RÍO PIAXTLA: Deepest Canyon in Mexico

183 km (108 miles), class III (some optional IV), 7 days

Aug-Sep: rendezvous in Mazatlán . RESERVE NOW

Join an expedition on Río Piaxtla as we charter a flight up into the deepest canyon in Mexico, and then paddle all the way to the Pacific Ocean on a relatively easy whitewater river. This is one of the last free-flowing rivers in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental, but there are plans to dam it , so enjoy it while you still can! We welcome everyone: kayakers, IKers, and raft passengers. VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

slideshow: PIAXTLA_2000
slideshow: PIAXTLA_Upper
slideshow: PIAXTLA_Main
slideshow: PIAXTLA_ClassV


Río Piaxtla flows through the deepest canyon in Mexico [over 2400 m (8000 ft) deep on either side] and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers of the Sierra Madre Occidental. As such, it is a very special river journey to experience, especially since a dam may be constructed soon. The trip will roughly be a deepest point-to-sea expedition. Anyone wanting to join is welcome: kayakers, rafters, and raft passengers/paddlers – bring your own boat or use one of ours. Space is limited on the flights and for raft passengers/paddlers. This trip is particularly suited to intermediate and novice kayakers, who can ride in the paddle raft through the tougher class III-IV upper sections and then enjoy kayaking several days of mostly class II water as we make our way to the ocean. Come join an historic second descent of the upper Río Piaxtla – a gem destined to be one of the most popular trips in Mexico. Continue the journey all the way to the ocean on a free-flowing river, something you may not be able to do for much longer.

Schematic map showing the relative location of Río Piaxtla in Mexico. It's mouth is a little north of Mazatlán in the state of Sinaloa.

Day 0: rendezvous with participants in Mazatlán
DAY 1: fly San Ignacio to Tayoltita (1 hr drive+1 hr flight); start hike up to deepest canyon point
DAY 2: Upper: finish hike and paddle back to Tayoltita; class IV; ~25 km
DAY 3: Main; finish rigging rafts and head downstream; class II-III; ~40 km
DAY 4: Main; class II; arrive to and explore San Ignacio; ~40 km
DAY 5: Lower; class II; explore San Ignacio; camp downstream; class II; ~40 km
DAY 6: Lower; class II; play waves; diversion dam; end at mouth; camp near/at ocean playa; ~40 km
DAY 7: play in surf; de-rig; drive back to Mazatlán; end

This trip is being run to increase appreciation of the river and foment opposition to the planned dams.
We welcome everyone: raft passengers, raft paddlers, raft rowers, kayakers, IKers, and guides. No prior rafting experience is required to join a trip. We offer professional level service similar to other established outfitters. The general costs of this and other trips is listed at: COSTS

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 a note stating how you found out about the trip and a little background info about you and your paddling experience, what dates might work for you, and what sections of the expedition you are most interested in joining. Once you get the go-ahead, 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.

We will have a vehicle to pick you up in Mazatlán and transport you to the river and back. Depending on the number of paying participants, this vehicle might be a large pickup (5-person capacity), Suburban (7- or 9-person capacity), or combination of the two. We plan to charter a flight from San Ignacio up to Tayoltita or a point on the rim and make our way back to San Ignacio and then all the way to the ocean. The planes can handle 6 passengers each.

(click here)

(click here)

(click here)

(click here)

The violence in Mexico surrounding the drug was has been in the news a lot in the past three years. The violence is confined to drug traffickers (narcos) and those associated with them, including law enforcement. In addition, the river we will be journeying down did not have any marijuana cultivation visible near it, and we are likely to encounter few residents. Locals from Sahuaripa will accompany us to the put-in and from the take-out, facilitating positive interactions. We may even have one such person in guide training on the raft. 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.

Independent of the drug war, there has always been potential danger for assault in Mexico by armed bandits (bandidos). This is not different now as it was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Such risk is common in any third world country where citizens are very poor. In the event of assault, we will do all we can to protect our clients and ourselves, but may have to sacrifice our possessions. Since we can never guarantee against such assault, you must agree not to hold us liable for consequent personal injury/damage/loss you sustain on this outing.

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 was trained as a Wilderness First Responder and can administer appropriate emergency medical care if needed. We will have two basic first aid kits available. We will also carry a satellite phone for emergencies and changes of plan.

We have timed this trip to coincide with highest probability of encountering good river flows in the Piaxtla. In September, flows average ~50 cms (1700 cfs) at Tayoltita. It is very likely (~80% chance) that we will have 10-150 cms (350-4500 cfs) during our trip, but there are slim chances it will be higher (10%) or lower (10%). Water levels can fluctuate rapidly due to spotty intense thunderstorms that are characteristic of the monsoon season in the region. At low water the river may not seem as difficult. At high water, the water moves faster and big hydraulics develop. It is important that rafts be tied up well so they don’t drift away in a rising tide on the river. Equally important, the camp must be set at a high enough location so it will not be flooded. We may encounter rapidly rising river that reaches camp (usually in the evening). If this happens and you are the first to notice, please wake the guides first, and we will assess the situation. It may be necessary to move camp higher.
Camp items to bring:
-Tent (a 2-person tent can be used by an individual)
-Sleeping bag (consider using your fleece or other item as a pillow)
-Therm-a-rest (chair and bed; we may have a few chairs for the camp)
-Basic clothing (t-shirt, shorts, light pants, light long-sleeve shirt, fleece, underwear)
-Camp shoes (these can be the same as your river shoes or a different dry shoe)
-Headlamp (plus extra set of batteries)
-Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, lotions, etc)
-Special medicines/lotions (anti-fungal cream, bug repellent)
-Lighter/matches (remember to check it if flying)
-Pocket-knife (remember to check it if flying)
-Mug (for your hot beverages; we'll have plastic cups for water/wine/etc)
-Reading material
-Bug repellent (very important for comfortable hanging-out in camp)

CLASS V OPTION (expert kayakers): There is an possibility for strong class V kayakers to paddle the uppermost section of the Piaxtla down to where we start this trip and then meet friends or family for the easier class IV-III-II sections downstream. There are a variety of ways to arrange this: see slides. If you start just above the Puerta de Piaxtla, it is class V on the river and requires a day of hiking and 2 full days of paddling to reach the end of the class V section [this "Puerta" section is featured in Stookesberry's Hotel Charley 5: FIrst Descent; also, read Rock's article about the trip, and Jesse's descriptions of the trip: #1, #2, #3 ]. You should plan on 1 day for the hike in and then paddling 2-3 more days to the rendezvous point with the rest of the group. You will self-support at least 3 nights.