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Ríos Amelco & Cocolá, Guatemala (area: Mid Cuchumatanes; click here for the Guatemala table of rivers)

river photo

Class: IV-; Ave. Gradient: 12 m/km; Portages: no; Length: 10 km; Time: 1:30

Season: June to February; rafts? yes; Highlights: beautiful valley; Crux move: appearing non-threatening

Water Quality: good; Water Temperature: cool

PI: Amelco (515m) or Cocolá Grande bridge (520m); TO: Yulá San Juan bridge (385m)

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

Amelco and Cocolá Grande provide the easiest entrances into the gorgeous valleys above the Yulá San juan bridge. The Río Cocolá, which includes the large San Juan tributary, is about three times as large as the Río Amelco, so has a longer rafting season, but the shuttle is longer and tougher.

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook.

*This run is marked politically sensitive because of heightened tensions in Barillas because of conflicts over the small Canbalam hydroelectric project near town. In 2014 a short-lived state of siege was declared after some violent incidents occurred. The locals are quite suspicious of strange activity in this area, though I would not expect any unfriendliness on this run unless a new project pops up in the area.

Descent History: I ran the Río Amelco solo in November 2003, with 600 cfs at the PI. I ran the Río Cocolá solo in January 2010 with 800 cfs.

Flow Notes: The Río Amelco and Río Cocolá are the two main tributaries of the relatively large Yulá San juan river and hold their water well. I believe the Río Amelco has reliable rafting flows July to October, and reliable kayak flows june to December. The season on the Río Cocolá is longer by at least an extra couple of months. The Lacantún gauge in Mexico will give some idea of the flow. I only have one data point, however: in 2010, 11,500 cfs on the gauge gave 1,200 cfs at the Yulá San juan bridge.

cfs graph

Nearby Tourist Attractions: The scenery on your drive in will be the major attraction.

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