Rafting in Ecuador - Rio Upano
Rafting Ecuador's Rio Upano
Rio Upano Rafting - Whitewater Rafting Ecuador:
The Rio Upano, or "River of the Sacred Waterfalls," treats you to Class II-IV whitewater, mammoth waterfalls, lush rainforest scenery and native Ecuadorian tribes. This 8 day trip spends four days whitewater rafting deep in the Andes Mountains on the headwaters of the Amazon River. This trip offers a rare glimpse into an isolated portion of Ecuador and into the culture and history of the Shaur people, a tribe that was formerly known as the "Headhunters of the Amazon."
- Duration: 8 Days
- Intensity: Intermediate, Class III-IV
- Season: December
- Begins In: Quito, Ecuador
- Ends In: Quito, Ecuador
- Airport: Quito, Ecuador
Rio Upano Rafting - Whitewater Rafting Ecuador
ROW is a pioneer and leader in the white water rafting industry. We know what classic rafting trips are made of, and Ecuador's Rio Upano has it all. This is a great river for beginners and experts alike. The Rio Upano has challenging but manageable whitewater, incredible scenery, good hiking trails and beautiful riverside camps. Add the area's amazing cultural history, and contact with the Shuar Indians that live along the rivers banks and you've got a rafting adventure that's physically, mentally and spiritually invigorating.
ROW was invited to guide in Ecuador by Juan Fernandez Rodriguez, a native Ecuadorian and former ROW guide. Juan wanted to help develop a rafting program in his country, and in 1992 we spent six weeks exploring numerous forests, trails, villages, and cities in Ecuador. Our exploration included several first descents on rivers in Ecuador, including the Rio Upano in the province of Morona-Santiago.
In Ecuador's mountainous Morona-Santiago province, the rugged terrain and fast-flowing whitewater rivers of the Andes kept would-be explorers (and conquerors) away for centuries. Neither the Incas nor the Spanish were able to penetrate the isolated land of the Shuar Indians, formerly known as the "Headhunters of the Amazon," and famous for their practice of making shrunken heads. Much of the Shuar’s culture remains intact, but it's been influenced in the last century by missionaries and the slow influx of highland settlers.
On this Ecuador whitewater adventure, we'll fly from Quito to the remote town of Macas. Here, we board our rubber rafts and depart to explore this massive wilderness and land of the Shuar. The Rio Upano, or “River of the Sacred Waterfalls," is thrilling descent and one of the finest river trips in the world. Within hours of launching our rafts onto the river, we enter a jungle fantasy, full of toucans, egrets, oropendolas, and iridescent butterflies.
The whitewater rafting begins with alternating wide valleys and narrow canyons. Class III rapids provide plenty of continuous fun-filled roller coaster rides. We'll enter a towering canyon where massive waterfalls tumble hundreds of feet before crashing into the Rio Upano. The narrow canyon walls constrict the river and massive boulders create numerous Class III and IV whitewater rapids, guaranteeing an action-packed ride.
Along with seasoned ROW river guides, a Shuar guide will join each Rio Upano departure. Throughout the trip, we stop to visit with Shuar families. Living in traditional palm-thatched houses near the river, the Shaur will share pieces of their fascinating culture and remote jungle lifestyle with us. You'll get an insider's view of this indigenous culture, their belief system, and the intricate web of life that links their culture to this fragile rainforest ecosystem.
After each rafting adventure on the Rio Upano, we drive to Cuenca in Ecuador's southern highlands. Cuenca is a charming colonial city. Here, we'll explore the main cathedral, museums, riverside parks, and artisan shops that make this one of the country's most interesting cities.
ROW provides all camping equipment, from sleeping bags and tents to tables and chairs, and our guides prepare all meals on the river. When traveling to a remote river in a far-off destination, ROW’s 30 years of whitewater rafting guide experience is paramount to your safety and enjoyment.
