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 >120 first descents of ~8000 km of river and >50,000 m of drop) and many others in Central America and Peru. In 2012 I discovered the true source of the Amazon, paddled all the headwaters of the Amazon and then completed the journey to the Atlantic, making the first complete descent of the Amazon River (see book). I offer guiding services for the Upper Amazon. I've published one guidebook to rivers in Mexico and am working on two 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 in Mexico, Central America or Peru.

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, Kern, SF American, and Wenatchee. I currently offer trips on a number of rivers, including the Mulatos-Aros, Usumacinta, Lacanjá-Lacantún, Piaxtla, Urubamba, and Marañon. The Usumacinta program is expanding tremendously. I also offer a special Upper Amazon guiding service.

Send an e-mail to Rocky (rocky@sierrarios.org)

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