IV, > 100cu
Flowing through an isolated subalpine valley, much of the attraction of the Hurunui lies in its easy, yet enjoyable rapids with excellent eddies for teaching and learning. It’s Canterbury’s most used beginner river, the first whitewater trip for countless novices, site of many slaloms and training sessions, and a good hang out to escape the city scene. Take in and appreciate the grandeur of this remote valley while carving and turning your way down the river.
The slalom site at Jolliebrook has some nice sole surfing waves, and the rest of the trip to Maori Gully, is an eddy turning heaven. The entrance to Maori Gully is obvious and there is a river access point on the upstream side of Seaward Stream. The river takes its overall class III/IV grade from Maori Gully.
Maori Gully has been a whitewater enthusiasts’ haven since the 1970s and has seen descents by all manner of craft, including vehicles from the road high above! There are good play spots in the gorge depending on the flow. People have taken 2-3 hours to cover this 2km stretch.
Maori Gully owes its name to the people who once used the area as a route to the West Coast pounamu (greenstone) fields. From Kaiapoi they would travel through the Lake Sumner area, across the main divide and down the Taramakau River to the Arahura. They built flax and wood ladders to get into the side gullies entering the Hurunui gorge. The name Maori Gully was given to one of the bigger side gullies, but has since become the name for the whole gorge.
Different put ins and take outs exist all along the run, which can be as long or short as you require, desire or before you expire. Camping is excellent and free at the Jolliebrook site or at the junction of the north and south branches. Use amenities where provided and remove all food scraps and litter.
To get to the river: drive to Waikari township (last petrol station and pub!) on SH7. Turn west and follow signs to Hawarden. Go straight through Hawarden, following signs to Lake Sumner Rd. The road turns gravel as you cross the Waitohi River and stays that way, climbing over Jacks Saddle and down to the Hurunui.
To get to the take out: the take out is near a clearing by a cattle stop where the road descends from Jacks Saddle and runs parallel with the river. At the end of this clearing is a track down to the river. If leaving a shuttle vehicle, drop it here.
Rapids: Magic Roundabout, Simon's Hole, Big Bend, Long Rapid, Bum Rock, Middle Pool, Elevator, Grandstand Eddy, Cheese Grater, The Weir, OTO, Pop-up, Last Respects.
To get to the put in: continue upriver over the south branch of the Hurunui to the Jolliebrook swingbridge and put in. There is a higher put in for the top gorge or ‘fish farm’ as it is known, but access can be a problem and permission must be sought from the farmer.