Brazilian Whitewater Road trip including a female first decent.

Brazil! Maybe it makes you think of drum beats, Capoeira, bikinis, beautiful beaches and bustling cities. Now it makes me also think of excellent whitewater. In January I visited my friends Ana and Fabio in Brazil who introduced me to some Brazilian whitewater classics. While we had to navigate and adjust to rather low water we nevertheless got a taste for some of Brazil’s warm, jungley, technical runs. Our first stop was the Rio Dos Cedros was too low, so we continued on and spent 2 days at the Rio Benedito. Then we paddled what may have been the first female decent of the Paraiso section of the Itajai Açu followed by a fun lap just upstream from camp on the Atras do Vale section. Lastly we paddled the Radical section of the Rio Cubataõ before the water dropped out and Fabio needed to head home. While short and sweet it was a few great days days of shorty and shorts paddling, rock dodging ,boofs, jungle gawking and eating as much delicious and plentiful fruit as possible.

The Alto (upper) section of the Rio Benedito is a low volume, technical, mostly pool drop run. After hiking down through banana trees we put in at the power station (when its raining apparently the dryway upstream is also great!) and were quickly in the action. While there were a few drops we were happy to land scout, but the lines were generally friendly and following the flow of the brown water. The run was a super fun combo of chutes, slides, boofs, rock gardens, a dam with a runnable line (though not enough water padding the rocks at the bottom for my comfort) and concluding with a steep and long finale called Formiga (meaning ant) of a shallow boof, a twisty slide, some boogie water and a big rooster tail boof next to a munchy hole. This run was definitely a gem, lot of lines to choose from, spectacular jungle scenery and from what I heard great at a variety of different levels.

I have never paddled anything like the Paraiso section of the Itajai Açu. And from the recollection of the locals with whom we paddled, no women actually ever had until Ana and I padded it that day. A female first decent! The river bed was big and wide, scattered with huge boulders in a deep and defined river valley, yet for the size of the basin the river felt thirsty as the water flowed at a trickle. Imagine the Colorado or the Futa with barely 1000 cfs- rocky, meandering creeking as we zigzagged with the flow back and forth across the large riverbed. Such is the result of a hydro power station immediately up stream. When the tropical rains inundate this place and the dam is topped, this river gets the chance to fill its banks once more, but on this January day during a particularly dry summer we were on the river a minimal “ecological” flow. A healthy, if sobering reminder of the effect that dams can have on the rivers we love. It was nonetheless interesting to see the skeleton of a river like this and fun to wind our way through its boulder gardens and off its ledges. Given the maze we were navigating and the length of the run it was extremely useful to follow a local who could point us down the right channels and save potentially hours of scouting. This run is packed with sieves, very dangerous at high water and remote. If you find yourself there please be sure you are with someone who knows the run and/ or it is within your skill level. The higher volume Atras do Vale section of the Itajai Açu, while brief is a more easily accessible and commercially run section offering a more big water feel and variety of easier lines in an equally beautiful valley just upstream from camping at the raft companies. An easy evening lap after a day in Pariaso.

The Rio Cubataõ was a rocky pool drop play ground and while we caught the low water before it dropped out, the rapids were channelized enough to provide fun that was not too scrapey and commercial outfitters were still sending their smallest rafts down. The Radical section starts with an impressive but straight forward 20 or so foot drop before twisting through several slots and chutes offering good practice in micro eddy catching and precision in narrow lines.

Our road trip ended here, hungry for more but so also happy with the warm water, varied lines, great company and beautiful surroundings these Santa Catarina classics offered us.

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