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Agua Azul Falls*, Chiapas, Mexico (area: Palenque; click here for the Chiapas table of rivers)

river photo

(photo courtesy of Kevin Smith)

Class: II to V; Ave. Gradient: 30 m/km; Portages: probably; Length: up to 6 km, plus the run-out (+10 km); Time: up to 5 hours

Season: year-round; rafts? yes, parts; Highlights: having an audience for your travertine falls hucking; Crux move: the big 5

Water Quality: good; Water Temperature: medium

PI: Agua Azul park (elev: 210m), or above park (elev: 285m); TO: river-right trail, or downstream at Agua Clara

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

The Agua Azul Falls are a classic stop on any Chiapas whitewater itinerary, or any tourist itinerary for that matter. The unending series of travertine falls are stunningly beautiful, especially when the water clears to a turqoise color, and provide a lot of plunking fun for boaters. The shallow lips of the grippy travertine falls and slow-moving pools means it is usually easy to scout your line, either in or out of your boat. Most of the falls are slides, or gently-sloping rapids, but there are some good vertical drops to try also. The Falls are a lot of fun but not to be taken lightly--not all the slides are smooth, and not all the pools are deep.

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater: Chiapas & Belize guidebook.

*note* This run is marked politically sensitive due to recurring political conflicts between the Agua Azul community and its Zapatista neighbors. Generally though there are no access issues for tourists or kayakers.

Flow Notes: There is a streamflow gauge downstream on the Río Tulijá, linked to below. Only a fraction of the flow here is from the Agua Azul, though. From my handful of visits, my opinion is that the higher the flow, the better for sliding, but a planing-hull kayak with thick plastic will provide fun any time of the year. Expect low, scrapy flows January to May. Below I also show historical flows at the Tulijá gauge. In addition, there is a rain gauge at the Falls which can give further clues about river conditions.

cfs graph

click here for the height graph

cfs graph
cfs graph

Accommodations: There are decent cabañas, and a guest house, right in Agua Azul. Otherwise Palenque, 1 hour away, is the area's main tourist center, with many hotels and campgrounds.

Nearby Tourist Attractions: This area has many natural and cultural tourist attractions, these very Falls being one of the primary ones. There is also the nearby Misol-Há waterfall and the impressive Mayan ruins at Palenque.

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