Nevis / Nevis Crossing to Kawarau River, IV-VI (P)
Class V-VI (P): 20-25 cumecs
Make my day (P): >25 cumecs
Draining the Garvie and Hector mountain range the Nevis River drops steeply through amazing Otago countryside on its 16 km journey to meet the Kawarau river.
If you are a competent, confidant class V paddler and like your creekin' on the steep side of very then this is the river for you. Make sure you pack your elbow pads!! It is the best in the region and offers some of the sickest, consistent hard boating in the country. There are so many drops and rapids on this wee gem that to even attempt to give a blow by blow account of each rapid would be ludicrous!
Don't be fooled by the mellow start. You get about 2.5 km or so of boogie water to warm up on and get the blood flowing before a manky rapid just above the obvious Slot Gorge which is a mandatory portage. Portage on the left and jump in from the ledge. Watch the jump, there are shallow rocks!
This is really the start of the Nevis River proper, a couple of rapids later - the game is on. The next 5km contain everything from ledge drops 2 - 10 m, long combination rapids and tight technical drops. Through this next section expect a lot of primo, boat scoutable stuff that you can pretty much bomb your way down eddy to eddy, though as per usual, check anything you cant see the bottom of. There is still some groveling to do but many many classic drops. Most of it goes apart from a couple of choked out boulder jumbles with easy portages.
Of note is one rapid called Double Drop with a fast lead in finishing with a sweet boof at the bottom. This rapid heralds the next section you are about to drop into. Be careful through here as it is sieve city. Make sure you can always see your next eddy as one rapid starts leading into another through this steep section. When you arrive at another BIG obvious horizon line then you are getting through it. Here you will see the river literally drop away from underneath you at Lunch Rapid, a class VI teaser, there is a line and it has been run, but this bad boy definitely rates high on the chunky scale; a tricky lead in and super tight line all to a must make move to avoid landing on a big rock from way up high. Portage on the left and this is usually a good time to grab a rest and get yourself sorted for the final onslaught downstream.
Below the portage you have 700m or so of continued steep before a quiet wee stretch for 200m which leads into the last STEEP section. The river drops like a staircase through here and when you reach a set of long steep rapids, one finishing with a 15 footer (great photo op), you are through the worst of it. From here the gradient begins to ease though you still have lots to keep you on your toes. Once you pass under the Nevis Bungy bridge you are home free and the Kawarau soon appears. You may be able to take out right at the confluence on the left side of the Kawarau but sometimes the gate is locked and you have to paddle through Citroen to the take out there.
Having someone who knows the run will cut your time down a lot. Expect anything from four to ten hours depending on your team. If you have the skills and are feeling good then you won't be disappointed. Watch out for the sieves! Go prepared for an epic and go hard, you'll be sore but stoked!
When you put in at Nevis Crossing you want it looking pretty low. The optimal flow is around 17 to 20 cumecs. Any lower than 15 and you can expect to bounce more than you or your kayak really would like. At flows higher than 20 expect juicy and intense!! Myself and Keith Riley once put on around 30 or so according to the flow phone and had an absolutely epic trip, needless to say we were both stoked we knew the run well.
Rapids include: Freight Train, Little Brother, Big Brother.
2009 video by Pete Simpson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ov0PdR-yYAY