Rio Santa Cruz, Argentine Patagonia

The Rio Santa Cruz in southern Argentina is a beautiful stretch of high volume, fast moving, non-technical water flowing through the arid Patagonian steppe. Water from the southern Patagonia ice field’s large glaciers, Viedma, Upsala, and Moreno, fill Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma, before coursing 220miles / 350km to the Atlantic. The geology of the valley is fascinating, and there are hundreds of guanacos, rheas, and other animals. In autumn (late feb. to April) the steelhead run is among the best in the world. Charles Darwin travelled the river during his voyage of the beagle.

I recommend this river if you want to experience the arid Patagonian landscape, observe animals, catch big fish in season, enjoy solitude, and if you are not averse to non-technical water. (There are big eddies and currents at times, but no rapids.) You must also be ready for wind and the patience necessary for traveling in such a landscape.

Arrive in El Calafate to provision. Get a ride to the bridge of Ruta 40 at Charles Fuhr. Or, if the wind allows, start on the lake in El Calafate. Take out at Piedra Buena, or carry on to Puerto Santa Cruz if wind and tides allow. There are no settlements along the river. I saw no one during my 9 days.

But do it soon. Argentina has plans–backed by Chinese money–to construct two dams. The Rio Santa Cruz is the last, large, free-flowing River in Argentine Patagonia. This river has not received a fraction of the publicity and outrage that the Rio Pascua and Rio Baker in Chile received during their dam proposal debates. Arguably, it should.


Sounds like a great trip and well worth making.

You can see an article in PAtagon Journal of said trip with some photos here: