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Rafting Guide

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Rafting is a sport that consists of sailing the waters of rough rivers on pneumatic vessels or rafts that are maneuvered by expert guides who usually sit on the back of the raft. The rest of the participants are located on the sides, from where they help to control vessel.  

Rafting is one of the most popular adventure sports, because practising it does not require a lot of preparation. The rafts usually seat between 4 and 8 passengers, and the difficulty and risk depend on the flow of the river, for each route covers a certain distance and a difficulty level (between 1,5 and 35 km).

This sport can be practised by families, enjoying the journey through easy rivers, but also by those who like the extra adrenaline proportioned by waterfalls and rapids.


Rafting was initially developed by navigators, who sailed rapids and water inclines in small boats and rafts. These abilities, necessary for exploring, hunting, and fishing, would later become a very popular form of entertainment in several regions of Europe and the United States.

Nowadays, several international rafting competitions are held. Emerging in the 50's, they have been historically dominated by the Europeans.

Classification of rivers according to their difficulty level

  • Class I: Easy. Rapid flow with small waves and meanders. Few obstructions, all of which are obvious and easily surmountable with little training. The risk is low and self rescue is¬†easy.
  • Class II: Beginner.¬†Direct¬†rapids, with clear and broad canals which are evident without previous exploration. Occasional maneuvering is required, but rocks and medium size waves are easily surmounted by trained paddlers. Little risk for swimmers, and group help is rarely required.¬†¬†¬†
  • Class III: Intermediate. Rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping a canoe. Narrow rapids that often require complex maneuvering and a precise control of the vessel. Big waves and strainers are easily avoidable. Previous exploration is recommended for non-experts. Injury to swimmers is rare and self-rescue is easy, but may require¬†from the group to avoid prolonged swims.¬†
  • Class IV: Advanced. Powerful, intense,¬†predictable rapids, that require precise maneuvering in¬†their turbulent waters. Depending on the characteristics of the river, large waves and holes may require¬†fast maneuvering under pressure. Quick eddy turns are necessary to initiate other maneuvers, explore the rapids, or rest. Scouting¬†is often necessary, and¬†water conditions make self rescue a very difficult task. Group assistance is necessary and requires previously developed skills.
  • Class V: Expert. Extremely long, violent, and unobstructed rapids, which expose paddlers to big risks. Descents may present large, unavoidable waves and holes, steeps falls, and demanding and complex routes. There may be long distances between backwaters,¬†which requires an¬†excellent physical condition. Scouting is mandatory, and sometimes can be hard. Swimming is dangerous, and rescues are difficult even for experts.
  • Class VI: Extreme. This class of rapids is an example of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. Mistakes will lead to serious injuries¬†and rescue may be not possible. For expert teams¬†only, provided that all the necessary precautions have been taken.¬†


Rafting in Chile

Chilean rivers are a hot destination for "white water" fanatics. They are perfect for practicing both rafting and kayaking. The rivers that get¬†most of the attention are¬†B√≠o-B√≠o and Futaleuf√ļ, both of which are¬†class V. The other Chilean rivers fluctuate between classes¬†III and IV.

Nevertheless, rafting in more tranquil waters is becoming an excellent choice for family trips, which combine the fun of descending a river while enjoying the scenery and nature.

Rivers for practicing rafting in Chile:
Central Chile

  • Maipo River: Regi√≥n Metropolitana, in the Melocoton sector, 22 kilometers (14 mi) from the small village of Guayacan. Season: from spring to summer. Class III and IV
  • Teno River: VII Region. Spring. Class III
  • Maule River: VII Region.¬†Spring. Class III
  • Claro River: VII Region. Located in the Radal 7 Tazas National Reserve. Its waterfalls characterize it

Araucanía and Lakes

  • B√≠o-B√≠o River: VIII Region. Southeast of Los¬†√Āngeles. Class V.
  • Trancura River: IX Region.¬†14 kilometers¬†from¬†Puc√≥n.¬†November to March. Class¬†III¬†and IV.
  • Petrohu√© River: X Regi√≥n.


  • Futaleuf√ļ River: X Region. Located 155 kilometers¬†southeast from¬†Chait√©n. From mid January to mid¬†March. Class V
  • Espolon River: X Region. It is considered¬†the training river for the Futaleufu
  • Baker River: XI Region of Aysen. Located 10 kilometers¬†northeast of Cochrane. Summer. Class V
  • Serrano River: XII Region. Class I.

For more suggestions, check out our Destinations guide.


Equipment & Recommendations

In order to go rafting you only need adequate clothing for the season. Due to the low water temperature of some rivers, neoprene suits are used to insulate you from cold and humidity. Besides, rocks are always present, and falling from the raft is not rare, so wearing a helmet and a life jacket is essential.

The rest of the equipment is supplied by the agency with which you book your tour. This is the standard equipmet for going rafting: 

  • Raft
  • Paddles
  • Life jacket
  • Helmet
  • Neoprene suit
  • Bathing suit or clothes for getting wet



  • Choose¬†a reputable and experienced agency.
  • Demand qualified guides and complete safety equipment.
  • Being a good swimmer¬†is a great advantage.


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