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Río Chixoy, canyon run, Guatemala (area: Cobán; click here for the Guatemala table of rivers)

river photo

Class: IV; Ave. Gradient: 8 m/km; Portages: yes; Length: 17 km; Time: 4 to 5 hours + hike in

Season: June to February; rafts? extreme; Highlights: amazing canyon and side springs; Crux move: the drive and hike in

Water Quality: decent; Water Temperature: medium

PI: La Pita (445m); TO: Quixal powerhouse (307m)

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

The Río Chixoy Canyon run has the country’s most spectacular setting. Measuring about 6,000 feet, it is the deepest canyon in Guatemala, with steep canyon walls draped in pristine jungle. The water is a captivating aquamarine color at the beginning and becomes an emerald green by the end. In the middle are some marvelous cascading springs. If you have the car and the legs to get you there, just do it.

A full description is in the Mayan Whitewater Guatemala guidebook.

Descent History: This was first run by kayakers Ben Harding and Filip Sokol in 1977.

Flow Notes: This run almost always has enough water to run mid-June to January. By February the levels are usually getting very low (< 200 cfs) but still worth doing. In rainy periods you may see over 1,000 cfs at the PI. On our high-water trip when the dam was spilling, we had 3,500 cfs at La Pita. While the river was unrecognizable, it was just as runnable though it took us longer since we scouted more. However, I prefer the late November to early January flows in the 350 to 600 cfs range. (For more information on the dam operation see the Dam Run description.)

The downstream Chixoy can give some hint to the level. I only have one data point, though: in 2014, 1.8 on the San Augustin gauge gave 800/2000 cfs at the PI/TO, which was higher than ideal in my opinion.

cfs graph

Nearby Tourist Attractions: Tubing trips are offered on the upstream section of the Río Chixoy. Contact Chicaman's Oficina Municipal de Turismo at 7763-3550 or 4015-8703.

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