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Río Lempa, middle, El Salvador (area: west; click here for the El Salvador table of rivers)

los jobos

Class: III to III+; Ave. Gradient: 4 m/km; Portages: none; Length: up to 36 km; Time: up to 6.5 hours.

Water Quality: poor; Water Temperature: medium.

Season: June-October; rafts? yes; Highlights: scenery; Crux move: coordinating the take-out.

PI: Palo Galán bridge (elev: 428m), or Río Guajoyo; TO: Los Jobos, or above

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

The Río Lempa is by far the longest and largest of El Salvador's rivers and in fact drains about half of El Salvador's area (and a sizable chunk of Honduras). The river is also an important source of power for the country, with 3 large dams along its length. The middle section is above the first dam and therefore free-flowing, except for the significant contribution of the Río Guajoyo which enters along the way and is dam-release. The middle section flows through pretty mountain scenery and maintains a wide river bed from top to bottom. There are several ways to break up the run if so desired.

Ríos Aventuras calls the first section the "Paseo de Los Cuatro Ojos". It goes from the highway bridge (or you could drive into La Junta upstream) down to Aldea del Ahogado ("village of the drowned man", spooky) and is 10 km long. Here the valley is fairly open and the gradient is moderate, giving some III/III+ but mostly class II rapids which are very raftable. I have not run most of this myself, but it is reportedly quite tranquil. At the beginning you pass the two hammock bridges of Santa Rosa Guachipilín. Aldea del Ahogado is recognized by a large side creek coming in on RR just above a hammock bridge (the second since SRG).

7km down from Aldea del Ahogado is the Masahuat bridge, the only concrete/car bridge along the route. I have not run this section, but the river character and gradient are the same as above, so expect class III- to III+ depending on flow. 1-1.5 hours.

Below Masahuat the river has even less gradient than above but the mountain passage is lovely. The Río Guajoyo enters RR 3 km down, adding some helpful volume. The rapids below are mostly class II but you may see a class III- or two in the middle where the valley narrows a bit. You are getting close to Los Jobos (19 km down from Masahuat, 2-3 hours) when you spot a large river gauge RL on a right curve followed by a side creek RR on a left curve. One more right curve and you are at the hammock bridge, where you have to walk 2 minutes up to the railroad tracks and car access.
Between Masahuat and Los Jobos there are many access points for those wanting to take-out early. The early access (El Zapatillo with no bridge at 3 km, the next hammock at 4.5km) is RL, the later access (Honduritas hammock bridge at 8.5 km, El Tamarindo at 11.5 km) is RL or RR.

FYI, the river continues downstream another 40 km or so to the huge "Cerron Grande" reservoir but there is very little whitewater to enjoy along the way.

Flash Flood Danger: Low, no constricted sections.

Descent History: Unknown.

Flow Notes: This river has fairly reliable water during the rainy season. There is an online gauge in the middle of the run which includes the Río Guajoyo flow and is shown below, along with its history. My impressions are with about 2500 cfs in the lower part.

cfs graph

cfs graph

click here for the SNET boletín

or go to the maps

Shuttle Notes: The Palo Galán PI is on the road to Metapan via Nueva Concepción. Most of the other access is on slow bumpy dirt roads which are passable by most cars. La Junta is reached by turning south off the PI highway at Tahuilapa and following the dirt road 5 km to the river (note that there are several places named La Junta on the river).
To get to Masahuat, turn off of the Santa Ana-to-Metapan road 1.5 km north of the CEL plant and follow the road through Conchagua about 8 km to the bridge (see the Río Guajoyo page for more details about Masahuat bridges). El Zapatillo, the next hammock bridge, Honduritas, and El Tamarindo are further down the road after passing through Masahuat on the way to Cebadilla..
To get to Los Jobos, take the muddy road east from Texistepeque through El Jute to Guarnecia. In Guarnecia, take the road leading out over the railroad tracks and follow it 2 km to Los Jobos. You can also reach Honduritas and El Tamarindo from this side by taking a different road north out of Guarnecia.
For a shuttle driver, you might consider asking at Balneario Apuzunga if taking out at the Masahuat area, or ask for Julio at the “RPM” car shop on the main road in Texistepeque.

Accommodations: There are hotels in Santa Ana and Metapán, and several on the road in between.

Nearby Tourist Attractions: El Trifinio park near Metapan.

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