December 7, 2009, I awoke in my my hammock strung between two perfectly spaced Willow trees not more then five feet of the the gentle waves of Lago de Villarica. It was a calm day and the sun was out and warming me to the idea of getting back in the frigid waters of the local snow fed rivers of the Pucon region. Our trend has been to rise late and head to town for some internet geeking then head to the river of choice. It is light out until about 10:00 and it’s not uncommon for us to be getting off the water around 9:00. I received some sad news in town that morning. My grandfather whose health had been declining over the last few months had passed peacefully in his sleep the night before. I had mixed feelings about not being home but figured the best way to celebrate this great man was to do what he had always impressed upon me, enjoy life and live it to it’s fullest doing things the best that one can. He was also very fond of his vino. With this on my mind I grabbed a couple bottles of wine and we set out to find the salto Coilaco. Our directions were vague. Take a right after the puente de Coilaco, jump a fence and walk through a field to get to the falls. Trouble is this road had many fields and they all seemed to look alike. After driving around and following the advice of an elderly local who told us there was a cascada just up the road from where we were we found a beautiful looking 30 footer. However from the pictures and videos of the salto Coilaco we were looking for we knew this wasn’t the right one. After some heavy bushwhacking and getting shut down multiple times by sheer rock walls we eventually found out the tight gorge that fed to this falls was unrunable due to multiple log jams.
We were now back on the hunt for the elusive salto Coilaco. We tried another road that we had been told about only to get shut down again by a locked gate with a security camera behind it. Frustrated, determined, and half a bottle of wine later we split up wandering the different fields until we found what we were looking for. Salto Coilaco is a pretty perfect looking and feeling 30 footer. A slightly aerated pool at the lip that we would ferry from river right to the eddy atop of the lip on river left that then fed to a nice green tongue a third of the way down falling into a deep calm pool below. We spent the rest of the day dropping the Coilaco some only a couple times others as many as eight times. Around 8:00 John McConville and I finished the last of the bottle of wine making sure to pour some in the river for my grandfather before we peeled out and made the ferry to the lip for or last drop of the day.
If you find yourself in Pucon and the water is too high on the other rivers or you are just looking for a nice mellow day the salto Coilaco will give you all the fun you need and then some. Not the most technical waterfall or the tallest out there but with good easy access (as long as you know which field to stop at) and great angles for photos and video it is a must hit stop.