Leith Stream / Leith


Above 15 cumecs??

Otago Regional Council flow phone 03 479 6439

1/2 hour
Put in: 
Take out: 
Concrete hydroslide with great surf waves and dangerous weirs
Hot tip: 
Take out above the clocktower weir
Watch out for clocktower weir...
Glenn Murdoch
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


jozaar's picture

after the recent upgrade from the ORC

part that should be scouted before running:
after the foot bridge leading to the botanical gardens (over hanging trees)
the clock tower weir (there was a line in the most recent flood but the rocks have moved)
river right channel after the stadium (salmon trap, usually breaks when flow gets around 30 cumecs)

clock tower weir:
thanks to some poorly placed hand rails by the uni the option of chicken shooting around the weir is lost at most flows. but thanks to the upgrade a nice eddy forms just before the weir around about 40-60 cumecs so a very short portage is possible

the uni campus watch is also equipped with throw bags

lastly the uni has no issues with people running the Leith they would appreciate if you let them know you're running it by contacting campus watch on +64 (03) 479 5000 this will let them know you're experienced and hopefully they won't get in your way

Glenn's picture

Some years ago there was an electrical extension cord in the University registry (right beside the Clocktower Weir) that was used by the University office folks twice in a few weeks to rescue kayakers who were getting creamed in the weir at a high flow.

Be careful....

henry1's picture

After paddling the Leith today a nice man in hi-vis who works for the DCC asked me to pass on to the paddling community that there is going to be more work undertaken on the Leith in mid-november so in the unlikely event that it rains hard then, the top section between George St and the Dundas st bridge will be unpaddleable for a while.

Enjoy the rain and unobstructed run now while its on!

Sid's picture

Far enough re the grade. I don't remember it being difficult, I just can't remember whether the wiers got a bit iffy at high flows, or whether there were issues with branches in the top section at high flows. I've only run it in play boats and I thought it was better to be conservative.

You're comment about the clocktower is probably right. I think the wiers been done at lowish flows, having said that I've never seen it run successfuly at a normal flood flow and I have seen a few rescues and a hospital admission. I've never been with anyone that has thought of paddling it at a normal food flow. There's no line through it, its' big, it's powerful, and there is no way to climb out. It's generally, bloody freezing when it's running.

henry1's picture

The leith from as far up as you can go wouldnt weigh in harder than grade 3 were it not for the weir; you just have to stay in the middle, though a swim would be pretty terrible.

The upper weir that we ran is nasty (I'm in the 2nd video you posted), and we only did so because we didnt know it was there. Dont miss your boof. It will almost definitely hold a swimmer, and other paddlers cant help there unless you have someone ready on the bank waiting for you to arrive at it.

We ran the upper in creek boats, and I wouldnt consider running it in playboats at that flow. The chances of making it over the weir would be slim. The normal run from the put in at the george st bridge is a perfect playboat run however.

The vertical railway irons produce the tamest weir of the run at high enough flows, though you still dont want to miss your boof.

I'd also upgrade the 'generally has to be portaged' of the clocktower weir to 'always has to be portaged.' Its the biggest hazard of the whole run.

Apart from that not much has changed from your description.

Also, dont show up when its real high with 10 or more people, its obvious and the police dont think its very sensible. Small groups have no trouble generally.

Sid's picture

Not sure if it's in Grahams book (it's on the shelf, should probably look). A great run when it's pissing down and cold. The principle attraction is it's in town.

I'd advise scouting prior to running it for the first time. I've posted a number of clips I found on youtube to help. The first is an overview ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paiMpSFGM00 ), the others are POV from flood trips. Please bear in mind the information I've posted is 10 years old (i.e. the last time I lived in Dunedin). The Regional Council is redeveloping the stream in the coming year so this description may/may have change(d).

My advice is go as far up the valley as you can. You'll need to check for trees and I suspect you'll probably be well within the city limits when you put in. The top section is more or less continuous class III+(IV in places), with bushs hanging in the water (see the attached clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eybEd7DOcU8 ). I'd advise scouting. The first weir occurs by an old bridge well above the state highway. It used to have concrete that caused some significant recirculation on river right, but I have paddled on the left at most flows. Heading down to town are a series of vertical railway irons that create a strainer that was a guarenteed portage.

Traditionally most people put in below this and run the concrete chutes under the highways. Just before the start of the chutes is a 2 metre high wier that can generally be run on the extreme river right. The chutes consist of a series of concrete slides that run under the state highways (see the attached clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az26ps4U1IM ). Most people get out at the Gardens (or through student flats) as the clocktower weir generally has to be portaged. You can put in below the wier and play your way past the students and lecture theatres.