Carahue Navigable River Route: from biodiversity to recovered history

Sail the waters of the Imperial River or take a kayak trip to view the flora and fauna of the Monkul wetland. Sample the cider and wine from the only Mapuche vineyard in the coastal area of La Araucanía. Visit the incredible Doña Inés Island and delight in the colorful gastronomy known for its singular flavors and aromas. These options are all “essential” parts of the Carahue Navigable River Route located along the Imperial River in the Region of La Araucanía.  

The launch point for this journey is the Estación Fluvial, the river station that was built between the Imperial River and the pathway that leads from Nehuentúe to Monkul. From the terrace located here, one can view the Eduardo Frei Montalva Bridge and the El Buey Bridge harbor with their classic wooden boats. The station also provides information about the route’s initiatives jointly created by the Municipality of Carahue, the Social Action Department of the Temuco Bishopric (DAS) and CMPC. 

The project currently offers 20 services directly provided by their owners, ten floating docks and distinctive signage along the route. “The Carahue Navigable River Route is a solid tourism initiative with a wonderful future ahead of it. Although this route has the backing of public and private institutions, the most important thing is that it is promoted with the full force of all its members. Their aim is to build up special interest tourism while focusing on a sustainable model that stands out from other tourism offerings in Chile,” said CMPC Assistant Corporate Affairs Manager for Forestry, Ignacio Lira.  


Some of the essential projects on the list are:

One of the river route members, the Mateo Nahuelpan community resides in the Monkul wetland settlement. The families here take very seriously the idea of ensuring the present and future sustainability of this incredible place that became a wetland of more than 4,000 hectares after the 1960 mega-earthquake. In 2020 after 70 years the community was able to get 1,380 hectares of the Monkul wetland declared a Ramsar Site, the first in the La Araucanía area. The Ramsar Convention is an inter-governmental treaty that serves as a framework for national action and international cooperation that aims to preserve wetlands and to ensure their rational use as well as their resources. “We support this initiative because the richness and biodiversity of the wetlands are invaluable. For example, the incoming and outgoing tides carries a great amount of nutrients that are capable of feeding the Nehuentúe estuary. Since the wetland is a Ramsar Site it is internationally recognized and highlights the empowerment of local communities to plan their own development in harmony with the environment. It also promotes sustainable tourism that helps education and conservation serve as tools for these spaces to keep generating life that will be experienced by both current and future generations,” said Estela Nahuelpan, President of the Mateo Nahuelpan community.  

Nehuen Domo means “woman’s strength” and it’s one of the initiatives of the River Route in the Chacay Bajo sector. It can be accessed by land through the Carahue – Puerto Saavedra road or by river with its floating dock where boats can dock.  Nehuen Domo is known for its “country-style meals” and the service of Sofía Toro, the driving force behind it. She also grows greenhouse vegetables. “I began with a very small storefront, which at that time was the best choice for me. I always planned on expanding and making progress with my family. That was my dream. Today I give thanks to God, the DAS, the Municipality, CMPC and my family. This dream started when my eldest son was studying gastronomy. He’s not with us any longer, but I know he’s still here with me. Today nonetheless I feel proud of everything I’m doing. Tourists can come check out the garden and greenhouses and try delicious country food made with local ingredients.” 

La Casona Daysu is now a tourism center that has an event hall and offers lodging. It is situated 15 kilometers along the route from Carahue to Nehuentúe at the Imperial River basin in the Region of La Araucanía. It was built between the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th made of native woods including raulí, mañío, and green and red laurel trees. “I inherited the house from my father ten years ago. Everyone was telling me it was in really bad condition and I should tear it down, but I said most definitely not. The government even gave me a certificate saying it was uninhabitable, but a civil builder friend of mine suggested I restore it since there are so few of this kind of large house around anymore. So I decided to do this,” said Sonia Rivera, owner of the Casona Daysu. She began her business about eight years ago and is part of the Carahue Navigable River Route. It can provide lodging for up to 25 people and has an event hall that holds 75 people.

Claudio San Martín is a local and the current President of the route. He is the entrepreneur behind the Lodge Puerto Koüpo located across from the river and the raft that crosses the Monkul wetland. The complex of cabins are raised up on the hillsides and have an attractive architectural design. Eco-friendly energy is used for heating the hot tub water and lighting the walkways. Claudio San Martín commented that while the pandemic noticeably reduced the number of visitors during the 2020-21 season, it also created an opportunity for the entrepreneurs along the river route. “We are all very excited about beginning this amazing route with unique landscapes and its range of services. We are also interested in providing excellent quality in all we do while developing sustainable tourism. As entrepreneurs we take advantage of the time offered us. Thanks to the Arriba Todos Juntos program fomented by CMPC during the pandemic, we learned about hygiene protocols and received signage and sanitation kits. With or without a pandemic, these items are essential for attending to the public.”  

The best way to learn more about the various options offered by the entrepreneurs on this route is to check out the website. It describes all of the services in detail with a system for making reservations or asking further questions.