Rio Marañón

The best multi-day whitewater expedition in South America.
Guided or outfitted trips between a week and a month long.

Peru Kayak and Rafting

Rio Marañón – Peru

The Rio Marañón is the mainstem source of the mighty Amazon River. The Marañón features over six hundred kilometers of superb kayaking and rafting, from the high desert to the jungle. The river is split into three primary sections, the Upper Marañón, the Main Marañón, and the Lower Marañón. All three can be linked together in a single trip or outfitted individually with flexible put-in and take-out locations. Trips can range in length from a week to a month long.

A journey down the Marañón is an adventure of a lifetime. The river features outstanding whitewater, remote camping and hiking, visits to riverside villages, and many points of historical and natural interest.

The Marañón can be privately outfitted for a similar cost and gear quality to an outfitted trip down the Grand Canyon, with the added benefit of getting one or two helper guides that row their own boats and assist your trip. You can also opt for a fully guided adventure.

This guide is intended as a pre-trip planning resource, not a full guidebook. Want to have your specific Marañón questions answered or get help booking your trip? Check out our Planning FAQS or Get in touch.

Mega-dams and River Conservation

The Marañón is under threat of a series of proposed mega-dams. To learn more about the dams, their impact, and how to get involved, check out these resources:
The Roar of the Marañón (2021) – Marañón Waterkeeper’s feature-length documentary about the river, its communities, and the threat of the dams.
Conservamos Por Naturaleza – Up-to-date website. Translate the page to English for a thorough overview. The page includes a detailed storymap.

Marañón Planning FAQs

Reach out to us for outfitter questions and help coordinating your Marañón adventure.

Privately outfitted trips receive:
-Rafts/kayaks/IKs
-Food and beverages
-Kitchen set up, groover set up, water filters, med kits, etc.
-Helper guide(s) that assist in all aspects of the trip (boating safety, cooking, resupplies, village experiences).
The private outfitting service is very similar to the services offered on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. For a comparable price to an outfitted trip on the Grand Canyon, you will have the added benefit of getting one or two helper guides to assist your trip down the river.

Public & Private Guided Trips Receive:
-All of the services listed above but with a larger guide staff to guide the rafts and lead camp meals and amenities.

Costs vary depending on whether you join a fully guided expedition or use the guide-assisted private outfitting service.

For a group of 16, the private outfitting cost per person is roughly:
7 days = $780
14 days = $1200
24 days = $1700
28 days = $1900
Privately outfitted trips include 1-2 guides, depending on trip size, that assist in all aspects of the trip. The guides have local connections, making the logistics of visiting villages and scheduling resupplies significantly easier. The outfitting costs adjust with the size of the group.

To join a fully-guided public trip, the cost per person is roughly:
$2400 for Marañon (Upper) (10-11 days, includes flight from take out to a major city)
$2800 for Marañon (Main) (11-13 days includes flight from a major city to put-in)
Fully guided public trips have pre-scheduled launch dates and include guides for each raft on the trip. Private guided trips are possible upon request.

The Maranon sees much less rafting traffic than comparable experiences like the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. As such, it is good to have guides with experience on the river as rapids can change and new ones can develop between trips. Additionally, having local connections along the river is invaluable for resupplies and medical situations.

The Marañón is an excellent alternative to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Both rivers feature some of the greatest canyon scenery you can find in the world. A trip down the Marañón tends to be a more rugged adventure. Trips are more remote and the rapids change every year. There are biting midges. The Upper Marañón has considerably more difficult whitewater than the Grand Canyon. For paddlers seeking a self-sufficiency-oriented trip, many prefer the adventure of a trip down the Marañón to the more comfortable Grand Canyon.

Between the Upper and Lower Marañón, there are several hundred rapids, ranging from steep and technical class IV in the desert upper, to enormous brown-water class III in the jungle. The rapids vary by section and by season.

The Upper Marañón contains the most rapids, including two class V rapids with mandatory portages. The difficulty of the Upper is manageable at low-mid flows by solid class IV boaters. For a whitewater-focused trip, the upper should not be missed. Sections of the Upper are canyonized with rapids stacked for miles at a time. The rapids of the Upper Marañón are not safely raftable during the rainy season.

The Main Marañón, the most commonly rafted section, has a good blend of class II-IV whitewater. Difficulty is dependent on flow, as this section is runnable at high water which presents the opportunity to run some enormous features. At mid-high flows, comparing the rapids to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado is apt.

The Lower Marañón contains the jungle section, a rapid-filled portion of the river following several major confluences. The high water class III rapids tend to be followed by calm water. The features in the jungle rapids are big year-round.

Yes. You can join a public guided trip and kayak the entire river. Depending on group size, you can also book a private trip with your group kayaking and one or two helper guides rowing support boats.

