Dec 4, 2008
Outside Magazine

It held off for more than 9,000 years, but when southern Chile's Chaitén Volcano erupted in May, it showered ash clear to the Atlantic Ocean. If you followed the news, you know that the town of Chaitén, five miles away, was virtually leveled by ash-swollen rivers. You might have heard that the Futaleufú Valley, that river-rat playground 45 miles southeast of Chaitén, suffered a similar fate. Which isn't true. The town of Futaleufú was briefly evacuated, but that was seven months ago, and cleanup crews have been hard at work ever since. As for the Class V Futaleufú River itself, raft guides report essentially no change. The season begins in late November, and those who are smart enough to book a last-minute trip will do more than support the valley with tourism dollars—they'll also float the Fu in near solitude, since some outfitters are reporting 20 percent downturns in bookings. With the regular gateway of Chaitén closed, Expediciones Chile (eight-day trips, $3,000; will send clients through Bariloche and Esquel, in Argentina, while Earth River Expeditions (eight days, $3,300; flies to Balmaceda, farther south in Chile. Tip: Take the Bariloche route and stop in town at El Patacon for a life-changing steak and a bottle of malbec.

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