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Río Putul, Guatemala (area: Mid Cuchumatanes; click here for the Guatemala table of rivers)

river photo

Class: V-; Ave. Gradient: 21 m/km; Portages: wood?; Length: 21 km + Copón; Time: 7 hours + Río Copón

Season: year-round; rafts? no; Highlights: multi-day trip with stunning canyon and clear water; Crux move: negotiating politics

Water Quality: good; Water Temperature: cold

PI: Finca San Francisco (elev: 960m), or San Marcos (elev: 750m); TO: lower Río Chixoy

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

*2012 update: currently there is widespread discontent in this area due to the new Palo Viejo dam and general opposition to damming and mining. Some people may be outright hostile to outsiders. Ask at Finca San Francisco about any issues for visitors to the area. Also communities on the Lower Copón are likely to detain you. Consider this run off-limits for the time being.*

The Río Putul-Copón is Mayan WhiteWater-land’s premier multi-day advanced-level kayak trip. It literally has it all, including the best medium-volume whitewater in Guatemala, a gorgeous tropical forest, and mossy river banks. It is also remote and committing. Kayakers will need at least three days to complete the journey all the way to the Lower Río Chixoy. Also I should stress that I have only seen the river at comfortable flows—up to 700 cfs—and it could become quite full-on during extra rainy periods. The heavy rainy season continues through october.

Unfortunately, the run is currently littered with political mine fields.

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook.

Descent History: The first descent was by Andrew McEwan and myself, from San Marcos, in February 2007. The first descent from the confluence with the Regadío was in February 2008 with George Pratsinak.

Flow Notes: The only useful online gauge is far downstream on the larger Río Chixoy, but it may give a hint about relative levels. So, unfortunately, it is hard to know what you have until you get to Finca San Francisco, and you will want to ask about the dam release schedule on the way in. This river has some water year-round. I have seen late rainy season flows range from 300 cfs to 600 cfs at the PI, and the difficulty increases with the flow. Dry season flows on the Río Putul would be iffy given that the hydro probably releases water mostly in the afternoon and evening.

cfs graph

Accommodations: Nebaj has a few hotels. I have imposed on the Brol's family hospitality at the Finca San Francisco also.

Nearby Tourist Attractions: Nebaj and the Ixil area are famous for their culture and village treks.

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