Rio Valles ( El Salto ), San Luis Potosi, Mexico
By Nico Zegre

Rio Valles, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Length: ~ 2.5 miles
Medium flows

Casey Sande, Chris Gabrielli, Jeff Hazboun, Lisa Jeidy, Nadia Almooty, and Nicolas Zegre

Torture Factor: Low.


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What more needs to be said about this run?

El Salto ( directly translated as "The Waterfall" ) is an upper run on the Rio Valles, approximately sixty kilometers upstream of Cascada Micos. This super fun larger volume creek is very reminiscent of Canyon Creek, Washington. However, instead of the volcanic and sedimentary geology of the Pacific Northwest, Mexico has calcite-laden limestone.

Much like the the Micos, drops on the El Salto section are formed by travertine dams, creating large shields and pool-drop ledges. The impeccable visibility of the water offers a fascinating glimpse into the underwater development of these unique features. The Salto section is a step up from the Micos, offering remarkable drops, intriguing double hydraulics, and boof lines through trees leading to clean drops!

While in the state of San Luis Potosi, we stayed at a few different locations. While in the town of Rio Valles, we crashed at a paddlers hostel and outfitter, Avetura Huasteca. The folks that run this place are awesome and can offer great beta for the surrounding area. Especially rad is Enrique, a sort of manager of the place. Be sure to drop in and tell him you are from the PNW! Enrique and crew offered valuable beta about the local scene and shared with us a few short paddling flicks he and his crew have made.

Seeing there footage of El Salto and Micos and super low flow really out things into perspective. In my opinion, this place is the heart of the boating community in town and offers gear rentals, guide services, and social beta.

Secure parking, lively energy, and great beta, Aventura in Rio Valles is a great place to start.

To reach El Salto we drove past the put-in for the Micos, through miles of sugar cane fields and dirt roads. The roads were a minefield of tremendously deep potholes that can put the fear of god in any wayward traveler. We also had to be wary of the overloaded sugar cane trucks, which can be a menace.

Jeff Hazboun and Chris Gabrielli check out El Meco, the final falls of El Salto.

The run starts at the outflow channel of a power plant approximately four road kilometers upstream from El Meco. Use caution getting to the river. We were super eager to paddle and ended up trudging through jungles of what turned out to be poison ivy, without our drysuits on to protect us. The first significant drop is a four foot diagonal ledge with a sticky hydraulic. The line is relatively wide open if you have a boof; the conservative line is far river right where the seam peters out. Soon below is El Luminosa, by the far the raddest drop on the run ( if you donít run El Meco ).

Directly above the drop is a large slow pool offering plenty of time to dial in your line. However to enjoy the calm of the pool, one has to get through a wicked hole that dealt some serious downtime. Most of our group successfully squeezed out delayed boofs right of center, but two had the joy of deep sea diving. One member of the swim team counted twelve swim strokes before hitting the surface!

The traditional line at El Luminosa is right to left followed by boof to get past the hydraulic ( similar to the move at Behemoth on the Upper Upper Cispus ). It is easy to over-boof and air it out, so be gentle. A plug is not advised as there is a nasty double hydraulic with a cave behind the falls.

The author airing it out on El Luminosa.

Looking back at the falls, Casey earning frequent flier miles.

The run is punctuated with numerous travertine drops, too many to name. Similar to the Micos, many of these drops are boat scoutable at the lip. The nature of this run offers the opportunity to take in the majestic scenery and cool flora and fauna. Trees literally grow out of the creekbed and turtles can be seen darting below the waters surface. One particular drop kept our attention every time we passed it!

The picture below shows Chris floating over a well developed travertine dam ( for general description see Micos report ). The visibility offered a great glimpse into the geologic development of the area. These dams are episodically blown out by high flow events, dramatically altering the nature of the streambed.

Chris digging in for a random travertine dam drop

A significant drop awaits two-thirds into the run. This drop is located after a left bend in the river, and is identified by what appears, from upstream, to be a nearly impassable tree line. The majority of flow drops into a narrow, violent chute that is certainly deemed the hero line.

The flow crashes off the left stream wall and deflects through a multi-tiered drop, then violently flowing through an angled slab-like undercut. The rational line follows the river right channel through the trees, approximately a half meter off the center island. An auto-boof exists about one meter down the drop. Lisa is exactly where you want to be!

Nadia opts for the seal launch at the second largest runnable waterfall. The insane line drops the river left chute. The fun and sane line is the right channel, through the trees!
Photo Casey Sande

Lisa dropping through the trees at a large drop before the final falls, with Chris looking on.

Jeff probing yet another waterfall!

There are a couple more clean fun waterfalls below the tree-lined drop all of which can be boat scouted and run with different lines. Be sure to know the take out. There is an enticing upper drop lead in into the big falls at the take out. Chris, Jeff, and I got into the habit of running to the lips of the significant drops to add more bang for your buck on the run. However, a blown eddy would result in some serious carnage.

A river left view of El Meco, the last big falls on the run. The word on the street is that Tao ran this a few years back. The crew from the states, Austin, Pat keller and others, ran this drop on river left.

Be sure to stop in El Naranja after getting off the river. This town offers a little market, a liquor store, and great food. After our first experience on El Salto, we stopped by a taqueria and went off on taco consumption. The total damage was ninety-eight tacos, running at three cents per taco, a few Modelo Especiale beers each, and crazy hot salsa.

The crew at Taqueria in El Naranja

The aftermath at the Taqueria in El Naranja

For more info, check out the book that got us there: Gringo's Guide to Mexican Whitewater by Tom Robey. This book is available on

Tom also has a discussion board at: