Great rivers like the Rio Baker are both born and made, enriched along their length as they subsume lesser waterways. Travelers along the Carretera Austral in the Patagonia region of southern Chile can easily witness one of these epic moments as the Rio Baker, the largest river in Chile by volume, gobbles up the not-insignificant Rio Nef in a mighty confluence of raging water.
The journey of the Rio Baker
Near this confluence point (called a confluencia in Spanish), the Rio Baker tumbles down two small waterfalls, gaining speed and white water before joining the Rio Nef (sometimes spelled Neff). After that confluence point, the Rio Baker flows a little more than 10 miles (16 km) to a confluence point with the Rio Chacabuco which can be witnessed from a turnout across from the main entrance to Patagonia National Park. Between these two confluence points, the Rio Baker flows through extremely tight and steep canyons where it churns into huge rapids and waterfalls that offer world-class kayaking opportunities.
Threats to the Rio Baker
All of this would have been lost if the Aysen Dam Project had gone through in 2008 as planned. Luckily, we still have an undammed Rio Baker–one of the largest remaining undammed rivers in the world–thanks to a movement dubbed Patagonia Sin Represas (Patagonia Without Dams) which helped cause the multi-dam project to be abandoned in 2014.
It’s fair to say that the Aysen Dam project helped galvanize Tompkins Conservation–the organization created by Doug and Kris Tompkins which has become a major force in Chilean and Argentinean conservation as the group buys and rewilds vast tracts before donating them to local governments as national parks and other types of protected areas–as they stepped up to join the increasingly political and high stakes fight against the Aysen Dams.
Today, travelers can witness the confluence of the Rio Baker and the Rio Nef for themselves by following a short and mostly-flat trail from a small parking area on the Carretera Austral (Ruta 7) about 12 miles (20 km) north of the main entrance to Patagonia National Park. From a viewpoint over the confluence, you can see the two rivers descend dramatically before the raging blue Rio Baker consumes the raging milky turquoise water of glacier-fed Rio Nef.
Our favorite photos from the confluence of the Rio Baker and the Rio NefSee more Rio Baker and Rio Nef confluence action from above in our drone travel video, below.
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Here’s more about Carretera Austral Travel
Here’s more about Patagonia Travel
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