Mōhaka / Poronui to Pakaututu


Put in: 
Poronui Station
Take out: 
Pakaututu Road bridge
Hot tip: 
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


keeweechris's picture

Hi Gwyn,

Do you know if a map of any sort has been made of the Mohaka, detailing gorges and rapids and campsites, etc? Would be awesome go get hold of one if it exists!


gwynfor's picture

We just did this as a 2 day trip after some heavy rain. Continuing on from Pakatutu bridge for another 3 hours on the water to McVicar road shortens the shuttle by about 100km.

The Mohaka Gauge at SH5;
was reading about 1500mm for our trip.

The shuttle is about 90km.
To get to the Take out;
Driving from Napier along SH5, take the first left shortly after crossing the Mohaka (McVicar road). When the road splits take the left turn and follow it down to the river(BJ38 138 564). This is easily recognisable from the river by looking out for Pungahuru falls coming in on the right.
To get to the Put in;
Get back on SH5 heading left towards Taupo. After going up through the Waipunga gorge, you will be going through lots of forestry. Turn left onto Taharua road and follow this to the gates to Poronui station. Park in the DOC carpark next to Helisika (BH37 854 783). Don't bother asking Poronui station if you can drive in - they won't let you. So start walking! You will be following a DOC poled route that gives access to the Kaimanawas. If you are lucky, there will be enough water in the Taharua to float down after a 30min walk. If not, then expect about 3-4 hours to get you to the Mohaka just downstream of the DOC Oamaru hut.
For those rich and lazy enough, you might be able to get a flight in to the Footy field airstrip (BH37 903 658).

We were lucky, and got on the Taharua at the first bridge (BH37 849 768). From here it took about 3 hours to get to the Mohaka. The Taharua is mostly flat through paddock and bluegum plantation. Expect a few portages around willow and fallen bluegum. Just after the second bridge, there is about 500m of fairly continuous bedrock slide that was about grade 3 when we were there. Watch out for an overhanging willow tree on the left on the last drop. Just after passing Red hut (BH37 857 698) the Taharua drops over a series of rocky falls, at grade 4-5 before reaching the Mohaka. Portage on the right through some Manuka if needs be. The Taharua used to be a great fishing river until 'dirty dairy' came along;

Sphincter, the first significant rapid on the Mohaka is just downstream of the confluence at (BH37 859 689). In low flows this is a narrow channel, and may need an easy portage (left). Expect a sizeable stopper at higher flows.
The wire crossing at (BH37 897 658) is where you would start from if you fly into the footy field.
The river flows through private land with several huts used for hunting and fishing until the Mangatainoka hot springs when DOC land is reached. None of the huts were occupied (or locked) when we passed. Camping on river flats would be quite easy in most of the section from the wire bridge to the hotsprings. The big posh new hut on river left is called Waiokaka, and is just above the confluence with the Mangatainoka. Shortly after, there is DOC camping on the right, and walking tracks to the hotsprings. We took 3.5 hours from the Taharua confluence to the Mangatainoka hotsprings, and a further 30 minutes to Te Puia lodge (BH37 946 585), the first DOC hut after Oamaru hut. This is obvious from the river, serviced, and has gas cookers that were a bit unreliable. The hut and the campsite at the hotsprings are a popular spot during the christmas holidays, and the hut is sometimes full. We were there during a few days of rain and had only 7 other trampers at the hut.
The next hour of paddling down to the Mangatutu hot springs contains 4 or 5 long rapids that were definitely grade 3 in medium-high flows. There is road access at the Mangatutu hot springs, but the shuttle to here requires going almost all the way back to Napier, and lots of dirt road with a few fords that sometimes become impassable for most mortal vehicles. If you are using this access, it is not at all obvious from the river.
Another 30 minutes should see you past Graveyard rapid, which is bony in low flows. Past this there are a few more camping options before you reach farmland and the Pakatutu bridge (BJ38 033 552) in another 30 minutes. Access here is above the bridge on the right.
The section from here to McVicar road takes about 3 hours and goes through an easy grade 2 gorge with forestry on the hills above. There are a few camping options on river flats. Look out for Pungaharu falls coming in from the right, and take out on the left. If you go under the main SH5 bridge, you have gone too far!
For a longer trip, the river continues at grade 2 for another 3-5 hours until the start of the grade 3 Te Hoe section at Aurora road.

Gwyn Ashcroft
Mohaka Rafting