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Tena and Rivers of Ecuador

Tena is a major commercial center of Ecuador surrounded by dozens of rivers perfect for water sports.

Tena, Ecuador

Tena, the capital of the Napo Province, is a city in the Amazon rainforest. Known as the “cinnamon capital” of Ecuador, and founded by missionary explorers, Tena has emerged as a major commercial center of Ecuador.

  • Area: 261.8 square kilometers
  • Weather: 28 degrees Celcius, wind SE at 8 kilometers per hour, 69% humidity
  • Population: 21,000
  • Province: Napo Province
  • Number of airports: One

Tena, Ecuador, is a city surrounded by rivers that attract paddlers from all over the world. In this small area, you can find a huge number of fascinating rivers that can be run year-round. The volcanoes and mountains of the Andes lend a beautiful backdrop to these rivers as they wind down into the Amazon jungle.

Frequent rains, mountainous terrain, and an enjoyable climate make this area the perfect place to whitewater kayak. Due to the variety of rivers in the area, anyone can learn to kayak in Ecuador or perfect their skills.

We would like to invite you to kayak Ecuador and share our passion for this beautiful landscape. Below are some of the many rivers we paddle in Ecuador.

river people tena ecuador

River Difficulty Classification

There are six categories, each referred to as “grade” or “class” followed by a number. A river or rapid is given a numerical grade, and then a plus (+) or minus (-) to indicate if it is in the higher or lower end of the difficulty level. While a river section may be given an overall grading, it may contain sections above that grade, often noted as features, or conversely, it may contain sections of lower grade water as well.

Class I & II Rivers

Anzu River (Lower) – Class I & II

This lower part of the Anzu River is great for beginners. The Anzu begins in the Abitahua mountain range and continues until it merges with the Jatunyacu River. Since it’s headwaters are in the jungle, the water temperature is always just right.

The river is wide and deep, with pools, beaches, curves, and slow currents surrounded by beautiful jungle. It’s common to see fishermen, people panning for gold, and children from nearby communities near the river.

  • GPS Location: 1°4’0″ S 77°48’0″ W
  • Altitude: 535 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Low
  • Length: 17 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 3 hours
  • River-type: Class I-II. Calm, slow, medium volume.

Tena and Pano Rivers – Class I & II

These two rivers conjoin right in the middle of Tena and continue until they merge with the Misahualli River and eventually with the Napo River. They are great for beginners since there are few obstacles, easy rapids, and clear channels that require basic maneuverability skills.

The part we run begins just a few kilometers outside of Tena and flows into the middle of town.

  • GPS Location: 0°58’60” S 77°49’0″ W
  • Altitude: 599 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Low
  • Paddle time: 2 hours
  • River-type: Class I-II. Calm, slow, low volume.

Inchiyaqui River – Class II Creek

This is one of only a few Class II creeks in the Tena area. The river has a continuous current, low water, and a large array of rocks of all shapes and sizes. It is located 20 minutes from Tena.

In this river, beginners begin to paddle more as they continue learning to read the river, boof a few waves, maneuver around rocks, and perfect the skills needed to keep one upright in the kayak. The water level is generally low; each time it rains it gets more interesting while still maintaining the same level of difficulty.

  • GPS Location: 0°54’51” S 77°50’20.26″ W
  • Altitude: 605 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Low – technical
  • Length: 18 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 3 hours
  • River-type: Class II creek. Regular, medium speed and volume.

Anzu River (Middle) - Class II

The middle part of the Anzu is 30 minutes from Tena and has several class II rapids for beginners to practice. There are some nice eddies to practice entering and exiting the river. Some of the rapids have good waves and give newbies the chance to practice paddling. At the different beaches, we stop to practice rolling, rescue techniques, and just to enjoy the area.

  • GPS Location: 1°4’0″ S 77°48’0″ W
  • Altitude: 572 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Low
  • Length: 25 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 3 hours
  • River-type: Class II. Irregular, medium speed, medium volume.

Class III & III+ Rivers

Jatunyacu River (Upper) – Class III

The Jatunyacu (meaning “big water” in Kichwa) is a great river full of big waves and pools. Enjoy the jungle scenery as you paddle this tributary to the Amazon.

The headwaters of the Jatunyacu are found on the Cotopaxi volcano, which means it has chilly water that slowly grows warmer as other jungle streams merge in.

It’s also known as the Upper Napo, as the river becomes the Napo when it merges with the Misahualli.

The upper section of the river is for novice paddlers looking to enjoy some class III big water. It is located 30 minutes from Tena.

  • GPS Location: 1°4’0″ S 77°48’0″ W
  • Altitude: 530 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Length: 27 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 4 hours
  • River-type: Class III. Medium speed. High water.

Anzu River (Upper) - Class III

The upper part of the river is great for learning to read the river. We learn the difference between regular and irregular waves, holes, eddies, and the different types of currents that make this a class III river.

The area is full of colorful birds, insects, and butterflies.

  • GPS Location: 1°4’0″ S y 77°48’0″ W
  • Altitude: 596 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Length: 30 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 4 hours
  • River-type: Class III. Irregular, medium speed and volume.

Jatunyacu River (Middle) - Class III

The middle section of the Jatunyacu River has regular and irregular waves, huge granite rocks, and holes of all shapes and sizes. The rapids end in calm pools, which make this river a trustworthy choice for beginners to better their technique.

This river is run year-round and the rapids change according to the water level. What doesn’t change are the amazing views of the mountains, the sounds of the jungle, and the cool water in the hot jungle.

  • GPS Location: 1°4’0″ S 77°48’0″ W
  • Altitude: 521 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium-low
  • Length: 20 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 3 hours
  • River-type: Class III. Medium speed. High water.

