Canyoning the Rio Camu, Dominican Republic
by Harley McAllister
One of the best parts of living in a mountainous part of the Caribbean, is that there are lot of tropical streams that come tumbling out of the mountains. We were surprised to learn that the Dominican Republic has a peak over 10,000 feet in elevation! Pico Duarte, which is part of a larger mountain chain called the Cordillera Central.
Our town of Jarabacoa is located on the Yaque Del Norte, which later becomes the largest river on the north side of the island. But its smaller neighbor to the East is called the Rio Camu, and it is one of our favorite excursions. This stream flows quickly through the jungle canopy, and because the upper reaches are fairly inaccessible, the river runs clear and clean - pretty much untouched by the problem of trash common to developing countries.
The trail starts off at the end of a dirt road, and you simply start walking upstream, which is mostly on paths along the side of the stream. But you don't stay dry for long. You cross the river multiple times right from the start, but at least at this point the river basin is pretty broad and the crossings shallow.
After 5 minutes or so of this, you start to enter into the narrower canyon, and getting upstream gets more challenging... but also more fun. The first good swimming hole you come to also has a nice sized cliff jump suitable for kids. To the right is Tavin getting his air time.
From this point on, most of your progress is actually taking place within the river, not along the banks. The pace changes constantly as you go from shallow riffles to boulder strewn rapids to deep pools, each with its own set of challenges.
But it is not just a series of challenges, there are also many beautiful spots to take a rest, soak in the pool, let yourself go with the current, and just enjoy being in such a beautiful place.
Or maybe even a place for some quiet reflection.
As you near the end, the two hours spent hiking, swimming, slipping, and climbing in the sun and cool water starts to take a toll, and you are ready for a lunch break. Press on just a bit farther and you come to this beautiful waterfall.
This spot is so narrow, slippery, steep and tall that we've never tried to tackle it without climbing gear. So this marks the end of the upstream portion of the trip. We sit here and eat our lunches, resting up for the journey home. And we leave the Rio Camu with nothing more than memories, some photos, and a few bumps on the shin to remind us where we've been.