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It snowed a lot in the Andes this winter and now that means high water for the paddling season in Chile! I write from the Futaleufu.

It is mid December and the river is still fluctuating around 130 on the bridge to bridge put in visual gauge. (However when we put it yesterday the gauge had just fallen over-uh oh) I hear from a long time seasonal resident in the valley that the last time the river was this high outside of winter time was 15-20 years ago. There talk all around town about the hot forecast in nearby Argentina, which means even more snow melt and therefore more water to let out of the dam upstream in Argentina…so who knows when the levels will drop!

What does that mean for this beloved aqua blue gem? Big water! It means enormous waves in Mundaca, big boils and stout eddy lines, laterals that send you 10 feet sideways and not a lot of places to stop and pause to catch your breath. While some rapids do seem a little tamer and flushed out perhaps, others run together with barely and eddy in between and in places where the river narrows or turn abruptly there is aggressive helical flow. Given all this excitement swimming is not an option and a bomber roll in hectic water is a must to put on. While enormous water can mean enormous fun it also should be taken seriously.

I have enjoyed, as on any river, seeing how hydrolic features change with more water and how many familiar features or markers are still there- just way more massive than more normal flows! So if you are coming to Futa this season- have fun! Launch off of big waves giggling and soak up the magic of this valley. And- treat the river with respect. Warm up on the Macall section to get a feel of the volume of water. Don’t rush to put on the bigger sections, be patient, so that once you are ready for the power of the Futa you will have the best time possible!

Oh and don’t forget to stash some cash in your pfd for some tacos at the bridge take out- the best in the valley for a mid run snack or a take out reward!