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Río Chixoy, dam run, Guatemala (area: Cobán; click here for the Guatemala table of rivers)

river photo

Class: IV; Ave. Gradient: 5 m/km; Portages: none; Length: 26 km; Time: 3.5 hours

Season: June to October (best chance October); rafts? yes; Highlights: remote, scenic, and raftable; Crux move: timing the dam spill

Water Quality: fair; Water Temperature: warm?

PI: Chixoy dam (715m); TO: Puente Chixoy (587m)

Description: (click here for general notes about my descriptions)

The section below the Chixoy dam is one of the better rafting runs in Guatemala but is never rafted due to the difficulty of timing the trip with dam spillage. october is the best chance for that, but you will need to get the scoop from INDE (see below)..

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook.

Descent History: This was first run by kayakers Ben Harding and Filip Sokol in 1977, before the Chixoy dam was built, on their epic exploratory all the way to Mexico (read Filip’s story in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook). In 1995, an Area verde Expedition raft /kayak group made the second descent on their 6-day trip starting at Sacapulas and portaging around the Chixoy reservoir. The expedition members were Roberto Rodas, Paul Heesaker, Josh Anthony, Mark Gober, John Clausson, Mark Haug, Alejandro Aguilar, Heather Bearinger, and several other unknown persons.

Flow Notes: This run only has water when the Chixoy dam, a.k.a. Presa Pueblo Viejo, is spilling, or rebalsando. No environmental flow is maintained. This often happens in October and can sometimes happen between June and September in rainy years for brief periods. When water is released, it is often for several days at a time. You will need to call or visit the hydroelectric office in Li-Chinatzul near San Cristóbal Verapaz (SCV) to find out the current situation, phone 7950-4546/7. You can ask for engineers Federico Chavarría or Álvaro Rosales. you could also try Moisés López Xicol at the INDE office in Guatemala city, phone 2422-1930, email mlopezx@inde.gob.gt. The operators can open up to three gates to release water. I am told that October spill rates of up to 20,000 cfs are normal; I saw about 4,000 cfs on my run.

Nearby Tourist Attractions: Tubing trips are offered on the Río Chixoy just below the bridge. Contact Chicaman's Oficina Municipal de Turismo at 7763-3550 or 4015-8703.

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