Usumacinta River, Chiapas, Mexico 2

Playa Grande offers an excellent gigantic beach camp - Rocky Contos photo

Rigging for a 7-day raft kayak trip on the Usumacinta river in southern Mexico - Photo taken by Gabriel Hernandez.

This was a group of experienced boaters than ran the river with us in December of 2011

The ancient archeological site of Yaxchilán can only be accessed by river - photo taken by Gabriel Hernandez.

Caren taking a stroll on Playa Grande.

Gabriel after hiking into the jungle behind Playa Grande to swim in a cenote.


The jungle foilage is dense and reaches high into the sky.

Eddie Weihenmayer caught a couple of tilapia in the early morning - Photo taken by Rocky Contos

German looks through a stone window at Piedras Negras Ruins, the second archeological site accessed by river - photo taken by Gabriel Hernandez.

The upper falls at Cascada Busiljá can be accessed by a trail or by climbing up on the downstream side - Photo taken by Rocky Contos

Cascada Busiljá is a fantastic travertine falls - Photo taken by Gabriel Hernandez.

These howler monkeys have a raspy, breathy metallic scream, which conjured up visions of scary monsters or prehistoric dinosaurs - Rocky Contos photo

Río Chocoljá has 5-6 rapids and small falls in the last kilometer that can be run the last kilometer after hiking up with a kayak - Gabriel Hernandez photo.

Multi-layered beach camp, where we saw an eight foot crocodile!

The Gran Cañon de San José is vertical-walled and impressive.

There are many springs with good drinking water.

Early morning locals net fishing.

Lacey Anderson coached Erik Weihenmayer to row her cataraft through big class III rapids in Canon San Josecito - Rocky Contos photo

Serene camp on the Usumacinta river.

Second group on the Usumacinta river, joined us in Jan of 2012


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2 thoughts on “Usumacinta River, Chiapas, Mexico

  • Bob Marley

    I was a passenger on a National Sierra Club trip that ran the Usumacinta in 1985, give or take a year. The outfitter was Wilderness World, a Grand Canyon company in the ’80’s. This was at the time the Guatemalan Army had driven everyone (150,000 people I seem to remember) out of the Petan, most across the border to Mexico. All the buildings on the Guate side were shot full of holes and the radio antennas were crumpled at weird angles near the put-in.

    The trip went pretty well at the start. Yachitlan was excellent and the fer-de-lance behind the fall shown above was interesting. We stopped for lunch the second or third day. My wife at the time went downstream to do her business and came running back talking about a raft she had found full of rocket like objects. The guides and myself with a few other passengers went down to take a look. We had stumbled into a weapons running operation from Cuba to Mexico and across the river in a rubber raft to Guate.

    Being naturally nosy, Jimmy, Jomo, and I were looking at the gear in the raft when a man and a young boy stepped out of the dense jungle with very impressive looking automatic weapons. The man pulled the slide or chambered a round that was accompanied by an ominous noise. Jomo later said it sounded like the closing of a tomb. A bit dramatic for my taste but they certainly had our attention.

    They told us the area was being constantly overflown and they had went to great effort to keep the presence of people on the beach unknown. He pointed out the dense jungle actually was full of rebel troops right in front of us and behind him. A strong suggestion was made that we leave immediately and not make any additional stops on the Guate side of the river. This was unfortunate as the trip was planned to go to Piedras Negras in a day or so.

    After throwing our lunch, tables, coolers haphazardly into the rafts, we scrambled in and headed for the middle of the river. Just as my boat was launching a more liberal member, a rebel supporter, of our group, from San Francisco of course, asked if he could take their picture. I was too stunned to say, “Are you nuts, we’re going to be shot, they probably don’t want their picture taken”. I was probably ducking behind rubber at that time, small consolation. We made it to the middle of the river and continued downstream.

    Unfortunately the incident marred the rest of the trip as it became primarily a float with camping and visitation on the Mexican side of the river only and ended a day or so early.

    • Administrator

      Wow Bob! Thanks for submiting this story. I remember when we first met (20 or so years ago) you telling this story. Thanks for the reminder and retelling. In the last 2 years I have run the Usumacinta 6 times and it appears all that strife (war) is behind us, but I am always “on my toes” when rafting in this area. It is really too bad you did not get to go to the Guatemalan Ruinas de Piedra Negras. This is by far my favorite archeological site, maybe you would consider coming along with us next time.