Driving into the Futaleufú river valley, we already felt like we had reached our ultimate destination. It wasn’t our first time in Futa, but we finally had almost a whole summer to spend there and really get to know the area, something we had been looking forward to for a long time. The incredibly welcoming and friendly local Toro family – who’s riverside stretch of land dates back centuries in their family – rented us a cabaña for two months. Our rustic little hilltop cabin became the perfect home there, and we were able to free up the truck for lots of group kayak shuttles. The cabin also provided many cozy days protected from the Patagonian rain, which fell almost more often than not throughout the summer.
The first and foremost feature of the area is of course the river. The Futa flows from a reservoir in Argentina, through a picturesque green valley surrounded by high rocky peaks, with a huge volume of vivid blue clear water. From the cute little town of Futaleufú, 10 km from the border with Argentina, there is almost continuous world class whitewater for close to 50 km of river. Accessible at various locations by the single dirt road paralleling the river through the valley, the Futa has many different sections of and levels of whitewater, along with some of the most epic rafting and fishing in the world. A multitude of beautiful glacier melt tributaries also run into the Futa, with epic drainages of their own right.
The river is a central part of life in Futa, but the community there is something apart from an ordinary kayaking destination. Families who have homesteaded along the river for generations mix with raft guides and river enthusiasts working and living in the valley. Visiting kayakers who made the trek South to Futa by long ferry and dirt road tend to stay longer and have an appreciation for the river not necessarily typical of those visiting easy access rivers for a much smaller time period. This combination, with some other fun characters and visiting friends thrown in, made for a great community, something we had been missing in some of our travels when we were moving so quickly.
Though not native to the area, brown and rainbow trout are plentiful in the Futa and Yelcho rivers. For reference, the Futa flows into a huge lake out of which flows the Yelcho, into the Ocean in Chaitén. Fly fishing was a highlight of life in Futa, and we were lucky enough to take a few-day fishing trip down the Yelcho as well. Glacial lakes to hike to and a beautiful dirt road for running or just good views on the way to town were some of my favorite parts of Futa as well. Lambs slow roasted whole on a spit, Patagonian asado style, were common as was cheap but delicious Chilean wine.
Our two month stay in Futa was an experience apart from all our travels leading up to it, and not only because the area provides an incredible amount of natural beauty and outdoor activity. In Futa, it felt like we had found a sort of home, and we left knowing we will be back to spend more time this special place.