100 km (62 miles), class III-IV, 7 days

Oct22 (2015); rendezvous in Tuxtla Gutierrez. RESERVE

Río La Venta offers one of the most unique river trips in the world. Paddle through a vertical-walled limestone canyon with challenging rapids, caves, springs and ancient human remains. Experience some of what central Chiapas has to offer and get a taste of what the splendor of the Sumidero Canyon was about. This trip is suitable for raft paddler or for advanced kayakers.



Río La Venta is a small tributary of Río Grijalva, the second largest river in Chiapas. Río La Venta flows through a protected reserve with the unique "ocote" coniferous trees that were utilized by the ancients for firestarting material and incense. This river starts in the higher more arid areas of Chiapas near Tuxtla Gutierrez but does not drain the city so is relatively clean.

Our journey will traverse most of the length of Río La Venta in IKs, kayaks and rafts. We will spend 6 days paddling down the ~100 km of river to Presa Malpaso, passing through challenging rapids of class III and IV difficulty, and portaging around three class V-VI boulder jumbles. In fact, the river passes through a cave of 300m length! In general, this trip is best suited to kayakers with class III or IV (solid roll required) or to raft paddlers.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS: Chiapas is full of natural wonders and Mayan ruins. See this slideshow for a taste of a few main attractions. While you are down here, you definitely will want to visit the ruins of Palenque and possibly also check out some other paddling runs. Greg Schwendinger's MayanWhitewater.com website has descriptions of many runs, including class III Río Chocoljá and class III Río Shumuljá. There may be a few days of class III-V kayaking before or after the trip. Also, if you are competent enough (class IV or V kayaker), you might consider joining Rocky for kayak descents of Ríos Santo Domingo, Paxilhá, Agua Azul, lower Tulijá, or possibly some new exploratories.

The itinerary is modifiable, especially if you make your deposit early and/or your group consists of most people on the trip. Please describe what you'd like to do, and we may make changes. Otherwise, this is the planned schedule.

DAY 0: everyone meets in Tuxtla at hotel
DAY 1: drive to put-in bridge across Río La Venta; rig and paddle to first camp; class II; ~5 km
DAY 2: pass Reserva; Cascada Aguacero; class III-IV; ~15 km
DAY 3: explore Cueva Honda (20km-long cave); class III-IV; ~10 km
DAY 4: various rapids and two portages; class III-IV; ~15 km
DAY 5: Cueva del Río; Derrumbe portage; class III-IV; ~15 km
DAY 6: paddle out to Presa Malpaso; final Campamento Reserva; ~20 km
DAY 7: motorboat ride out on reservoir; ride back to Tuxtla

[ END TRIP at Quiringuïcharo]

he price includes getting you from Tuxtla to the river and back to Tuxtla from the take-out. Tuxtla Gutierrez is a the capital of Chiapas and a medium-sized city with many hotels and restaurants and with an airport with regular flights from Mexico City (and the USA). Tuxtla is also only 1 hr drive from San Cristóbal de las Casas, the most charming colonial city in Chiapas and definitely worth a stay of an extra day or two. There are numerous other attracions in the surrounding area, including caves, waterfalls, coffee plantations, the Cascadas Agua Azul, and the ruinas de Toniná.

Tuxtla Gutiérrez (TGZ) is the airport that serves Tuxtla and all of Chiapas, and is approximately a 30 min drive from the main city. You can find flights into here from AeroMexico, Volaris, VivaAerobus, Interjet, and US-carriers with code-share partnerships with AeroMexico (i.e., United, American, AlaskaAir, Delta).

This trip is being run to increase appreciation of the river and help preserve this unique natural resource. We welcome everyone: raft passengers, raft paddlers, raft rowers, kayakers, IKers, and guides. The pricing policy has been carefully considered and takes into account the costs associated with running the trip, the services offered, and what other outfitters charge for similar long multi-day trips. Our contribution schedule can be viewed at:

Contribution guidelines: General

Trips of similar length offer a guideline for the pricing on trips not listed. We strongly encourage potential participants to offer the general contribution rate if possible. Special discounts are sometimes offered to folks on our email list, so you are encouraged to sign up (Email List info).