If you need to purchase some gear before your whitewater rafting trip, ROW has assembled the more common items at our ROWear online store, hosted by New Headings.
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- Why ROW
Rio Upano Rafting - Whitewater Rafting Ecuador
ROW's Rio Upano whitewater trips are operated by Travel Ecuador, a licensed and registered travel company in Ecuador owned by former ROW guide, Juan Rodriguez. Several of our US-based guide staff travel to Ecuador each winter to help guide Rio Upano rafting trips. Travel Ecuador has run over 30 commercial rafting trips on the Rio Upano and offers you a depth of knowledge about the river and surrounding area that no other outfitter can match.
Rio Upano Rafting - Whitewater Rafting Ecuador - Itinerary
DAY 1 ~ Saturday: Fly to Quito
Leave your hometown and fly to Quito, the venerable colonial capital of Ecuador, cradled beneath simmering volcanic peaks.
Upon your late evening arrival, transfer to the group hotel.
Hotel Hilton Colon
Note—Quito, at 9,000 feet in elevation, is an intriguing colonial city. Visitors are tempted by its charms and don't want to miss any of them. If you have the time, it's a good idea to fly in a day or two early.
DAY 2 ~ Sunday: City Tour
Today we will embark on a walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage city, capital of Ecuador. The colonial town center is fascinating. Free time in the afternoon for shopping.
Hotel Hilton Colon … B,L
DAY 3 ~ Monday: Flight Quito - Macas
You will be picked up at 10:00 a.m. to be transferred to the airport to catch your flight to Macas (not included in Land Cost). We check into our modest lodge and enjoy a stroll around this small frontier town. Before dinner we’ll meet the river guides and have an orientation meeting to answer river-related questions and receive waterproof bags to pack.
B,L,D…Cabañas del Valle
DAYS 4-6 ~ Tuesday – Thursday: On the river
Drive a for couple hours to the Río Upano where our rafts are waiting. The elevation is about 3,000' and the climate warm and pleasant. The indigenas who live here, called the Shuar, cross the river on balsa rafts (papanks) which we see tied up along the shore. Occasionally we float past a few acres of cleared forest where papaya, plantains, or pineapple have been planted. Living off the land, the Shuar plant, hunt, and harvest fish (we drift by their wooden fish traps in the river’s side channels). On the second day we’ll stop at a small village and visit with some of these people who have become our friends.
Each day we make camp around 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. on a large beach. We’ll have time to swim in tributary streams, may see more than two dozen varieties of butterflies, and many birds, including oropendolas, egrets, parrots, birds of prey, and numerous songbirds.
As we proceed downstream into virgin rainforest, our contacts with people diminish. But we become increasingly aware of the enormous complexity of the rainforest. Every acre has hundreds of plant species, and at camp and on the river we learn from the river guides and local Shuar guide about this unique ecosystem and its importance to the world.
Floating on, we enter a spectacular gorge with frequent and magnificent waterfalls, ribbons of white cascades several hundred feet high. The change of water volume from start to finish is astounding. We put in on a medium-sized river of about 2,000-5,000 CFS (cubic feet per second), but by the time we reach our take-out about 65 miles later, the river has at least tripled in volume and is over 50 yards across in some places. With numerous Class II/III rapids and a few Class IV, there’s plenty of excitement!
B,L,D each day…Camp
(Note—Water levels can fluctuate dramatically based on rainfall, making the overall nature of this trip more Class IV than Class III. Previous rafting and camping experience is recommended.)
DAY 7~ Friday: Return to Quito
We reach our take-out point, load into a bus, and head back to Macas (three hour drive). We will take out flight back to Quito, and lunch, you will be free to get some rest before the farewell dinner.
B,L, D…Hotel Hilton Colon
DAY 8 ~ Saturday: Fly home
Transfer to the airport and depart on homeward-bound flight, or continue your adventure in Ecuador on one of our special extensions.
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