James "Rocky" Contos: biographical sketch

I am director of SierraRios and an avid kayaker, rafter, explorer, and activist. I have paddled nearly every river in Mexico (including 107 first descents entailing ~8000 km of river and >50,000 m of drop) and many others in Central America and Peru. In 2012 I discovered the most distant source of the Amazon (see AREA), paddled all the headwaters of the Amazon and then completed the journey to the Atlantic, making the first complete descent of the Amazon River from its most distant source (see book). I offer guiding services for the Upper Amazon and have guided >12 such expeditions including two source-to-sea adventurers. I've published two guidebooks to rivers in Mexico and am working on others to cover the rest of Mexico, as well as one for Peru. I've written many articles on various rivers. I realize what precious resources the free-flowing rivers are in Latin America, and have witnessed their destruction. I founded SierraRios with the goal of protecting the precious rivers in Latin America.

A few articles have been written about me:

American Whitewater (2007)
Kayak Session (2009)
Canoe & Kayak (2011)

History: I learned to kayak on the Russian and SF American Rivers in Northern California in the late 80s/early 90s. I continued paddling extensively while pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at UCSD (CV), at which time I also started guiding sea kayak and whitewater raft/kayak trips and instructing kayaking. While in San Diego, my main paddling was in the surf, sea kayaking in Baja, and on rivers in the Southwest. While pursuing a postdoc in Seattle from 2003-2008, I paddled many rivers of the Northwest. From 2000-2002 and 2008-now, I generally have spent 3-6 months/year paddling and exploring rivers and leading trips in Latin America and other parts of the world.

To raise more awareness of the beautiful rivers in Latin America, I started regular guided trips in 2011 on some of the river gems that I discovered. I already had plenty of guiding experience in organizing large rafting groups on rivers like the Grand Canyon, Main Salmon, Salt, and MF Salmon. I currently offer trips on a number of rivers, including the Marañon, Usumacinta, BlueNile, Salween, Grande-Colorado, SanPedro-Grande, Pilcomayo, Lacanjá-Lacantún, and Mulatos-Aros. The Usumacinta program is expanding tremendously. I also offer a special Upper Amazon guiding service.

To communicate with me, send an e-mail to (rocky@sierrarios.org)

Rocky at Ruby Rapid on the Salmon at 88000 cfs on May20, 2006.