After the Middle 13, the rivers eases somewhat for the last few miles before the normal put in for the day stretch–a tiny town called San Juan (it’s not really a town, but there are 3 house there). The real trick to doing this run is getting lucky and having clear weather for the 2 or 3 days you take to do the run. Too low of water is no good because it’s a damn rocky run and you want things to be padded out, but too high of water can be ruinous to your paddling trip! For a full write up on this run (including what happens when you get rained on and have high water on the Upper Oyacachi) check out Darcy’s article in American Whitewater
While the Upper Oyacachi is awesome, the suffering to fun ratio make it a trip you want to do once a year at most. But the regular run on the Oyacachi is a whole different ball game. I’d do that run everyday if I could! From the day stretch put in up at San Juan the river, during normal flows, is incredibly fun Class IV+/V-. Boulder gardens, boof, and big water-feeling moves all abound in this 6-mile stretch. When the water is high, you can still run this part of the river, but be ready for big water Class V. It’s a hoot, but don’t expect to see any eddies!
When you put in at San Juan it’s off to the races immediately with about 1.5 miles of non-stop IV+/V-. At regular flows, there are eddies in this stretch, but don’t waste your time looking around for any pools! You’ll want to make sure you are well-conditioned for the non-stop character of this section. For people who aren’t quite up to the full-on start of the Oyacachi from San Juan, you can put in at a hanging bridge about 2 miles downstream from San Juan. Some of the biggest rapids on the day stretch still lay below this bridge, but the rapids are slightly more spread out with a few more breaks giving the river a more IV/IV+ feel.
For the III+ or IV- boater who is just getting into creeking, the Oyacachi also offers you a section, albeit, a very short one. You can put in about 1 mile upstream of the Oyacachi/Quijos confluence. Using this put in, you’ll have the option of running 1 Class IV rapid right at the put in, then you’ll have 3/4 of a mile of fun Class III+/IV- “boogie water” and then 1 last solid Class IV rapid right before the take out. Even though it’s super short, it’s a great introduction to the Rio Oyacachi. While paddling this run, don’t forget to look for the famous Andean Cock of the Rock. This brightly colored bird is a rare prize for avid bird watchers; but us lucky kayakers get to see them on a regular basis on the Rio Oyacachi.
So, whether you are a seasoned expedition kayaker or just cutting your teeth in the creek boating world; don’t miss the Oyacachi on your trip to Ecuador!