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You are here:4.2.1 Chiche River and Puembo Valley

4.2.1 Chiche River and Puembo Valley

The Chiche River is located very close to Quito.  There is no current conservation status along the RioChicheCanyon, but the area is so steep that many areas are inaccessible for housing or farming.  The elevation ranges from 2200-2300 meters, and the Rio Chiche canyon here is a remaining vestige of the semi-dry scrubby forest that dominated the Tumbaco-Puembo valley east of Quito.  Puembo is a small village with outskirts surrounded with weekend houses, beautiful gardens, and many of the birds that could be seen in the Guayllabamba valley can be seen here.



Andean Montane Scrub and Orchards



Chiche  River Canyon and Puembo Valley.


The RioChicheCanyon can be accessed along the main road heading to the Eastern lowlands along the E28 Highway.  Most of the areas along the Chiche River can be accessed by public roads.  There is plenty of bus transportation going over the Chiche River.  You can catch a bus that passes near, or goes to Puembo at the Interparroquial Bus Terminal.  This terminal is located near Granados Avenue, in the North of Quito, along Rio Coca Avenue between Eloy Alfaro and 6 of December Avenues.  You could also hire a taxi from Quito or Tumbaco to take you to some of the areas near the Chiche River.  To visit Quinta La Trinidad, or Mercedes Rivadeneira hummingbird and tanager feeders, write to Mercedes Rivadeneira at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 2393013, or cell phones 097097274 and 097591313.   Try to arrange your visit beforehand.  The best times to visit the feeders are 6:00 to 7:30 AM, or 4:00 to 5:30 PM.




Chiche  River Canyon and Puembo Valley.

The easiest way to exit Quito is by taking the Oswaldo Guayasamin Tunnel or Tunel Oswaldo Guayasamín,  which begins on Av. 6 de Diciembre and Av. De los Shyris, on the East side of the Plaza de Argentina.  Take the tunnel and drive the Avenida Interoceánica. The tunnel itself is on Interoceánica Ave.  

Once you get out of the tunnel continue until you get to a major highway with a bridge.  Cross this bridge.  From this bridge drive another 4.6 km on this main highway. At this point you will arrive to the first roundabout when entering Cumbaya, reset your odometer to 0 km.

You can exit Quito by Guapulo.   Guapulo is the start of the trail the Spanish followed to discover the Amazon River.  This exit is close to the Hotel Quito along Av. Gonzales Suárez y calle Rafael Larrea.   Take Rafael Larrea Street downhill for 2.6 km.   At this point you will reach to a junction where you will see a narrow bridge on your right.  Drive over the narrow bridge and continue on.  Soon you will cross below a bridge of a major highway.   Here you are about to join the highway.   Do not enter the highway, but take the sharp turn to the left, and continue on this narrow road for 2.9 km more.  Here along this road if you find any forks, stay on the obvious main street.  Once this narrow road comes to an end, you have reached the Avenida Interoceánica.   At the first Cumbaya roundabout, reset your odometer to 0 km.

(Click here to download Map. Chiche River and the Puembo Valley).

You can also leave Quito by the exit on Eloy Alfaro Ave. and De los Granados Ave. Here take the De los Granados Ave. toward the east and drive for 0.7 km until a roundabout. At this point take the right hand side exit road, which is a major highway heading to the East.  This is the start of the “Nueva Avenida Oriental”, drive for further 5.8 km along this 4 lane highway. At this point you will have to take the right hand exit right after you drive below the bridge. Stay on the rightmost lane at this point so you can have an easy access to the exit. Drive around and over and now you will be on the bridge you just drove below.  From this bridge drive for further 4.6 km. In case of any doubt remain on the main highway. At this point you will arrive at the first roundabout when entering Cumbaya, reset your odometer to 0.0 km.

Starting on the first roundabout when entering Cumbaya, 0.0 km, you drive downhill for 0.5 km to a big roundabout.  At this roundabout take the first exit to the right and drive for 1.2 km or 1.7 km from Cumbayá.  Here you will come to a yet another roundabout.   Continue downhill along the main highway for 9.2 km, or 10.9 km from Cumbaya.  At this point you have crossed the bridge over the Chiche River, and there is a traffic light with the road heading to Puembo on your left.  It is impossible to stop along the highway when getting across the Chiche canyon but something interesting to look for would be the Agave americana in bloom.  If these are in bloom, you should stop and park back at the beginning of the bridge on the Quito side and walk to the Agave americana. This plant has a long tree-like stalk with yellow blossoms that produce huge amounts of nectar that many birds enjoy.  Look especially for: Giant Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, White-bellied Woodstar, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-yellow Tanager and Southern Yellow Grosbeak.

