danza De Los Angels and Escala De Jacoba. We then spend the next hour running some class 3+ rapids down to spectacular class 5 -6 Zeta Rapid. Here the river flows through a narrow Z-shaped flume cut into solid granite. On the cliff just below the Zeta is a 10 to 42 foot high cliff jump into the aerated blue pool below the rapid. The aerated water cushions the impact by nearly half. Lunch is served on smooth ledges at Zeta. In the afternoon we raft a series of wonderful class 4 including; Isla, Caos, Wild Mile and Casa Salvaje (Wild Thing). Below the last rapid, we pull over and a half hour drive takes us back to the Uman Lodge for the evening. *Note: If the water’s too high, we will drive around inferno Canyon and put in below. *Option: Class 4 participants have the option of hiking on a trail around short sections of the bigger rapids. Often people who chose to walk around Inferno Canyon earlier in the trip feel more comfortable and run many of the large rapids today. This decision, however, is always left up to the guides.


This morning we take a ten minute drive to our inflatable kayak put in the class, 3, turquoise Azul river. We are now well trained in kayaks and spend the next hour negotiating wonderful class 3 rapids on the Azul down to the confluence with the Futaleufu. (a small raft is available for those not wanting to kayak). From there we board the rafts and spend the next hour rafting some fun class 3+ - 4 rapids down to the confluence with the Rio Blanco slot canyon.  After a safety briefing, we begin a remarkable journey through this hidden cleft in the Patagonia Andes. Hiking, climbing, swimming and rappelling is the only way to traverse this incredible natural labyrinth of white boulders, clear azure pools and stunning waterfalls. Lunch will be at the base of one of the falls.  When we exit the canyon, we board the rafts and run some of the most exhilarating rapids on the trip including; Terminador, Kyburz Pass and Himilayays (with the biggest waves on the river). A short drive and boat ride take us out to the Espolon Lodge for the evening.


Today we run a dozen major rapids including; Puente Colgante, Alfombra Majica, El Cojin, Toro, Mundoca, Wina and Tiburon, among others. We end the day with two big class 5 rapids (optional) Mas O Menus and Casa Piedra. After the last rapid the canyon boasts some of its most impressive scenery with grand vistas of towering mountains and glaciers.  In the early afternoon we take out, board the bus with the trip leader and drive 1 hour to the Yelcho Patagonia Lodge. The Lodge rests within thousands of private acres on the edge of a gorgeous lake framed within snow-capped peaks. The resort has a mile of wild lake front property and numerous hiking trails. We spend the night at the lodge or in comfortable cabins. That night we have a farewell dinner.


After breakfast we board the van for the 1 hour drive to the Chaiten airport. We board the plane for the flight back to Puerto Montt. Upon landing we meet the Earth River Guide, who helps us transfer to the main airport to catch our domestic flight to Santiago and then our international flight back home.This morning we drive 3 hours to the Chaiten Airport where we board the commuter flight to Puerto Montt. In Puerto Montt, we transfer to our flight to Santiago and then on to the U.S..

DAY 11: United states

This morning we arrive in the United States and transfer to our connecting flights.

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"Earth River is the premier river runner in the world. Their staff includes the finest guides to be found."
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“I’ve rafted with Eric Hertz down some tough rivers—the Futaleufu in Chile, the Colca in Peru. He's one of the best in the business—obsessed with safety."
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