Visiting the villages and farms along the Marañón is a highlight of many trips down the river. The guides have good relationships with the communities. Some visits are quick and just for resupplies of propane and water. Other times you will have the option to tour farms and eat at the homes and restaurants of locals. Almost all interactions are Spanish-only. The frequency with which you make these visits is up to your trip.

For reliable flows, the best time to go rafting on the Marañón is the dry season between May and the end of October. If you are looking for a high-water experience, November-April trips during the rainy season can be outfitted on the Main and Lower Marañón as well. What is best for your group depends on skill levels and interest in specific sections. The Upper Marañón is not raftable during the rainy season due to the danger of the canyonized sections at high flows.

Most of the raftable section passes through the desert. The weather on the Maranon is hot year-round. The air and water at the top of the Upper Marañón can be slightly cooler, but as you drop in elevation, both warm up quickly. Expect air temps in the 80s/90s for most of your trip. Water temps in the Main Marañón are usually around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the primary rafting season (May-November), biting midges are prevalent along the river. Bug spray and good clothing coverage are necessary. During the rainy season, mosquitos are present at some camps.

Trip Highlights

Upper Marañón • Class iV+ • 7-14 Day Trips Available

The Upper Marañón (IV+) starts in the high desert, with a put-in option at 7,000 ft of elevation. Trips can range from one to two weeks in length depending on put in and take out locations. Technical and abundant rapids, remote campsites, and stellar side-hikes characterize this region. Two class V portages require lining boats.

IV
Shapalmonte Rapid

A technical class IV rapid with a left-to-right move to avoid an enormous pourover. At lower flows the pourover is a 6-8ft drop. At mid-flows it transitions into a hole with substantial flip potential.

Yesojirca Narrows

The narrowest point on the river. The river constricts to only six feet wide in a steep rock gorge. To pass a raft through, it is necessary to ship your oars and fend off the sharp walls. Consider the width of the river given its status as the primary tributary of the Amazon – the narrows are an extraordinary place to visit.

Inner Gorge

An 80 km section of river with numerous class III-IVs and two class V rapids. Waterfalls cascade off the ceiba-lined cliffs, and continuous whitewater keeps the boating exciting. This is a world-class section of whitewater and is more challenging than anything found on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

V
Wasson’s Landslide

Wasson’s is a 400-meter-long rapid with at least one and sometimes several lined portage sections depending on group skill level. With a 5-6 boat trip, the portage can take 4-6 hours to complete. Groups have overnighted mid-portage before. Kayakers have run the entirety of the rapid. Wasson’s was discovered in 1977 by a group from Colorado that included John Wasson.


Main Marañón • Class IV • 7-14 day trips available

The Main Marañón (IV) starts in the mining town Chagual and continues for nearly 300 km to the Cumba Valley. This is the most popular section for rafting and kayaking, and is accessible to people of all skill levels, including children. The mountains in this section at times exceed 10,000 feet of relief between river and mountain top. The scenery is grand. Outfitter relations with the riverside communities are excellent, making for unforgettable visits to the villages. Trip lengths can vary based on preference, with multiple access points available for put in and take out.

Charcos

Located in a protected nature preserve, Charcos is a series of jungle swimming holes embedded in a steep granite streambed. You can easily climb to at least six different pools, each with a gorgeous view across the Marañón River valley. There is excellent beach camping at the closest access point to the pools.

Tupen Grande

A community of two hundred people with excellent relations to river runners. Trips to Tupen are the highlight of many people’s trips down the Marañón. Delicious home-cooked meals, soccer with locals, visits to the school, and outstanding hikes are all on the table. The town produces many types of fruit which can be sampled.

Amazon Cavern

An enormous cavern of igneous rock. The cavern is well over a hundred feet tall and has a depth of several hundred feet. The sandy floor of the cavern makes it an enjoyable place to pass the time, play games, and camp.


Lower Marañón • Class III+ • 7+ day trips available

The Lower Marañón (III+) starts in the Cumba Valley (80 km) and continues into the jungle of the Amazon basin for another 85 km. It is possible to extend further upon request. Several confluences all but guarantee big water in the jungle section. The week-long trip features big whitewater, lush surroundings, and unique cultural experiences.

Cumba Valley

The Cumba Valley is a wide-open, arid region with braided channels and high winds. The Cumba Valley is beautiful and stark. It serves as a divider between the preceding main Marañón Canyon and the Amazon jungle basin. Trips generally spend two days traveling through Cumba Valley.

IV
Duracachi Rapid III-IV

A Lava Falls-like rapid with an enormous two-thirds-width hole in the middle. A tight right line sets you up to duck the hole and hit a series of big standing waves.

Quebrada Najem

A perfect jungle waterfall plunges into a side canyon. You can pull your boat into the canyon and enjoy watching the sheer force of the waterfall.


Plan Your Adventure on the Rio Marañón

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