Mexico Boating Adventures: Part I

Lacey Anderson had one heck of a boating year in 2011, rafting over 30 rivers in the U.S. and Mexico. In this first of a series of articles, the longtime guide and author of the Camp Cooking WITHOUT Coolers cookbook lets us ride along for a second descent of Mexico’s Mulatos-Aros River.

The five of us looked wide-eyed with disbelief at what lay in front of us. The normally dry creek bed was flashing!

Mexico Whitewater, Copper Canyon
Many of Mexico’s best whitewater rivers can only be rafted during the monsoon season, when little creeks become raging whitewater rivers. We were headed for the put-in of the Mulatos-Aros River to do a 150-mile exploration. This would be a second descent.

Our truck crawled slowly along a muddy four-wheel track in the plateau country of Copper Canyon, Mexico. A monsoonal downpour raged as lightning struck and vibrated the ground all around us. I was exhilarated and terrified as each lightning bolt lit our path just enough to catch a momentary glimpse of the jagged mountain silhouettes of subtropical Mexico. We had spent an entire day driving since our last stop at the small village of Sahuaripa. Many hours later, we were still driving, determined to get to the put-in before midnight.

We had just climbed out of one canyon and were barreling down into another canyon only to be stopped dead in our tracks. The five of us looked wide-eyed with disbelief at what lay in front of us. The normally dry creek bed was flashing! High water roared across the road. We were stuck and couldn’t drive through the arroyo. The only thing we could do was set up our tents and roll out the sleeping bags right there in the muddy road to wait out the flood.

By noon the next day, the water had subsided enough for us to tentatively drive through the slick mess. Later that afternoon, we reached our launch destination – two days late. Good thing I had packed a menu such as the one you will find in my cookbook Camp Cooking WITHOUT Coolers II. If I had packed the traditional rafter’s menu with coolers full of ice-dependant meals, we would have been in trouble. Some of our food would have spoiled, and the rest would have been well on its way to getting funky.

Lacey at the oars of her lightweight
Lacey at the oars of her lightweight "no cooler" cataraft set up. ©Jason Burke

The next eight days on the Mulatos-Aros River were a delight with exceptional scenery, Class IV rapids and good company. The Mulatos-Aros turned out to be one of the best long-distance river expeditions in Mexico. We passed only one village the entire trip. The water is clean, reliable and big. There are fun Class III and IV rapids almost every day and interesting side canyons to hike and warm, clear swimming holes.

Because the Mulatos-Aros exploration was a great success, we were stoked for our next adventure on the Conchos River. Even better, we did not have to hunt down a store in rural Mexico that would have groceries and quality ice because I had the next four days of river meals waiting in our truck, all packed up and ready to go – no ice needed!

Here’s one of the delicious "no cooler" recipes from my cookbook:

Asian Couscous – makes about 10 cups, serves 8
(vegetarians can simply leave out the chicken)

  • 2 1/3 cups couscous
  • 1 2/3 cups dehydrated cranberries
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons diced dehydrated onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dehydrated parsley
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups diced walnuts
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 20–22 oz. canned or pouch chicken (do not drain broth)

For an easy, mess-free lunch, prepare it using the freezer bag method.

In the morning prepare the couscous: Add everything except the chicken, water and oil to a gallon size durable freezer bag, then knead to mix dry ingredients.

Bring water to near boiling. DO NOT use boiling water! Add water and oil to the mixture in the bag. Squeeze out some air, close and seal bag tightly; knead gently to mix. Be sure to leave some air in the bag. There needs to be room in the bag for expansion.

Securely zip up the "cooking" lunch meal, and place in a safe place while you do your morning and early afternoon activities.

At lunch time: When your group is ready for lunch, add the undrained chicken to the bag, squeeze out some of the air, seal tightly and knead carefully until well mixed.

Editor’s Note:
Here’s Lacey’s 2011 river list:

United States
Box Canyon (Sac), Cantara (upper Sacramento), Upper Applegate, North Fork American, South Fork American, Rogue, North Fork Smith, South Fork Cal Salmon, Cal Salmon, Owyhee, Payette, South Fork Boise, Gates of Lodore, Split Mountain, Upper Mishawaka, Lower Mishawaka (Cache la Poudre), Fractions/Frog (Arkansas), Brown’s Canyon, Parkdale, Colorado through the Grand Canyon

Mexico
Mulatos, Aros, Yaqui, Baluarte, Mezcala, Atotonilco, Tlapaneco, Santa Catarina, Xochistlahuca, Atoyac, Tehuantepec, Alamans (upper Copalita), Hamacs (lower Copalita), Filos-Bobos, Usumacinta

Most of these were multiday expeditions, and many of the Mexican runs were first descents. Watch for more articles from Lacey about rafting in Mexico in the weeks to come. – Clyde

El Victor put-in for the Mulatos River ©Lacey Anderson
El Victor put-in for the Mulatos River ©Lacey Anderson
Lacey rowing through Barranca Mulatos as thunderclouds darken the sky. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)
Lacey rowing through Barranca Mulatos as thunderclouds darken the sky. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)
Tabachin flowers are beautiful and common in this region of Mexico. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)
Tabachin flowers are beautiful and common in this region of Mexico. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)
Lacey at the oars of her lightweight
Rocky Contos running Morita Rapid, a big 6-9 foot drop. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)
Downstream are more Class III rapids, most with big waves. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)
Downstream are more Class III rapids, most with big waves. ©Rocky Contos (www.sierrarios.org)