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Stookesberry’s Top-10 River Trips:  From some of the most idyllic kayak destinations on the Planet, to some of the most challenging river expeditions I have ever undertaken, here are 10 highlights in my Kayaking world along with a more user friendly alternative.

Darin McQuoid first Descent Lower North San Joaquin

1.  Chiapas, Mexico – Rio Santo Domingo – Considered the steepest runnable whitewater in the world, the Santo Domingo is the Turquoise jewel of Latin America.  The place is sacred to the Chumala Indians and has no substitute that I have found anywhere on the planet. The full length of the river from a place called Las Margaritas 200+ miles to the confluence of the Jatate has still never been completed.  This is probably in no small part due to the fact that some times the river does a strange disappearing act into the subterranean grottoes of the Mexican Karst topography. For more information check out Kayak School Mexico.

The Rafa Ortiz cotemplates a place called Las Nubes on the Santo


class 4 alt. – Agua Azual – Not as remote or virgin as the Santo, but it is a gem in it’s own right.  Class IV abounds in the main viewing area, but the back channels and the spectacular grand finale downstream contain enough class V for any borderline hairboater.

Silvio Gurrieri, Ben, and Pato Valsecchi on the first and only descent of the Tunuyan

2. – Mendoza, Argentina -Rio Tunuyan:  An expedition to the Rio Tunuyan in Argentina is a trip back in time to early Andean trans-navigation.  Make contact with Caballeros in the small pueblo of Tunuyan before embarking on the expedition of a life time.  A horse and mule train will transport you and your gear over a 15,000 foot pass and into a remote valley at 9000 feet where the headwaters of the Tunuyan coalesce from multiple 20,000 foot peaks.  As for the river, it makes a spectacular descent through the high Andes that drops over 6000 feet to the Argentinian wine vineyards.  All the way the river pics up tributaries and speed and other than the first 5 miles of meandering river, there is no down time to speak of…  Contact  Silvio Gerrueri for more information.

class 4 alt. – Rio Diamante – Although only a day-trip and dam controlled, this 13 mile stretch of river has a wild feel that provides a fun relatively stress free romp through a dramatic Canyon.

3. BC – North Fork of the Stein: the North Stein is some of the most remote wilderness in Southern BC and for that reason it is a hell of a hike to get to the put – in.   Once there the slog is not over, and usually necessitating 6 hours of negotiating beaver-dams and other obstacles to get to the goods.  The last 2.5 km of the North Stein, where it drops into the main Stein, is a cascade steeper than but just as runnable as California’s South Silver that can be seen easily from plane or satellite recon.  From the confluence the fun is not over yet with another 2 days down the Main Stein where you are more likely to see bears than other bros on the river.   Contact Corey Boux for more information.

class 4 alt. – Stein: This is the more gentile and more costly entry to the Stein wilderness by float plane flight into Stein Lake.  You still get great boating on the Stein and amazing views of the North Stein on the Flight in.

Darin McQuoid first Descent Lower North San Joaquin

4. California – North Fork of the San Joaquin: If you ever wondered about the Central Sierras between Yosemite and the Kings this is it.   Remote, big mountains, crystal clear water, and one of the highest runnable falls in California. Beware as the bottom four miles of the North Fork into the Middle San Joaquin are as stout as they come with some big water action to follow on the main river for another 8 miles to the take out.  Maybe because of the final crux bottom section, the big water on the Middle San Joaquin, or most likely, the 6 mile 4000 foot hike out at the end to avoid the Crucible, most folks decide to just take on the upper section of the North Fork.   For more information go to

class 4 alt. – Upper Cherry:  This is one of the most beautiful runs in the Sierra, and at lower flows also one of the easiest.  The put-in for upper Cherry and the North Fork are only 2.5 hours apart and they run at exactly the same time.  You make the call.

Confluence of the Rio Turbio and Patria

5. Costa Rica – The Rio Patria: Depending on traffic out of San Jose, it can take less than an hour to get to a lonely roadside pull-off that marks the hike in point for the Rio Patria.  The Patria is a long day at fastest and is best tackled as a multi-day for first timers.  Like most rivers, the water level will define the excitement level, but at any level it is class V and offers a rare glimpse at virgin Central America.   Note:  Portage the most significant gorge and waterfall on the right.  We tried it on the left my first time and spent the rest of the night in a tree doing battle with vicious ants. Contact Ferdinand Steinworth for more information.

class 4 alt. – Upper Pacure:  A good warm up for more remote paddling in Costa Rica.

6.Chile – Rio Nevados: Incredible bedrock river that just keeps getting better (and harder) the further you go down stream.  Be aware that some parts of the river have only seen a few descents and that it’s best to catch this one early in the Chilean summer (Nov and Dec).  Contact Kayak Pucon for more information.

class 4 alt – Upper Palguin: Get warmed up and familiar with the rivers of Pucon with this classic waterfall strewn descent.

Photo Chris Korbulic

7. Mato Grosso, Brazil – Teles Pires: Like the gargantuan fish that inhabit the river, the rapids of the Teles Pires are matched by few other rivers in the world.  In the rainy season a flight over the Teles Pires is the only way to truely appreiate the magnitude of this mighty tributary to the Amazon.  Contact Portal Da Amazonia for more information.

class 4 alt. Lower Teles Pires:  From a fishing lodge called Portal de Amazonia, the river can be tested by going further and further upstream with the rapids becoming more and more violent.

8. Arunachal Pradesh, India – Dibong River: The Dibong is a Himalayan monster that may only be superseded by Tibet’s Yarlung Tsang Po Gorge and the the Rondu of the Indus in Ferocity.  Wait until the river get’s as low as it get’s in December and January and hang on for the ride of your life.  In the middle of the run is a place called the Mouse leap gorge where technical portaging and mandatory 5+ is the name of the game.  Contact for more information.

class 4 alt. – Lohit River: The Lohit may be the most un-class 4 of the class 4 alternatives, but can be quite manageable with a proper-water levels and a guide.  Many (including me)  have considered this one of if not the best rivers they have ever done.

9.  Uganda – Murchison Falls Section White Nile: No one will ever tell you that you should do the Murchison Falls section of the White Nile River.  You have to want to… And unless your like Hendri Coetzee, Pete Merrideth, Jane Dicey, or Tyler Bradt; you will never do it again.  According to Mr. Coetzee, “The murichison section is the VIP room in Africa, whose price of admission is simply the courage to do so.”  Just in case you were wondering, the whitewater is massive.   Contact Kayak The Nile for more information.

class 4 alt. – Jinja Section White Nile – Not as big as Murchison, but still plenty big, with PG in stead of R rated wildlife hazards.  Although the back channels are about to disappear due to Hydroelectric development, many of the classic spots and the biggest of the rapids still remain downstream.

Rafa Ortiz second descent Rondu Gorge and First Descent Entry Falls

10.  Pakistan – Rondu Gorge of the Indus River: And last but certainly not least the penultimate experience of my whitewater kayaking career, the Indus in Pakistan.  It’s like an 80 mile long big water, big canyon North Fork Payette with another 200 miles of river pioneered by Buz Hatch in pontoon boat that appears to be like the grand canyon of the Colorado, albeit: more voluminous and with more rapids.   Pinched into it’s cataracts and constrictions in a place where the Himalaya meet the Karakorum and Hindu Kush Mountains, glacier strewn peaks dwarf this mighty river.  Contact for more information.

Class 4 Alternative – The Gilgit river joins with the Indus just as it emerges from the Rondu and offers a smaller river with less gradient with still jaw dropping views of some of the highest mountains on earth.