With the highest concentration of rivers per square kilometer Ecuador offers intermediate to expert boaters many rivers to paddle. Compared to the southeastern Untied States there are few rivers in Ecuador below class III-IV. The rivers range from big water to technical creeking. The big water runs are unlike anything in the southeast.
While droughts are a common concern in the southeast too much water is the concern in Ecuador. Rivers can surge quickly and there are no online gauges so be careful. Ecuador is situated on the equator and many of the tall mountains and volcanoes feature glaciers that feed the rivers. Be sure to bring your drytop. If it gets too wet there are many other interesting things to do in Ecuador.
Comfort and competence on the Ocoee River is the minimal starting point for paddling in Ecuador. Time spent on the Upper Ocoee will be rewarded because many of the rivers feature pushy big water. The New River Gorge in West Virginia at four feet or above on the gauge will feel similar to Ecuador’s easier rivers. Cheoah boaters will find Ecuador a fun place to visit and paddle.
Most commercial rafting occurs on the eastern slope of the Andes. The water quality is better in the jungle where fewer people live. The Amazonian jungle views alone are worth the trip. Tena and Baños are the rafting hotspots. Baños has more stouts and a reputation for more challenging whitewater. Tena is a large jungle town. Baños has an elevation of 6,000 feet while Tena has an elevation of 2,000 feet.
If you go. Spend a couple of days in Quito to climatize to the altitude before heading east across the high mountain passes. Old Town Quito is the best location for great affordable restaurants, museums, and other great sights within walking distance. Be sure to visit Bandido brewing for the best craft beer in Ecuador. Those looking for adventure in Tena would do well to contact AquaExtreme. If you visit Baños visit Hostel Princesa Maria and say hi to Don Victor. Victor also has apartments to rent for those staying longer.
As of May 2018 Ecuador requires foreign visitors to provide proof medical insurance as a condition of entry. Currently foreign river guides face very little government regulation. However it is much easier to find work as a guide if you know someone.