Kayaking Mexico’s Final Frontier

All-star crew explores Mexico's untapped whitewater wonderland: Michoacan

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By Jeff Moag

When Canadian pro paddler Joel Kowalski and photographer John Rathwell told us about this exploratory mission to the western Mexican state of Michoacan late last year, they added a warning: Don’t tell a soul until we get back.

They weren’t concerned about another crew of paddlers beating them to Mexico’s largest un-tapped trove of whitewater. They just didn’t want the cartels who control the region to know they were there. “Everyone told us: Michoacan is death. Don’t go to Michoacan,” says Mexican pro Rafa Ortiz.

But if you don’t go, how do you know if the rivers of Michoacan are as amazing in real life as they look on Google Earth?

Kowalski masterminded the trip with an elite crew of international boaters, including Ortiz, American Dane Jackson, Juanito de Ugarte of Peru, Brit Seth Ashworth and Irishman Ciaran Heurteau. Red Bull, which sponsors Ortiz and Jackson, has created a series of short films in cooperation with the Spanish-language television network Univision.

The first of the five-part series, “First Descent: Michoacan” drops next Tuesday. In the meantime, we’ll all have to be satisfied with this trailer.

Dane Jackson and Rafa Ortiz (foreground) at Michoacan Kayak Expedition warm up in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. Photo by John Rathwell

Dane Jackson and Rafa Ortiz (foreground) at Michoacan Kayak Expedition warm up in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. Photo by John Rathwell

Dane Jackson shows off his battle scars. Photo by John Rathwell

What happened to Dane? You’re gonna have to wait for the video. Photo by John Rathwell

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  • Butch utica ny

    Thisreminds me of phenomenal canoing and kayaking in the Adirondacks,,the erie canal ,or the finger lakes of new York state !!

  • Bob Cia

    They should check their stuff. They may unwitting mules for the drug cartel……

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