Rio De Oro’ A real life river fantasy

So what’s your favourite river?

Impossible to answer, but there are certain runs that stick in your mind. The Rio de Oro in Mexico is one of those. If you were to dream up a fantasy creek adventure that you could run in a day, you’d probably be looking at the Oro.

Fernando the fixer: he lives in a little village at the take out for the Oro. He grew up in the area, a local expert who can show you to the put in and arrange little luxuries like hiring donkeys and horses to carry your boats. Ask around in Mexican paddling circles, you’ll find him.

The walk in: pretty fields with views of the Gulf of Mexico behind you and extinct volcanic cones in front. Hopefully you’ll have taken the pack animal option. While the hiking isn’t too strenuous it’s still an hour or so in the Mexican heat. Without a boat on your shoulder you’re free to look out for cool birds and insects, eat oranges off the trees; soak it all in. It’s hard to believe there’s a river running nearby.

The put-in: relax and get sorted. There are two put-ins; choose the higher one for an extra little section of class 3+ drops. It’s nice and shady up there and allows some respite from the heat. You see that the water is a beautiful almost glowing clear blue colour. The rock is dark basalt. The contrast is amazing; this place is pristine.

Enjoy the warm-up: the river whisks you off through small continuous drops in a vine filled jungle gorge. Brightly coloured flocks of birds distract you from the tons of little boofs. Watch out for the odd thicker vine hanging down and look for Fernando who should be waiting downstream.

Portage: Fernando will wave you off the river for an easy portage around the fifty-foot plus waterfall that lands on rocks. It’s an easy five minute carry that brings you deeper into the gorge. From here it just gets prettier.

The fun increases: the river continues through the gorge with beautiful pool drop rapids. There are some weird currents in here and the occasional stickier hole. You can inspect everything and carry if you want. These rapids are great fun and the gorge is magnificent; it’s hard to believe that it cuts through cattle farming land.

Freefall: after a couple of kilometres of pool drop rapids you arrive at a slight opening in the gorge. This is it, the start of the final gorge and the two super clean, super sweet waterfalls that the Rio de Oro is famous for. If peering from the top of the first 40+ footer doesn’t take your fancy you can portage this final gorge. Run it and you’re committed to both this and the final slightly higher fall.

The first waterfall is awesome. Peel out of the eddy and follow the flow, the landing is pretty soft but this is not the place for boofing. Tuck hard. You can go deep and when you resurface you’re in a cauldron shaped pool with sheer rock walls all around. Giant ferns dangle off the walls. Take some time to high five your mates and soak up the thrill.

Run a couple of smaller boofs until you reach a place where the light floods into the gorge in front. This is the only way out. Another clean 40+ footer which drops into a natural amphitheatre. This one has more of a rolling lip, dropping into fluffy water. Run the fall, smile and more high fives. You’ll struggle to forget it.

Cruising out: you’ve run the falls and now you’re buzzing. Enjoy the last kilometre of the Oro as the fast current whips you through small rapids. Look out for birds and other wildlife as you near the end of the river.

Take-out: you think it can’t get anymore idyllic, but you round a bend and reach the take-out. The Gulf of Mexico. The river dumps into the Gulf with a palm lined paradise beach stretching off in both directions from the river mouth. You can paddle out to the sea or just hop onto the beach. One of the locals may pop by on his motorbike selling cheap, tasty, chicken or fruit filled pastries.

Winding down: after you’ve run the Oro, take a stroll along the sand to Fernando’s beach hut. Look out on the Gulf; watch the pelicans and other birds fishing for their dinner. At Fernando’s you can be sure of an ice-cold beer along with some of the freshest most delicious seafood you’ll get anywhere. Try the fish tacos or the prawns. He also does a good line in local fruit. Time to eat, drink, and relax with your buddies as you watch the sun go down, and think about doing it all again tomorrow.


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