Jondachi River (Lower) – Class III+

Explore the Jondachi and all its beauty. Waterfalls pour in around you. The abundance of rapids provides a full day of fun!

The lower part’s headwaters come from the Sumaco Volcano and form a long succession of picturesque class III rapids with small waves, volcanic rocks, and bright green vegetation all around.

The level of the river varies depending on the rain. It is fed by numerous streams and is attractive year round. The Lower Jondachi is about 45 minutes from Tena.

  • GPS Location: 0°54’0″ S 77°43’60” W
  • Altitude: 754 meters above sea level
  • Length: 38 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 4 hours
  • River-type: Class III+. Medium-high speed. Medium volume.

Hollin River – Class III to IV+

Another river full of big water. The Hollin begins as a conglomeration of small streams on the Sumaco Volcano, which before long provides an abundance of water.

This river has everything a river could have: waterfalls, canyons, giant boulders, streams, pools, portages, waves, holes, undercuts, eddies, drops, and deep water…just to name a few. Expect the unexpected as the Hollin can change suddenly due to weather upstream.

You don’t need to be an expert, but you must be ready for an adventure to be able to enjoy every moment of our three-day trip down the Hollin. There are over 30 class III rapids and 15 class IV depending on the water level.

Everything is impressive here: the vegetation, the sounds of nature, the water, our camp spots. Each time you run this river, you return home wanting to paddle even more. Each rapid is unique, with a variety of speeds, technicality, and difficulty. We even kayak through a cave!

  • GPS Location:  0°58’0″ S y 77°45’0″ W
  • Altitude: 622 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium-high
  • Length: 70 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 4.5 hours per day (three days)
  • River-type: Class IV+. Medium-high speed. Medium volume.

Class IV & IV+ Rivers

Piatua River (Lower) – Class IV

Giant, smooth rocks and flowing water make this river a constant adventure. There is a special feeling on this river, which has bigger water than the Upper Mis and tons of boofs. Plus, the large number of beautiful birds make the area extra beautiful.

You definitely need some kayak experience to kayak here. The river is just a few kilometers outside of Tena and technical enough be to qualify as class IV.

  • GPS Location: 1° 5’25.23″ S 77°55’41” W
  • Altitude: 597 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium-high
  • River-type: Class IV. High speed. High water.

Misachualli River (Lower) – Class IV

Possibly the most infamous river in Ecuador, the Misahualli takes you on an unforgettable ride.

Imagine a river fed by five different rivers that then flows into a deep canyon. Due to the number of rivers merging into it, the Misahualli is vulnerable to rains, which cause it to swell to unsafe levels.

The river starts off quietly and gives you a chance to take in the stunning views. Parrots fly overhead. Then the river flows into a deep canyon gorge. The rapids grow huge and cascade over Casanova Falls and into the “Land of Giants.”

The river flows to the small town of Misahualli, where it joins the Napo River. At takeout, you can visit the hundreds of monkeys that make their home in Misahualli, visit native communities, buy souvenirs, and try some of the local cuisines.

The Lower Mis is located 15 minutes from Tena.

  • GPS Location: 1°1’60” S 77°40’60” W
  • Altitude: 525 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: High
  • Length: 27 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 4 hours
  • River-type: Class IV. Normal speed. High water.

Misachualli River (Upper) - Class IV

This class IV creek of the Misahualli mixes powerful rapids, curves, and rocks with plenty of boofs along the way. You can put in at three different spots depending on the experience of your group and your ambition.

The river is 20 minutes from Tena and is not far off the main road. It’s one of the best places to better your kayaking skills.

  • GPS Location: 1°1’60” S 77°40’60” W
  • Altitude: 600 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium-high
  • Length: 12 kilometers per section
  • Paddle time: 2 hours
  • River-type: Class IV. High speed. Low water.

Jondachi River (Middle) - Class IV

Explore the middle section of the Jondachi! From the bridge above, we can see the Class IV rapids that await us. Whitewater rises above waves, holes, curves, and rocks, making for plenty of action. The steady gradient keeps the speed of the river constant.

We stop to scout out some of the rapids and look for the various lines formed by the river to understand the force of the water we will be running. The Jondachi joins with the Hollin to create a big water experience full of fun.

  • GPS Location: 0°54’0″ S 77°43’60” W
  • Altitude: 793 meters above sea level
  • Length: 45 kilometers (depending on takeout spot)
  • Paddle time: 4 hours (depending on takeout spot)
  • River-type: Solid class IV. Medium-high speed. Medium volume.

Piatua River (Upper) - Class IV+

This section of the river is great practice for novice kayakers. You will need to be able to control your kayak well to run these constant creek rapids. A large rock can be anticipated in each rapid, and if you look upriver, you will see why this run is smooth and aggressive at the same time.

There are several spots to play, boof, and challenge yourself.

  • GPS Location: 1° 5’25.23″ S y 77°55’41” W
  • Altitude: 608 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: Medium-high
  • River-type: Class IV+. High speed. Big water.

Jondachi River (Upper) - Class V

The upper stretch of the Jondachi is short and very fast moving. We recommend this section for experienced paddlers who feel confident in class V rapids. The pronounced gradient and granite boulders make for flowing currents, speed, and several spectacular rapids.

The Jondachi is an unforgettable experience.

  • GPS Location: 0°54’0″ S 77°43’60” W
  • Altitude: 829 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty: High
  • Length: 10 kilometers
  • Paddle time: 2 hours (depending on exit site)
  • River-type: Class V. High speed. Medium volume.