If interested in joining a trip, start a discussion by sending Rocky a note (rocky@sierrarios.org) stating how you found out about the trip and a little background info about you and your paddling experience and what dates might work for you. Once you get the go-ahead from Rocky, you will need to provide a deposit to reserve your place on the trip. The balance must be received prior to trip commencement. See PAYMENTS for payment options.

A trip will definitely occur with a minimum of 6 participants. Other launch dates can be arranged for groups of 4 or more. For small groups wishing to minimize costs by sharing some expenses, we can list the additional launch date here tentatively to see if others might be interested in joining to make a full trip.

As of Nov 2014, participant totals stand at:

0 Oct22 (2015) launch

We reserve the right to cancel the trip 2+ months in advance. This generally will occur only if there are not enough folks signed up (<12). If we cancel the trip, all deposits and payments will be refunded. 

If you must cancel, you'll get your money back if you find someone to take your place on the trip. If you don't find someone, we may allow much of the payment to be applied to a future trip (at our discretion). The amount depends on the circumstances surrounding the cancellation.

(1) Rocky Contos is a potential trip leader. He is fluent in Spanish, explored nearly every river in Mexico, solo kayaked the entire Jataté-Lacantún-Usumacinta in early 2010, successfully led six raft/kayak trips down the Usumacinta (e.g. see Dec2011 and Jan2012, kayaked the entire Lacanja in 2011 (Lacanjá1 and Lacanjá2) and led a successful Lacanjá expedition in 2012, wrote the guidebook to Chiapas and the guidebook to the Sierra Madre Occidental, and is preparing guidebooks for the rest of Mexico. In Mexico, he has ~200 probable first descents covering ~8,000 km of river and ~55,000 m of drop. He also discovered the most distant source of the Amazon and made the complete first descent of the entire river and all the headwater streams. He has paddled over 150 multi-day journeys on rivers, with dozens in the range of 5-22 days. While attaining his Ph.D. in neuroscience, Rocky worked as a kayak instructor and guide for UCSD's Outback adventures from 1993-1996 and gained valuable trip planning skills for large groups. Although primarily a kayaker, Rocky started rafting in the mid-1990s in order to introduce more people to the wonders of river travel. Since then and throughout his years as a postdoctoral research associate, he organized numerous large group raft and kayak expeditions. He will captain a raft or safety kayak as necessary.

(2) Alejandro Quiroga (tentative trip leader) is a rafting/climbing/general guide who lives in San Cristobal, has paddled/guided Río La Venta several times, and co-guided SierraRios Lacanjá and Usumacinta trips. Alejandro will likely be guiding his 14' NRS raft on the trip with paddlers and gear onboard.

(3) Safety kayaker. Other guides and safety kayakers to be determined.

(click here)

(click here)

(click here)

(click here)

Several folks on the trip, including Rocky, are trained in wilderness first aid, and we can provide medical attention to injuries.  We will have one major first aid kit and one minor kit.  Our first aid kit will have some pharmaceuticals such as ibuprofen, anti-allergy pills, immodium, and possibly antibiotics, but if you think you might suffer from something in particular, please bring yourself (especially a dose of ciprofloxacin or similar if you can get it easily).  Probably the most common ailment folks suffer from sometimes is gastrointestinal distress or traveler's diarrhea.  You should try to minimize chances of suffering from it by avoiding potentially dirty foods before and during the trip. If you do end up suffering diarrhea, vomiting, nausea more than a day, you might consider taking ciprofloxacin for a few days  (this generally makes the problem go away quickly).

For more information on recommended vaccinations and other health issues, visit the CDC page for travelers and select your country to visit: in this case "Mexico".  Anyone traveling to Chiapas should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A. You might consider Rabies and Typhoid immunizations as well. 

