Río Volcán (Upper)

Río Volcán (Upper)

Kurt Casey

Sep 6, 2009

The upper Volcán is a cold, raging, silty flush plummeting out of the high Andes.  Tight and pushy, its churning waters feature some of the most continuous action in Chile. Emplaced from landslides, the rapids seem to be in perpetual flux in a riverbed strewn with rocks that can be heard rockin’ and rollin’ along the bottom. Glacial melt causes water levels to fluctuate dramatically during the day with high water occurring from 1500-1800 hours.

From the put-in to the dam, the non-stop class IV+ rapids are a good warm-up for the intensity that lies ahead. Take out if you are intimidated by these pushy drops. The Volcán gets much tougher downstream. After a river right portage around the dam, the river swiftly progresses from gravelly class III to IV. Below two bridges, the river channelizes and intensifies until a third hanging bridge. A couple of class V rapids follow that must be scouted. The whitewater eases until a 4 m-high gravel bar on the left marks the start of the grand finale: three thumping class V rapids interspersed between continuous class IV+ boulder gardens.

Cerro Morado (4490 m) and Cerro Mesón Alto (5257 m) crowd the horizon while you drive up this classic, glaciated valley located within the confines of Parque Nacional El Morado.

Refer to the upper Maipo or Yeso directions to get in the area. Continue upstream 3 km from Puente El Yeso through the town of Romeral. Turn north, and follow the signs to the take-out in the village of El Volcán elevation 1380 meters. Put in 12 km upstream at Puente Baños Morales elevation 1775 meters. River has overall average drop of 33 m/km or 174 FPM with heaviest section at 264 FPM.

The river is class V at flows under 700 CFS and ClassV+ at flows over 1000 CFS.