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Río Dolores*, Guatemala (area: Chisec; click here for the Guatemala table of rivers)

river photo

Class: III+, IV; Ave. Gradient: 3 m/km; Portages: in last part of Upper; Length: 23 + 15 km; Time: up to 5 hours

Season: June to February; rafts? no; Highlights: beautiful water and jungle; Crux move: choosing your PI

Water Quality: good; Water Temperature: cool

PI: Jumpicbán (316 m) or Monte Olivo (290 m); TO: Balneario El Remanzo (305 m) or Santa Valeria (220 m)

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

The Río Dolores (a.k.a. upper Río Icbolay) is an enchanting river, with deep green spring water flowing through lush jungle with good birding. The rapids are interesting, but few in number and have a lot of flat water between them. The other issue—affecting only the Lower run—is the “Santa Rita” hydro project, backed by the government but suspended due to local opposition, which has angered the villagers and may make them suspicious of your motives. I have not driven in there since the project was announced, so I cannot say what is the current situation. In general I have found the villagers in this area to be hospitable, and also ecologically minded, as the communities refrain from washing clothes in the river or otherwise polluting the water.

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook.

*This run is politically sensitive because of opposition to the Santa Rita hydro project at Finca Xalajá on the Lower section. In 2014, peaceful protests in Monte Olivo were met with a large-scale police operation, resulting in the death of three indigenous men and multiple arrests.

Descent History: I first ran from the balneario on down in August 2009. I first ran down to the balneario in August 2014. (Both runs were solo.)

Flow Notes: The Río Dolores has reliable water through the extended northern rainy season. When we paddled the Upper at extra-high water (4,000 cfs), the first class III rapid became IV+, and the last class III rapid became IV-.

Nearby Tourist Attractions: Bombil Pek cave.

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