The violence in Mexico surrounding the drug war has been in the news a lot in the past three years. The violence is generally restricted to drug traffickers (narcos) and those associated with them, including law enforcement. As such, we are not likely to be harassed or molested in any way related to the drug war. For further discussion of the drug war and safety concerns, click here. Note that Río Lacanjá, in particular, is one of the safest in Mexico as it flows through a biosphere reserve with no drug activity and nobody around.
This river has never experienced the assaults previously common on the Usumacinta and never had suspicious residents stopping tourists (like on the Jataté and various other rivers in Chiapas and Guatemala).

The other aspect of safety is prevention of accidents. It is of utmost importance that you take all precautions necessary to avert injury, sickness, and complications while on the trip. As guides, we are there to help get you safely to the river, down it, and back out, but cannot guarantee against accidents. You must accept the responsibility for what happens on the river if you are in control of your craft. If you are concerned about the whitewater or other aspects, it is your responsibility to make appropriate decisions whether to run the rapid or not and to stay close to someone who can watch and oversee you (if you desire that level of protection). If an accident occurs, we will do all in our power to help you, see that proper care is rendered, or evacuate you if need be. Rocky is trained as Wilderness First Responder and will administer appropriate emergency medical care if needed. We will have two basic first aid kits available. We will also carry a SPOT device for emergency communicaton and/or a satellite phone for emergencies and changes of plan.

The dates of this trip coincide with generally medium levels on Río La Venta, allowing for good progress and filling in the rapids well. Although this river can fluctuate, the average flow in Oct-Nov in the past has been ~40 cms (1200 cfs) midway through. In general Oct-Nov is the end of the rainy season with a good amount of sunshine and warmish temperatures, but it can always be wet and cool. In general, highs will be 25-30oC (78-86oF) and lows 10-20oC (50-68oF), but it can be cooler during rainy weather.


"Just wanted to say thanks again for the awesome trip. I've never been on a jungle river before and now I can't wait to do another one. A really incredible experience." [2012 Lacanjá trip]
Sam Morrison, guide for R.O.W. in Idaho and kayaker on Lacanjá

"Hi Rocky, Thanks again for a sensational and unforgettable trip. You did such an amazing job organizing. I especially am psyched to have met you and to have another kayak friend/guide to work with. You guiding me off the waterfall was a big highlight... Erik." [2011b Usumacinta trip]
Erik Weihenmayer, blind mountaineer/author and budding kayaker (see www.TouchTheTop.com )

"You led one of the best trips I've ever been on... and I've been on a lot. " [2011b Usumacinta trip]
Chris Wiegand, former olympic runner and C1 paddler, founder of Sportainability and guide for Erik Weihenmayer

"Thanks for everything man, it was a trip of a lifetime ... We´ll be in touch and I look forward to conquering new rivers in the future. Salud, Eric" [2011b Usumacinta trip]
Eric Bach, Modern Gypsy (see www.TheModernGypsies.com)

"Hey Rocky, Thanks for the great trip... Looking forward to another trip down the road. John"
[2011b Usumacinta trip]
John Post, Modern Gypsy (see www.TheModernGypsies.com)

"Great synopsis of a fabulous trip. Expect to hear more from Team Weihenmayer in the future... Cheers, Rob. " [2011b Usumacinta trip]
Rob Raker, climber extraordinaire and guide for Erik Weihenmayer (also see here)

"Thanks again for the great tour and the late-night excitement, Greg" [2011a Usumacinta trip]
Greg Scwhendinger, kayak explorer of Chiapas and Central America (see www.MayanWhitewater.com)

"Thanks for everything, Rocky! What a blast that all was.  When's our next trip?!! -Suzy" [2011b Usumacinta trip]
Suzy Garren (Oakland, CA), former Grand Canyon trip participant.

[2011 Mulatos-Aros trip]
ike Doktor (Portland, OR), former raft guide for Ken Warren Expeditions