Engraved mooring stone, or sacrificial altar – Piedras Negras Ruins
Sights and sounds foreign to our experience excite the senses and stimulate curiosity. After night falls, the rhythmic droning of tree frogs give way to the deep roars of howler monkeys and soon the raucous cries of parrots greet the misty dawn. Shifting patterns of green and red accompany the labored wing beat of the scarlet macaw.
Over a thousand years ago, these shores teemed with human life. The Rio Usumacinta and her tributaries watched the rise and fall of Maya civilization. From 200 A.D. to 900 A.D. great cities and ceremonial centers arose in the jungle, the sacred river of the monkey god serving as their highway and method of commerce. Giant cayucos carved from the sacred ceiba tree loaded with goods, tools, crafts and even slaves made their way up and down the tree laden meanders of the Usumacinta.
Temple of Bird Jaguar IV – Yaxchilan Ruins
Dynasties flourished and spread their influence, only to experience the ultimate disappointment of power: decadence, decline, decay and demise. Experts claim that by 1000 A.D the great cities of the Maya were all but abandoned, mysteriously bringing to a close a civilization whose cities housed and estimated 15-20 million people and whose sphere of influence and power stretched from modern day Nicaragua to the American Southwest.
Big Ceiba – Yaxchilan Plaza
Our journey takes us to two epicenters of the mayan world–the capitols of the powerful jungle city-states of Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras. These sites have contributed immensely to our understanding of mayan culture, daily life, and their writing system. Our itinerary allows for a full day of exploration at each of these fascinating jungle ruins.
A perfect river trip would not be complete without whitewater. The first portion of this trip is typified by lazy currents, large meanders and eddies, and patient observation of the rainforest around us for any intriguing flora or fauna that might present itself. The last few days of the trip present us with high volume class II-III rapids, whirlpools and powerful eddy lines.
River meals are the best meals
Two major canyons guard this stretch of the Usumacinta and accompany our exit from the river. The San Jose and San Josecito canyon’s large pockmarked limestone walls tower at heights of up to 2000 ft and secretly hide swaths of inaccessible virgin rainforest. The channel narrows to a fraction of its normal width, and the river roars as it funnels down through these narrow confines. The Maya considered these gorges to be the entrance to Xibalba, their underworld.
You will remember the canyons as a stirring finale to one of the most exciting and stimulating trips of your life.
Arrival: Please plan to arrive in Villahermosa or Palenque the night before the trip. Lodging this night is included in trip fare.
Day 1: Morning shuttle to Palenque, collect gear, explore town and visit Palenque Ruins.
Day 2: Leave Palenque early, visit Bonampak Mayan site and continue to Frontera Corizal. Spend night at cabins on the banks of the Usumacinta River.
Day 3: Launch river trip. Several hours of floating, lunch on the river, wildlife viewing and local agrarian landscapes. Enter Mayan Biosphere preserve and arrive at our camp at the Mayan city of Yaxilan.
Day 4: Layover day and exploration of Yaxchilan with local mayan guide.
Day 5: River day, keep an eye out for wildlife, especially Scarlet Macaws! Camp at Playa Grande or similar beach.
Day 6: River day. Camp at the late preclassic Mayan City of Piedras Negras. We are now deep in the Peten Wilderness of Guatemala.
Day 7: Layover at Piedras Negras, camp relaxation and guided exploration of Piedras Negras.
Day 8: River Day. Lunch and swimming in the 60 ft. travertine waterfalls at the confluence of the Busiljá and Usumacinta. Enter San Jose canyon and run our first high volume class III rapids. Camp between San Jose Grande and San Jose Chico.
Day 9: Run the last of the large rapids and exit canyon and wilderness. Picked up by motor boat and towed to take out. Shuttle back to Palenque. Direct to Villahermosa or elsewhere available upon request.
Day 10: Shuttle to airport. Guided Service ends.
*Arrangements for a day of rafting on the Shumul-Ja, a visit to Agua Azul and lodging in Villahermosa available upon request.
At times we will offer special dates that will be accompanied by Professor Phil Alldritt of the University of New Mexico!
Phil Alldritt is a Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of New Mexico -Taos since 2000. Traveling with a U.S Treasury permits for research and Education he has conducted 62 trips to Cuba since 1999 focusing on the historical architecture of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. He is a professional guide for Belize and Guatemala and is a Belizean National Tour guide Instructor since 1985. He is a professional archaeologist and work on projects for National Geographic in Belize (1987-1989) and Guatemala (1993). Also, he was a tour guide for Caiman Expeditions guiding the Mayan ruins and raft guiding the Usumacinta (1987-1989). He lived in Belize for 6 years has a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona. He is speaking fluent Spanish and has completed guide training in Belize, Guatemala and Cuba
2020 Usumacinta Dates: Feb 19-28, March 6-15
Double Occupancy: $2,100/person
Single Occupancy: $2,300/person
Rio Shumul-ja full day available before or after your trip! $150/person.
This is one of the best one day raft trips in the world!
The first group of 3 or more to book can save 10%!
Call for info: 575-758-2628
*Custom dates available year around for groups of 6 or more*