Remarkable Rivers: The Futaleufú River

Photo By Luis Dalvan

The Futaleufú River is one of the most well-known whitewater rivers in Patagonia. It's located in northern Patagonia and is one of only two rivers that crosses the 5,308 kilometer border between Chile and Argentina, with its headwaters starting at Los Alerces National Park. Locals refer to this valley as "un paisaje pintado por Dios" – a landscape painted by God.

The Futaleufú is 105 km (65 mi) in length with a 1,700 meters (5,600 ft) gorge drop. It is the longest river in Argentina, the second-longest in Chile, and the largest glacier-fed river in South America. It originates in the Andes Mountains in Argentina and empties into the Pacific Ocean at the port city of Punta Arenas.

The Futaleufú's main tributaries are the Cautín and the Villarrica, which join it at Villarrica Lake, the largest in its basin. All three of the "Futa’s" major tributaries can be kayaked or rafted in season with the exception of its magnificent gorge, “The Devil’s Throat,” on the Espolon.

Photo By André Ulysses De Salis

The river itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered sacred by some indigenous inhabitants, such as the local Mapuches, as it is believed to bring good luck and fertility when fishing. In fact, “Futaleufú” is actually an indigenous Mapuche word that translates to "Big River.”