Guiding internationally, there is never a season when, as a group of guides, we are not at some point taken completely by surprise by a change that has happened on one of the rivers that (we think) we know so well. This is particularly true in Costa Rica. The reasons for these changes are numerous and we have written about them in previous posts “Costa Rica Kayaking, Never the Same ‘ol.”
We will ‘fess up: this year’s surprise was a big one. The Upper Sarapiqui. About our most favorite river here in Costa Rica. We will be the first to say that the Sarapiqui is like the most fickle female — not just changing from one year to the next , but sometimes changing in a mere week’s time. It is no surprise to see the river switching channels 40 feet to one side or the other, hiding house-sized boulders, rearranging significant rapids at whim. It is never boring to show up at this river after a particularly strong deluge and prepare mentally for what might have changed.
A number of years ago, an earthquake occurred upstream, damaging a dam and sending a massive wall of water downstream. The flood took out a hydro plant and a bridge set 30-40 feet above the river bed. It razed the riverbed, taking a fairly narrow channel that dropped about 150 feet/mile and both widening it and flattening it. The bridge itself settled downstream about 1/2 a mile. Mother Nature had a temper tantrum that day.
While we should not be taken by surprise by anything new on the Sarapiqui, arriving at the put-in and seeing the river for the first time this season was a complete jaw dropper. It turns out that about two months ago an avalanche setting across the river, creating a dam. It must have angered the river to have been cooped up like that because when it broke through, the river roared downstream, bringing trees and debris and water that again scoured the river bed. At the putin rapid alone, the damage was intense.
Changes like this are why we spend a week reviewing every section of river that we will use on our trips before our friends arrive so that we minimize the chances of showing up at a river and being taken by surprise. We have finished guide week with surprises like the Upper Sarapiqui, but also surprised to be bringing back into our lineup a gem of a run that we have not used in years. We are all set to begin our first trip here in Costa Rica.
If you will not be joining us this season for an international trip, feel free to live vicariously through our trips here in Costa Rica and Ecuador through the Endless River Adventures Facebook page and the blog site and the extensive photo albums we share with each trip! And of course check out all that is about our trips to Costa Rica and Ecuador on our website to help you with your wish list!!