Laurenco Velho River

By Jesse Coombs

Location: Brazil: The Rio Laurenco Velho, Rio Capavari, Rio Jaguari, and the Rio Corrente.
Class: V - VI
Gradient: Variable


Copyright © 2006, Oregon Kayaking and Jesse Coombs. No part of this page may be reproduced, linked, or copied without the express written permission of the Oregon Kayaking webmaster and Jesse Coombs.
Many of the photos on this page were shot by Ben Zupo. Check out more of Ben's paddling photos at:

This and all of our other South American kayaking adventures are featured in the film: Hotel Charley: No Big Names 4
( You can view the trailer for Hotel Charley here ).

We arrived in Goncalves very late and drove around looking for a place to stay. All the Pousadas ( hotels ) wanted a small ransom from each of us, so we decided to crash out in the town gazebo.

Ben rolled out his inflatable sleeping pad, which had provided him with three inches of cushion at the beginning of the trip. Unfortunately the pad seemed to puncture easily, and after a couple of nights on the Buey the pad was pretty much shot. From that point on, Ben was essentially sleeping on the ground.

Once Ben got to Brazil he spent an hour or so fixing it and again had a night or two of comfortable sleep until it again sprung a leak. We had a relaxing evening a little while after that and I suggested he might take some time to fix his leak. He looked back at me with a wry smile and said "You mean the ten leaks." By this point Ben had committed himself to finding soft ground because he was forced to sleep without a pad. On this evening, much to Ben's chagrin, there was no soft ground to be found, just concrete everywhere..

We all practically fell down from exhaustion and racked out for the night. We were awoken around seven a.m. by the droves of children with their moms headed off to school. Ben Zupo felt bad about this and got up and packed his stuff to not make a scene. Ben S and I shrugged our shoulders and went back to sleep. Not long after Ben S got up also, I guess his conscience got the best of him.

I was determined to catch a little more sleep, and the children were gone at this point which meant things were quieter. But it wasn't long until I was up also and the three of us were in the local hangout drinking coffee and tea and eating some bread.

Our open-air hotel in Goncalves
photo by Ben Zupo

Later that morning Ben Zupo headed to Sau Paulo getting his camera fixed. Mac, Ben and I drove around all day looking at a river we had heard would be good, but it was too low and did not have enough gradient.

We had gone so far in the wrong at that point that we were actually closer to Itamonte than from where we started, which had been our original goal for the following day. So, we decided to continue on toward Itamonte and call it a day. We came to some towns, and when we did we would always speak with the locals and stop for a soda and a snack.

In one of the towns we ran into a family and another guy who said the knew of a creek with some REALLY big and dangerous falls about forty minutes outside of town on a four wheel drive. Well, we might just be in business after all! We got back in the jeep with the local and drove off in search of the falls.

Sure enough, after about forty minutes we came to a private resort. We hiked for about ten minutes and were at the base of a massive waterfall. We also hiked up to five other falls, but these were either too low to run, too hard to access, or had some feature that made them unrunnable.

During the hike to the falls, we saw these really cool birds nests hanging in the trees.

We looked at the final ninety footer for a long time. Ben, Mac and I scrambled all over this thing and we all agreed it was on the edge of the possibility. The falls cascaded over rocks until the last thirty feet, at which point you HAD to be left because the right fell on rocks. My concern for this thing was that it could bounce you all over the place and much of the water was flowing to the right and onto the rocks.

The monster ninety-foot falls on the Laurenco Velho, from the top.

There were locals and tourists watching us the whole time and they could not believe we would consider running this thing. Stookesberry studied the falls for awhile longer and then he decided he would do it.

Ben scopes out the big falls on the Laurenco Velho

Ben got himself in position and ready, and we gave the thumb's up signal all around. Mac and I discussed what we would do if anything happened to Ben in the drop, so we were as ready as we could be if anything went wrong. We talked about signals and how to execute the rescue if necessary. We always hope for the best and do our best to prepare for the anything else.

Ben pushed himself into the falls, made a very strong and skilled move to get left and then we held our breath as he sailed into the drop, rocketing down the face of the falls like a missile, angling to the left and then knifing into the pool at the base of the falls, nailing his line! I went from nervous anticipation to a big sigh of relief in a mere fraction of a second as Ben emerged from the base of the falls, safe and sound.

We were all thrilled to see Ben absolutely hit perfectly the line we had discussed. It was a thing of beauty to watch first hand! All of us were hollering in excitement and Ben paddled over to the edge of the pool. He got out of his boat and jumped backwards back into the pool with his arms and legs stretched in happiness. He swam in the pool to soak in the water he had just paddled, cooling his adrenaline-charged body. This was truly a very impressive display of kayaking!

Ben Stookesberry fires off the monster falls on the Laurenco Velho

I watched his video from above, and it was something else to see him hit the line so well. We all celebrated at the bottom and then had a wonderful local dinner and beers at the resort.

There is something so gratifying about helping your friends be successful, and this gratification in my opinion is sweeter and lasts longer than personal accomplishment.

The next couple of days we spent paddling a couple of other local rivers, the Capavari and the Jaguari. Both had steep bedrock sections with some very fun falls in a spectacular jungle setting.

Ben Stookesberry fires off a sweet falls on the Capavari.
photo by Ben Zupo

The Jaguari was also very fun, with some sweet little falls and ledge-drops..

Ben runs a nice drop on the Jaguari
photo by Ben Zupo

On the Jaguari we ran into some local rafters attempt some of the drops. They crashed into rocks and had some big hits, but they kept on chargin'.. It was pretty cool watching them run some of the bigger drops!

Some crazy rafters run the same falls later that day..
photo by Ben Zupo

The next day I was again feeling very ill from the water and decided to take a day off. The crew headed out to the Rio Corrente and had a great time. The Corrente flows through a park area, and it is very rarely run..

Ryan MacPherson runs a sweet drop on the Rio Corrente.
photo by Ben Zupo

Ben Stookesberry digs in for a big boof on the Rio Corrente.
photo by Ben Zupo