12 Top Jungle Rivers
Central America:
The Cangrejal, Honduras

The Rio Cangrejal, hidden in north-central Honduras in a tropical jungle only 10 minutes from the Caribbean-coast city of La Ceiba, offers everything from canopy-covered Class III and foliage-lined Class V to more than a week's worth of creeks within an hour's drive. The combination of easy access, jungle-lined drops and friendly locals make the area a no-brainer for rainforest-seeking river runners.
The put-in for the 12-mile stretch on the Cangrejal (also known as the Kong) starts about 15 miles out of La Ceiba. On the dirt road paralleling the river you'll pass several pueblos; be prepared for irresistible smiles of children who will chase your vehicle screaming, Dulces, Dulces! (Sweets, Sweets!).

The proper response requires tossing candy from the vehicle. The 12-mile run has four different sections--the lower, middle, upper and top--which in contrast to their names, are quite unique. The lower is the easiest and commercially run section. It contains about 3.5 miles of Class III-IV pool-drop rapids, with the pools providing idyllic swimming holes. Since La Ceiba lies beneath the run, pollution from the city is not an issue. Swim and roll in peace, but don't be surprised to encounter a local spear fisherman diving for savory bonito. You will also find several sandy beaches along this section, some complete with bungalows.

The middle is referred to as the Juice by local gringos and El Loco by the locals. At low water, this section, clogged with monolithic granite boulders, is clean and creeky. Its labyrinthine nature is similar to Bald Rock Canyon in California. At medium flows the pools begin to disappear and the rapids transform into big-water Class V. At high water, just a glimpse of the holes is enough to rip you out of your boat and make you feel like jungle-prey. The top and upper sections are the most pristine, owing to the road's divergence from the river and a deep cloud-forested canyon. They also offer the most continuous Class III-IV whitewater. The guttural melee of macaws is likely the only sound you'll hear breaching the sheltered canyon. And like all sounds in the canyon, this discord is easily swallowed by the dense jungle walls. Unfortunately, the top section itself might soon be swallowed as well by an impending dam, silencing the canyon forever.

Paddling in Honduras is more plentiful during the rainy season, but the Cangrejal almost always has enough water to kayak. Avoid the rainy season (October through December) if you're looking for sunshine and mellow whitewater.

--For more information, contact Rios Honduras, (800) 255-5784, (011) 504-443-0780 (phone/fax), rios@hondurashn.com (e-mail); or La Moskitia Ecoaventuras, (011) 504-21-0408 (phone), (011) 504-42-0104 (fax). --Davison Collins