Riding the Rapids of Change: Samaná Fest’s Quest to Preserve Colombia’s Last Free River


In the heart of Colombia’s Antioquia region lies a gem that draws adventure enthusiasts and environmentalists alike – the Samaná River. Unfettered and flowing freely, this river is not just a natural wonder but a symbol of resilience and hope. Samaná Fest, celebrated in the municipality of San Luis, embodies this spirit by blending the thrill of adventure sports like rafting with the gravitas of environmental conservation.

The festival is more than just an annual event; it’s a clarion call to preserve the last free-flowing river in Antioquia. Set against the lush backdrop of the Samaná basin, just two hours east of Medellín, it offers a unique amalgam of international kayaking activities, conservation efforts, concerts, and festivities that cater to a wide array of preferences.

The festival, aims to guarantee the Samaná River’s uninterrupted flow from its source to its confluence with the Magdalena River and to forge sustainable, positive connections among the communities previously displaced by violence.

The Samaná River is a breathtaking spectacle, with its origins in the central mountain range’s paramos and a course that weaves through dense jungles and mountains. Its pristine waters and rich biodiversity are a stark contrast to the grave threats it faces from dam projects and hydroelectric plans that endanger its very existence.

Samaná Fest is a beacon of hope, rallying rural communities, local townsfolk, and global citizens to showcase sustainable solutions for the river’s future. It’s a testament to the belief that rivers worldwide are in dire need of protection and that action must be taken to halt their degradation.

The festival has evolved over a decade, now incorporating events like the CalderRace, a qualifying competition for the new Samaná Marathon. This 45-kilometer marathon through class IV clear waters, jungles, and granite canyons, aims to draw elite kayakers from around the globe, fostering an international community united by the love of rivers and conservation.

Despite the plethora of activities, from rafting to bird watching, and the allure of free concerts and events, Samaná Fest remains committed to its core mission of river conservation. The economic participation of attendees in certain activities ensures the logistical support for this cause, demonstrating a model where environmental stewardship and community empowerment go hand in hand.

The support from local businesses, public figures, professional athletes, public institutions, and NGOs has been instrumental in achieving tangible victories for the river and its people. However, the threats persist, and Samaná Fest continues to seek support for the river’s preservation.

With the recent fires in Colombia’s paramos and the Samaná Norte River’s vital role in connecting these ecosystems with the Magdalena River, protecting this biodiversity corridor has never been more critical. Samaná Fest is not just a celebration but a movement towards safeguarding our planet’s natural treasures for future generations.