Once you have gotten across the Chiche River and are 10.9 km from Cumbaya, and are at the traffic light on the road heading to Puembo to your left, take the road heading to Puembo for 0.8 km.   Here at a sharp turn to the left, exit the main road.  Be careful with the traffic in both directions. After entering this narrow road drive for 280 meters.  Remember that this is a narrow one lane street and that once you finish visiting this site, you will have to take it again. 

Reset your odometer to 0.0 km again.  At this point you turn to your right on an even narrower dirt road heading into a neighborhood with gardens.   Drive for 0.5 km and the ChicheCanyon will be on your left.  Drive 0.5 km farther, or 1.0 km from the last turn off and park at a wide spot.  The Eucalyptus trees along both sides of the road are good for hummingbirds: White-bellied Woodstar, Sparkling Violet-ear and at times even the Giant Hummingbird.   Other species occurring here are Rusty Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Southern Yellow Grosbeak and Hooded Siskin.  Take advantage of any viewing point overlooking the Chiche River.   The scrub down below is home for Black-tailed Trainbearer, Azara’s Spinetail and Tufted Tit-Tyrant. Harris´s Hawk can be regularly seen flying over the canyon.

Walk or drive along for another 0.8 km, or 1.8 km from the last turn off, you will be in front of some nice gardens.  Park here and explore the surrounding scrub and Acacia trees along the road.  Look especially on the narrow streets to your right where you can find the Scrub Tanager, if you did not find it before in the Eucalyptus area.  Other birds from the area include Common Ground-Dove, Vermilion Flycatcher, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Dull-colored Grassquit, Cinereous Conebill, Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Black-and-white Seedeater.  At times, birds from lower elevations may, though rarely, turn up here:  These include: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Croaking Ground-Dove.

Returning to the last point where you reset you odometer to 0.0 km, turn to the right, and after only 0.1 km, you will reach the E28 highway.  Turn to the left to continue to Papallacta Pass and other sites in the Northeast.  Be careful here as the traffic can make the access to the highway tricky.

The town of Puembo has many of the birds occurring along the ChicheRiver canyon.   Most of them can be seen inside the gardens and orchards on the outskirts of town.  An interesting site to visit is Quinta La Trinidad which is Mercedes Rivadeneira´s house and garden.   At Mercedes’ feeders you are almost guaranteed great views of; Giant Hummingbird, Western Emerald, White-bellied Woodstar and Black-tailed Trainbearer.   Other birds that frequently come and drink the sweetened water are Scrub Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager and Saffron Finch.  Many of these birds will come and go continuously, allowing great views and photo opportunities perhaps together with the charming company of Mercedes over a cup of coffee or tea.  To visit Quinta La Trinidad, exit the E28 at 10.9 km from Cumbayá heading to Puembo and drive for a bit longer than 3 km and wait for Mercedes at the Puembo main plaza.  She will come to get you and show you the way to her place which is only 1.5 km away.

Birds to look for

Chiche River Canyon

Dry   Montane Scrub (DMS), Gardens and Eucalyptus groves (Grd).

Common: Eared   Dove (DMS,Grd), Sparkling Violetear (DMS,Grd), Azara's Spinetail (DMS), Great   Thrush (DMS, Grd), Blue-and-white Swallow (DMS, Grd), Blue-and-yellow Tanager   (DMS, Grd), Southern Yellow-Grosbeak (DMS, Grd), Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch (DMS,Grd), Hooded Siskin   (DMS, Grd).

Uncommon: American Kestrel (DMS), Common Ground-Dove (DMS), Western Emerald (DMS, Grd), Black-tailed Trainbearer   (DMS, Grd), Tufted Tit-Tyrant (DMS),Vermilion Flycatcher (DMS,Grd), Streak-throated   Bush-Tyrant (DMS), Rusty Flowerpiercer (DMS, Grd), Golden-rumped Euphonia   (DMS, Grd), Scrub Tanger (DMS, Grd), Yellow-bellied Seedeater (DMS), Grassland   Yellow-Fnch (DMS), Saffron Finch (DMS,Grd).

Rare: Croaking Ground-Dove (DMS), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird   (DMS), Giant Hummingbird (DMS, Grd), Streaked Saltator (DMS).

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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