Kayaking the Rio Pacuare

Wild Whitewater through the Jungles of Costa Rica
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The Pacuare (pa-KWA-ray) is the quintessential tropical river. Along its course lie several densely vegetated gorges, which shelter jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, sloths, and an incredible variety of birds. The gorges also boast some of the best whitewater in all of Central America, ranging up to Class V in difficulty.

The Pacuare is the only river in Costa Rica where you can find such incredible offerings, not to mention virgin rain forest and easy accessibility. Other rivers such as the Telire and the Chirrip Atlantico can match the attractions of the Pacuare but require either a multi-day carry-in or the services of a helicopter.

There are several access points along the Pacuare other than the ones described below, but we believe these to be the best. The road to Tres Equis is convenient but it is privately owned and it will cost you a substantial fee to use it. The oxcart put-in gives an extra two miles of good rapids at a much lower cost: either a 1.7-mile carry or a small fee for the oxcart.

A Matter of Time? Unfortunately, the future of this tropical utopia is threatened by deforestation, which has shown its ugly face throughout most of Latin America's rain forests. Immediate threats come in the form of governmental plans to construct a massive hydroelectric dam at Dos Montanas. Through this narrow cleft flows a river with a large, dependable flow (average of 2,200 cfs) and the gorge itself provides an ideal dam site.

Completion of this project would, no doubt, supply a number of jobs during construction and a valuable commodity afterwards. Nonetheless, invaluable resources would be lost. If the 267-meter dam is completed, it will inundate the lower gorge all the way upstream to the Tres Equis put-in, along with its spectacular waterfalls, Indian villages, and precious wildlife habitat. To make matters worse, it is questionable whether the electricity produced is even needed.

The recently completed diversion projects on the Arenal River have nearly doubled the country's output of electricity—the ability of the domestic market to absorb a substantial increase in output during a period of slow economic growth is dubious.

Efforts to protect the lower gorge of the Pacuare by inclusion as part of Costa Rica's exemplary national park system are moving ahead sluggishly. We desperately hope that either preservationist legislation or economic conditions will force abandonment of this project.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 2 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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