Marañón River, Peru - Balsas to Puerto Malleta

expedicion de rafting en el rio maranon 8d 7n

Class IV

More than forty years ago international river trips were expeditions, challenging participatory adventures on which everyone worked together for a safe and fun trip. As the adventure travel business became more mainstream and sophisticated, this type of trip seemed to vanish. Comfort and catering now dominate the industry. Then along comes a throwback like this one.
This trip on the upper Amazon is all about great expeditionary rafting. You’ll be part of the team in camp and on the river, expect to cook and clean, de-rig rafts, and set up camp. While on the river, if you have rowing experience, the guide may even hand you the oars to maneuver down river for a bit. If you’ve been waiting to experience or relive the glory days of river exploration, this is your chance. And it is a chance unlikely to be repeated: as in so many places, dams are scheduled to inundate this glorious river stretch soon.
On the trip you’ll experience the Peruvian Andes and one of the deepest river canyons in the world. We will hike verdant creek ecosystems, visit ancient Pre-Incan ruins, marvel at red wall canyons, take a refreshing dip in the waterfalls of Quebrada Aguablanco, and lounge on expansive white sand beaches. We will run one of the longest, more challenging, technical class IV rapids of the canyon – Linlin, as well as enjoy easier class II – III rapids.
This expedition features spectacular scenery, passing through arid desert-like canyon with sparse vegetation and numerous cacti, as well as many vertical walls rising directly from the riverbed. The majority of the scenery is a dry cactus-studded canyon; however, the last three days of the trip slowly transitions into jungle and then opens up again into the Bagua Valley at our take-out.
A unique highlight of this expedition is the opportunity to interact with locals whom live along the river. Through conversations with the inhabits of the riverside communities of Mendán and Tupén you will become aware of the threats to the Amazon river and learn about how we are teaming up with the riverside communities, Peruvian city dwellers, International and Peruvian conservation NGO’s as part of the campaign to “Save the Amazon”. This trip contains one of the 20 dam sites proposed for the Rio Marañón. Chadin II dam is in the latest planning stages. This section of the river is likely be the first to be drowned by reservoirs.
Many different levels of rapids are found along the way - including class IV+. November is the start of the rainy season so the river volume can increase. Water could be as high as 17,000 cfs; higher water has the potential for a wild ride. The biggest rapids are El Choclón, Tupén Grande, San Lucas, Playa El Inca, Magdalena, Totora and Linlín. Although some of these rapids are quite long, they are not more difficult than the toughest rapids on the Grand Canyon. Anyone comfortable rowing/paddling the Grand Canyon of the Colorado or Main Salmon in Idaho at high water should be comfortable.

SAMPLE ITINERARY - Balsas to Puerto Malleta

Shorter Trip, Easier Logistics - 8 days on the river and 2 days transport

Itinerary description

Day 1

Arrival Day, Cajarmarca

Fly into Cajamarca, Peru on this day. Connections through Lima are available from many US gateway cities. Check into a hotel walking distance from the towns ‘Plaza de Armas’. From here you can spend the afternoon sampling Cajamarca’s renowned cuisine: cheeses, chocolate (made from local organic cacao), and Papa a la Huancaina are a few favorites that can be found in shops and restaurants. In the evening we will gather for a meet and greet welcome dinner, overnight hotel in Cajamarca.



Self-bailing oar rafts All group rafting gear needed for the expedition (frames, oars, ice chest, dry boxes, water purification system, complete camp kitchen, rain tarp, First Aid kit, repair kit, ropes, etc.) Personal river gear: paddle jacket, PFD, helmet, dry bags Personal camp gear: tent, sleeping pad 1 hotel night in Cajamarca All arrangements in the field on the river by professional river guides All river meals and a head cook to help participants with preparation of all meals and clean-up Welcome dinner Celebratory lunch at Take-out restaurant in Puerto Malleta Ground transportation.
Cajamarca to Balsasz
Take-out at Puerto Mallata to Bagua Chica
Bus from Bagua Chica to Chiclayo


  • Flights
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal Gear: water shoes, sleeping bag
  • Insurance of any kind, including medical evacuation insurance


The menu will be based on the local and regional foods available at this time of year. Following is the general menu to give you an idea of the meals. Breakfast contains items such as, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, and occasionally eggs. Lunches may include sandwiches, chips, cookies, couscous, cheese, crackers, salami, hummus, or tortillas wraps. Dinners start with an appetizer such as soup or cheese and crackers. The main entrées are simple and usually based on one of four basic dinner staples; pasta, beans, potatoes or rice. Dinners include fresh produce as available and a bit of meat for some meals. Often there is a simple dessert.

If you are vegetarian there will be foods on the menu that you can eat, as there will be nonmeat items. If you have severe food allergies, are vegan, gluten-free, celiac or a “steak and potatoes” person this may not be the trip for you. Inquire with Lacey if you have questions.


This expedition will be enjoyed by experienced multi-day boaters. All participants will need to fully participate in river activities and responsibilities; including camp cooking and clean-up, collecting firewood and building fires, collecting and filtering drinking water, setting up rain tarps, digging toilet latrines, rigging and unloading rafts on a daily bases, etc. This is not a commercial trip where all such activities are done by guides. On this expedition camp responsibilities / duties will be shared by all. The trip will be enjoyed by folks who have multi-day wilderness river experience and are strong and fit. If you have enjoyed multi-day trips on the southwest river desert canyons of the United States such as; the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, the Yampa, Salt or Green then you will be delighted by this expedition.