Rio Lempa, El Salvador

We floated the lower section of the Rio Lempa last year and had a pretty good time. It’s nothing challenging, but it gives you some nice views of the countryside. We were in El Salvador during the dry season, so our rafting options were limited. This stretch has consistent flow year round from dam releases, so it was about the only option for dry season. It was also really easy to get to–you can take a bus from Ilobasco right to the 5 de noviembre dam where you put in. There’s also a bus from the take out in Nuevo Eden de San Juan, but that one only runs once a day, and it’s really early in the morning. Fortunately, you can get a room in Nuevo Eden for $5/night.

If you search for “Mayan Whitewater,” you’ll find a great website with info on the river. If you make it a 2 day trip, wait till the river starts to get more gorge-y before you set up camp, as there are some alright spots there (we found a spot earlier, but wished we had waited–this is not exactly a remote river and it’s a bit hard to find spots that are not clearly someone’s property). Note that the ferry at the take out is being replaced by a bridge, so the take out might look different when you get there.

Probably not worth a trip to El Salvador just to run the river, but if you’re there, why not? It let us see parts of the country that tourists really don’t visit, and we had some nice chats with folks as a result. First thing we saw in Nuevo Eden was a cart with wooden wheels pulled by an oxen. The “restaurant” in town makes awesome populsas, but the nice little lady will over-charge an obvious tourist (and good for her, I s’pose) if you don’t ask how much they cost beforehand. You’ll want to brush up on your Spanish before you go, as only one guy in town spoke any English.