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Río Polochic, Dam, Main, & Lower, Guatemala (area: Cahabón-Polochic; click here for the Guatemala table of rivers)

river photo

Class: IV/IV+, III; Ave. Gradient: 9 m/km; Portages: wood in gorge?; Length: up to 41 km; Time: up to 7.5 hours

Season: June to December; rafts? Lower; Highlights: Genesis Gorge; Crux move: getting there

Water Quality: average; Water Temperature: warm

PI: Guaxac bridge (410m) or Chijul bridge (250m); TO: Puente Chascoj (125m) or Puente Tampur (57m)

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

The Río Polochic has long been a prized destination for paddlers in Guatemala, with gradient, water, and wonderful remote mountain scenery. It even has a gauge. However, a dam was placed halfway down the mountain in 2012 that does two things: diverts water around the most narrow canyon in the river, and reduces the flow downstream during the day for much of the boating season. Access is also restricted around the dam.

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook.

* This run is marked politically sensitive because of ongoing conflicts between the Santa Teresa hydroelectric project and the local communities. The principal issue seems to be long-disputed land ownership. Violent confrontations and vandalism have occurred, but incidents have been few, and have not affected paddlers on the runs above and below the dam.

Descent History: The first descent was recorded by Ken Johnson, Dan Crawford, and Roberto Rodas in 1994. It was attempted in the ‘80s by the Guatemalan Kayaking and Spelunking Club but they ended up hiking out.

Flow Notes: The Río Polochic has an online gauge; however, it is located in Telemán, downstream of both the dam and the confl uence with the Río Matanzas (which is larger). The dam limits flows during the day, often times to below desirable levels in non-rainy periods. In 2014, 1.4 on the gauge gave a borderline 250 cfs through the Genesis Gorge. Hopefully in the near future I will have better data to report, on the website.

cfs graph

Nearby Tourist Attractions: The scenery of the Polochic mountains is worth the trip in itself.

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