Chile’s Rio Futaleufú challenges world’s best rafters

The deep blue glacial waters of this Patagonian river have become a haven for international kayakers and rafters looking to test their skills in an idyllic setting.

The Rio Futaleufú, known locally as «the Futa,» is recognized around the world as not only one of the most beautiful rivers, but also one of the best for whitewater sports. It’s annual kayak and rafting festival, held in February, routinely draws in fearless athletes looking to tame the river’s relentless rapids.

Celebrating its fifth year this past month, the event, Futa Fest, saw 110 competitors from 14 different countries arrive on the banks of the Futaleufú, along with hundreds of spectators cheering on the brave athletes. in addition to highlighting the whitewater sports, the festival is also a great way for the local community to showcase the beauty of the river and surrounding areas.

“For the fifth year this sporting event has come to demonstrate that the Rio Futaleufú is one of the top locations to practice these sports at the highest level,” said Fernando Ortúcar, the director of Chile’s national tourism service, Sernatur, for the Los Lagos Region where the river is located.

“In this sense the festival brings us pride that each year the event is held [the area] gains more international recognition, which without a doubt beings benefits for local and national tourism efforts,” he added.

Futaleufú’s class V rapids are the perfect setting for the international event, and Chile’s own whitewater champions are excited to show off their home turf. Marcos Gallegos, a kayaker from Chaitén, also in Chie’s Los Lagos Region, took first place in freestyle kayak at Futa Fest 2014 as well as second place in Boatercross. The winning athlete said that in addition to the awards he takes home from the event, he is proud to share this river with top international competitors.

“Each year many more well-known kayakers who are looking forward to the competition,” Gallegos said. “The Rio Futaleufú is incredible, it is a great school, since I was 18 years old I have been on that river every day and I have learned this discipline,” the kayaker said.

The river isn’t just for the world’s leading athletes. Yes last November CNN named “the Futa” one of the 15 best rivers for travelers, offering rafting, fly fishing, and many other outdoor adventures for any enthusiastic tourist.