Pato Canyon

About 45km of a narrow road - the N3 - from Yuracmarca past the Calipuy National Reservation, take you along a path hewn out of sheer rock, with breathtaking views and through 30+ (others mention 50+, but I stopped counting after 20) unlit tunnels, roughly cut through the mountains. 

Duck Canyon

The road follows the Cañón del Pato (Spanish for Duck Canyon), carved out by the Rio Santa (Santa River) at the north end of the Callejón de Huaylas (Corridor of Huaylas). This winding one-lane desert road has some of peru's most dramatic landscapes. The road climbes from 500m to 2000+m, after which the valley opens up and gradually becomes greener with the elevation. While the road passes by the Calipuy National Reservation, there is no access road along the N3 to get into the reservation, which seems to be only accessible form a back country road out of Trujillo.


The canyon walls are too steep and arid for cultivation. The canyon was formed by the river where the north end of the Cordillera Negra range (to the west) converges with the Cordillera Blanca mountain range (to the east). the crests of the two cordilleras loom above, at places as high as 6000m above sea level. These two Andean ridges run generally parallel for nearly 140 km from south of the city of Huaraz northward to the Cañón; the Cordillera Blanca continues northward for another hundred kilometers or more.


The Santa River powers the turbines of the hydro electricity plant at Huallanca. From Huallanca the river flows to the west provinding water for irrigation in the arid coastal plain before emptying its remnant water into the Pacific, just  north of Chimbote.


The head waters of the Río Santa find their origin in the Huascarán National Park, which protects the Cordillera Blanca.

The upper part of the Río Santa, where it winds down from 4000 - 2000m is relatively humid.



At the upper entry of the Pato Canyon is a sign announcing its beginning. Vegetation is still growing along the slopes.

The Pato Canyon has been carved out by the Río Santa (River).


PATO CANYON, PERU: Suspension bridge.PATO / DUCK CANYON: one-lane tunnels.

There are no crossings, other than 2 suspension bridges, which give a fantastic view over the canyon though. Belonging to the electricity company, they sometimes are locked up.

Some say there are 30+ tunnels, other speak about 50+. I stopped counting after 20.


PATO CANYON, PERU: Narrow tunnel.PATO / DUCK CANYON: rough tunnels.

All bridges are one lane and coarsely hewn out of the rocks


PATO / DUCK CANYON: Rio Santa.PATO / DUCK CANYON: Narrow carvings.

At some points the canyon is wide.

At other points the canyon is so narrow, you can't see the bottom. But the scenery is breathtaking everywhere. At some point the river's natural banks are as close as 6m apart.


PATO CANYON, PERU: narrow carvings.PATO / DUCK CANYON: Layered Rocks.

PATO CANYON, PERU: Steep cliffs.

The steep gorges and canyon walls are often so narrow, that it is difficult to catch them  on camera.


PATO / DUCK CANYON: Multi colored slopes.PATO CANYON, PERU: Colored earth.

PATO / DUCK CANYON: reddish hills.PATO / DUCK CANYON: scenic landscapes.

PATO / DUCK CANYON: scenic valley.PATO CANYON, PERU: Coal outcrop.

The colors of the slope vary from pale yellow to deep red and even sometimes black.



PATO / DUCK CANYON: Falls.PATO / DUCK CANYON: Desert spring.

The only side stream along the canyon comes from a spring along a rock face.


PATO / DUCK CANYON: cactus vegetation.PATO CANYON, PERU: Desert vegetation.

At the lower part of the canyon, the vegetation consists of a variety of beautiful cactuses.


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Parks Man Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil is author of this website. He dedicated his life to the conservation of nature., He was part of the team that selected the first 39 protected areas of Ecuador in the 1970s and he initiated the Cuyabeno Lodge in Ecuador's Amazon in 1985, making him one of the world's eco tourism pioneers. A speaker of 8 languages and having traveled to 80+ countries, Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil has is one of the world's greatest connoisseurs of nature and national parks in the world.