This novel exploration of the Catemaco environment requires fortitude and preferably an SUV and a life jacket.

You will be entering the Catemaco neighborhood of Tepetapan and proceeding to the Tepetapan dam, along a partially
horrendous dirt road strewn with garbage. On proceeding, your first impression will be a bridge which may be, may
not be, or maybe a little impassible depending on weather conditions. Depending on wind patterns you may also get a
whiff of the neighboring Catemaco sewage plant.

Detour to the dam's control station and enjoy some gorgeous views of the Tepetapan laguna and the neighboring
brujo mountain of Mono Blanco. The station is also the trail head for a walk to Laguna Chalchoapan.

The dam station receives all of the water leaving  Laguna Catemaco, minus the water escaping through its leaky dam,
and overflow during the apex of the rainy season. The remaining water is channelled along a 2 mile concrete lined
spillway to the Chilapan hydroelectric plant in San Andrés Tuxtla.

Continuing inland, along a manageable dirt service road at the side of the canal, opens huge vistas of the Rio Grande
Valley and luscious vegetation along the spillway.

At the end arises another small lake formed by the dam at Chilapan. If you park and work your way to the opposite
side of the spillway, moree photo opportunities arise at the subsidiary dam that spills its waters into another spillway
leading to the actual Rio Grande de Catemaco.

Water from the Chilapan dam is channelled through a giant tube directly to the 36 mega watt Chilapan hydroelectric
plant completed in 1960.

Leaving the dam and turning right brings you to the military base and electric plant storage facilities at the edge of the
actual Rio Grande. At times the military prohibits entry and you are screwed into a return trip to Catemaco.

Leaving the base you cross the Rio Grande. About 1/2 a mile ahead, a turnoff to the left leads to a badly maintained
dirt road to Las Pozas, a small attractive spring fed balneario above the Rio Grande. The balneario charges admission,
but usually waives it if you buy a refreshment and leave. A few hundred meters below the balneario you can view
the Rio Grande and its shore fishermen.

Returning to the Chilapan road brings you the main carretera returning you to Catemaco. A recommended pit stop is
the gas station and its coffee stand which is about as close as you can get to a Starbuck in Catemaco.

Thereafter, a pleasurable side trip is down to the Matacalcintla Balneario, at an unmarked exit to a miserable downhill
dirt road.
tip for suicidal visitors
You can hop into the canal, below the Tepetapan dam, preferably with an innertube and float
leisurely to the dam at Chilapan.
links - Matacalcintla - Rio Grande de Catemaco (soon, again) - Tours of Los Tuxtlas
Enter the main road into Tepetapan west of the Catemaco highway. When the pavement ends, the roads turns to crap
(2011). Go to the end, where a trail leads to a bridge below the big dam. Keep going to a gate, cross it, and keep
driving, about 2 miles.  There is no turnaround until near the Chilapan dam.