Rio Quijos (Chaco Canyon)
|Stretch:||Sardinas Grande to Rio Oyacachi|
|Difficulty:||Class –IV (low) to IV+ (high)|
|Flows:||No gauge. Visual only…|
|Put-in:||Access at Sardinas Grande|
|Take-out:||Access just below Rio Oyacachi confluence|
|Shuttle:||6.0 miles on good road|
|Featured in A Wet State: #83 and in A Wet State's contribution to World Kayak's Video Guide|
Ecuador 2013 Day 4 and 11:
If you want one of the most scenic sections of river in Ecuador without having to scare yourself on class V… look no further than Chaco Canyon. This section of river at normal flows offers a low stress class III to IV day with one spicier drop near the start. At high flows I have heard that the rapids all become more frightening with huge recirculating eddies forming on the smooth canyon walls. But if you are a class III to IV boater, wait for some more nominal water and head out at once. You won’t regret it.
El Toro marks the start of the canyon. From that point the canyon only gets more spectacular with each corner. The two prettiest spots include a few hundred yard long vertical wall with jungle hanging over which is followed not too far downriver by a pinch where the river is tightened between two walls less than 20 feet across from each other before opening up into a wide open bowl. Just spectacular. And good enough to run multiple times on a trip.
The first time we ran this section it was at the end of a long day from Bridge 2 through Borja and down to El Chaco. That day Diane and I boat scouted everything including Toro (which I then asked her to walk back to the top of so I could film and she was nice enough to entertain my request). The second time was our second to last day where we led a large group of new friends down including one class III boater who with a little hand holding had a fun day. That day we started at the Sardinas Grande (sadly, the Sardinas Grande itself was too low otherwise you can add a mile of class III on that creek to start the day) and continued downriver through Bombon.
Also, as this area is popular, I am sure all of the rapids on these rivers have real names… but I don’t know them.
- Several good boogie rapids ranging into class III offer a nice warm up prior to getting to El Toro.
- El Toro (IV to IV+). Toro had two parts. The top was boogie leading into a seam between two large holes on the left. That was the best line, as the middle was a bigger hole. The bottom of the rapid had a house size rock that you wanted to get right of with a wide berth. The left of the rock is a macking pour over and just to the right of it is not much better. Also, at the exit there is another small hole to punch through but it surprises people sometimes.
- You enter the canyon on a right bend. A long rapid that is run down the right leads to the canyon.
Canyon (III-). The first part of the canyon is just a mellow wave train with a nice play spot or two. But this leads directly to the lip of a ledge.
Ledge (III to IV). A blind ledge could offer problems if you hit it wrong. The river quickly moves into the next few rapids and the walls are not forgiving. The easier line was on the far right with a shallow boof. A boof over a big hole also is present on the far left but starts to flirt with potential butt kickings.
PaPaya (III). A wave train with a couple of green curling waves to knock you around was enough to cause one of our friends to swim here. Luckily boat and boater eddied our on the left and regrouped easily.
Boof (III). There is a fine and dandy line down the middle… or you can go for the big exposed rock on the right and boof the heck out of the left side of it!
The river then enters a super cool pinch section of river with flat water captured between tall walls. The canyon soon opens up.
- Sneaky (IV). On a right hand bend there is a rapid that starts small and gets bigger and ends in a macking hole in the middle. You really want to be far far right on this hole. It swims lots of folks who don’t make the move right in time. Just make sure you get your bow up if you end up hitting the main hole. It is boofable.
Rodeo (III). A nice long rapid where the water slams into large boulders on the far left. You want to work back to the right.
- Caida de David (II+). Why do I put a class II rapid on here? Because if you end up in the wrong long you might hate it. Our firs time down it looked like a shallow shoal so I hugged the wall on the left before finding myself in a turbulent pocket with a strong ferry required to get out. A swim here could be very serious. OR… just stay far far right and the pocket and ferry are non-issues.
- Oyacachi Confluence (IV). Stay on the left half of the river as you run the confluence. The right half turns into a macking hole. At some flows clean leans here were just a wave train, at other flows it had us back endering through laterals. Good fun. Go to the beach on the left immediately after to take-out
Take-out is on the E45 just downstream from El Chaco. Just after crossing the bridge turn right on the first dirt road and follow it to the parking turnouts and gate.
Put-in: On E45, about halfway between Borja and El Chaco, you will cross the Sardinas Grande. Just downstream there is a dirt road dropping to the right and down to the river.
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