Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Return to Mexico, Part IV: Rio Santa Maria

The Rio Santa Maria has several boatable sections, but the best whitewater is contained in the third and forth canyons. This section of river can be described best in three sections. The third canyon is four miles of mostly class III with one class IV+ rapid (that has been blocked by a large root ball for years), between the canyons is about four miles of moving water class I, and the fourth canyon consist of 5 miles of class IV with a couple of class V rapids thrown in the mix. Upon reaching the take out at the base of Cascada De Tamul, paddlers must climb a series of ladders to reach the top of the falls and then hike quite a ways upstream to a dead end road.

There are several "off river" logistical considerations to take into account when running the Santa Maria. First, you need an early start; it's a long run with a long take out. We woke up at 4:45, ate breakfast at 5:00 and were leaving our campsite before 6:00. This seems the perfect timing to give us plenty of time on the river so we didn't have to rush to not get caught out in the dark. Second, you need a shuttle driver. The shuttle is ungodly long on brutal roads and takes several hours one way. Our shuttle was easy this year because Shannon had decided not to paddle the Santa Maria and was able to drive shuttle for us.

Here is Dustin at the put in.

The action starts off slow in the third canyon as the walls rise.

Here are John and Dustin finishing up the portage of Funnel in the third canyon. Apparently this rapid has been blocked by a large root ball for many years.
Finishing portage number two around Triple Drop at the beginning of the forth canyon.

This is the last drop of a long rapid in the forth canyon. We ran the first two thirds together before I hopped out on a boulder to get out the camera.

This large warm spring emerged from the river left cliff and flowed into the Santa Maria. John and I scouted for a while because we wanted to run the rapid in its outflow, but eventually decided against it.
Upon reaching the end paddlers are treated to one of the most special places I have ever been... Cascade De Tamul

All too soon the joy of taking in Cascada De Tamul is replaced with the work of making our way out of the canyon up a series of sketchy ladders.

The Rio Santa Maria is a ultra classic run that should be on every Mexico paddler's list. The rapids are fun and the scenery is amazing. After climbing the ladders and hiking out to the road we discovered that Shannon was nowhere to be found. After pondering this for a few minutes we also notice there were not the normal amount of tire tracks and ruts that one would expect on the road to the areas most popular waterfall. As it turned out Shannon had gotten stuck while attempting to reach the takeout. Luckily a group of boaters from the US showed up and pulled her out. She waited for us with the truck about a half mile up the road where we hiked to and found her. All's well that ends well.
Until next time...

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