Rio Valles (El Salto)
|Stretch:||Hydraulic Facility to El Meco|
|Difficulty:||Class III+ to IV|
|Take-out:||Near Mirador Restaurant, At huge falls|
|Featured in Video Twenty-Three|
We were all torn, some thought this was the best run of our trip, others thought that the Micos was the best. The first day we did the Salto section it took several hours. The countless small ledge drops had to be peered over and a clean line would sometimes wait until the last of 10 options to present itself. This caused the pace to seem like we were spending 10 minutes scouting for every 3 seconds of rapids, yes most of the rapids only last 3 seconds. To boot, the first day was overcast and the water seemed pretty, but not spectacular. Also, I was itching like crazy due to my lack of knowledge of the Pica-Pica plant. This all changed the second day, the sun was bright and the weather was warm. The water lit up turquoise, the ledges didn’t need to be scouted since we knew the lines, and suddenly I found myself in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, running some very fun ledges.
It is very easy to take several hundred photos on this run, even when no one is running a drop, just the view of the travertine dam through the water is awe inspiring. And when someone is running drops, no amount of photos is enough. At work my computer and walls are to be plastered with pictures of La Luminosa for years to come I am sure. Just looking at the pictures reminds me of waiting for the boof and airing it out into the soft landing below, makes me smile so wide when all there is is my cubicle at work.
Along with the Micos, this river is the reason to come to the Sierra Madre Oriental region of Mexico to boat. These are two world class playgrounds of scenic beauty and easy (relative) waterfalls. One of these days I will find myself back there, and until that day I will have the pictures and video to remind me of the days I spend on the Valles.
So anyways, on to some info. A great piece of info is that the Salto, along with the Micos are easy shuttles. Bicycles would even be sufficient. We had a little scooter to do the trick for us. If you don’t come with a second car, of the runs we did, these two are the only easy options for you, but no worries, it is the Rio Valles… so what is there to be bummed about?
Also a special thanks to Diane Gaydos, Steve Schmitt, and Heather Bowen for sharing their pictures of our trip.
For some more great photos, check this website out: Sierra Rios
- The first 100 feet are continuous wave trains rounding the corner and dropping into the first hole.
Hole (III). The culmination of the start of the run is a river wide ledge hole. At our flow you could go down the left and skip over the hole. Catch the eddy on the left immediately after as the backwash goes into El Nemo, your first time down you will want to scout this rapid.
El Nemo (IV). A small rapid leads to a river-wide narrow hole. The right side is undercut, the center is a meaty hole. At our flows you could just plug the hole. At higher flows you need to start going high and dry on the left using a rock to skip past the hole. If you didn’t scout La Luminosa prior to running El Nemo, you can try to scout from the island in the center just downstream.
La Luminosa (IV+). Ok, so it probably isn’t IV+, it is more like III+, but it is big and intimidating. The river does a quick right turn and drops off a 20 foot shelf, scout a nice boof point and paddle off it. The right side has worse of a hydraulic at the base, though at our flows it still didn’t look that bad.
Ledge drops formed of travertine continue every hundred feet or so for the next 2 miles until you get to the next big drop.
Campana (IV). The “n” has a wiggly on it, but I couldn’t figure out how to type that. Anyways, the left side was a stout class V drop over several tiers with some consequence of fading off to the right. Also, this rock is very unforgiving so bring elbow gaurds if you are thinking of running that side. The far right side is a nice 12-15 foot drop over a small spout. The water lands in a strong current coming right back at you causing several in our group to flip immediately upon landing. To add to it, apparently the rock I set safety on is undercut not welcoming swimmers. If so inclined you can portage and seal launch in on the right.
Ledge (III-). I add this ledge to the mix because the center did have a very meaty hole to it. We got as far left as possible. Just downstream is one last drop.
Last but not Least (III). The last drop is about 10 feet vertical on the left and tiered and less clean on the right. We scouted on the left and found a nice part of the ledge on the left to run. Exit river left before the next drop, because unless you are Tao Berman, I doubt you want to run it. Not if you are reading this website anyways.
Take-out: From the Micos drive up the Rio Valles for about 10 km. Turn right towards El Naranjo. After about 18 km you will pass a large sugar cane factory bend right to stay on the cement road and drive past the back of the factory. Continue about 25 km to a “T” in the town of El Naranjo. Turn right and immediately cross the Rio Valles. Continue through town (all the way, about 1 mile) and turn left at the sign for the town of El Meco. There might also be a sign pointing to the hydraulic plant I think. Anyways, there will be a Y or two, stay left. Not far past El Meco you will see a restaurant on the left called El Mirador alongside a vista turnout. If you hop out at the vista you will see the 70 foot falls just below you. Park here. Take out is up the road 50 feet down a steep path that has small steps to aid in climbing out.
Put-in: Continue up the road staying left at any Y’s. When you get to the hydraulic facility park on the right smack dab in front of it. The bridge over the river is just down the road 30 feet to the left.
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