Ngaruroro / Kuripapango to Whanawhana (Lower Gorge)


Any, but some rain is recommended to keep the trip moving and exciting


4-10 hours
Put in: 
Ngaruroro bridge at Kuripapango
Take out: 
Otaumuri Stream junction, river left
Approx 55 km winding gravel road
NZ Topo U20, U21
single channel, wild and remote gorges, scenic wilderness
Hot tip: 
Wilderness and worth it. The Ngaruroro is a small, remote and little-known river with its headwaters in the northern Kaweka Ranges. The trip is possible at any time of year, but fresh rain improves speed of travel and whitewater quality. The section below Kuripapango is known as the lower gorge. With extra water it's a very long day of wilderness class 3+ water. Wilderness is the operative word here, and it's a great trip if you take your camping gear and stay out a night. A few campsites can be found on terraces on the first 8-10 kilometres, though the most commonly used site is half- way down the run (approx. 20 kilometres) on the right bank just below the derelict Lyndsays Lodge on the left. Run to the bottom of the rapid and catch the first right eddy and beach. It is a private tarpaulin and kanuka 'hut' which sleeps 10. There are also campsites around the hut (NZ Topo U21 Kereru ref 951863). From Kuripapango the water is mostly class II-III boulder gardens for the first 15 kilometres or so. The river then enters a nine-kilometre rocky gorge. This gorge contains the crux of the paddling - steep pool-drop rapids that reach class IV in high water. A narrow passage with a large rock known as The Barricade lies at the top of the last and hardest rapid. The river eases to class II as far as the Taruarau confluence, with many campsites, and class I to the Whanawhana take out. Users beware that a southerly wind will slow you down considerably. Take extra clothing as the wind can be chilling, especially if any of your party has taken a few inadvertent dunkings. To get to the PUT IN: from either the Taihape or Napier/Hastings side get onto the Taihape-Napier road. It is a long drive whichever side you come in. Kuripapango is about halfway between Napier and Taihape. About 200 metres west of the Ngaruroro bridge is a grassed rest area with a 4WD track leading down onto a lower terrace. You will find a walking track leading down the last 50 metres to the river. To get to the TAKE OUT: head east on the Napier-Taihape road until Otamauri. Turn right at the junction at Otamauri and follow the gravel road to the junction with Matapiro road. (The roads turns to tar seal at this junction.) Turn right onto Whanawhana Road and drive about 1.5 kilometres to the bridge over Otamauri Stream. A track on the right side of the stream leads down to the river. It is essential that your driver goes down to the river and places some sort of marker to indicate the take out!
Kevin Simpson
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


Lulu's picture

Does anyone know roughly at what gauge reading it becomes a class IV?

jojo's picture

I hear the shuttle road is now sealed which might save a bit o time!

Sid's picture

Gwyn. Looks like you had a good run. Checked the HBRC website and you probably had unusually high levels on the lower parts of the trip. The flow rose quickly and peaked at over 4000mm on the Kuripapango gauge, which is probably the equivelent of a 1:100 year event.

gwynfor's picture

We did this on Sunday 23/01/2011, with a gauge reading of approx 2200mm and rising at Kuripapango. The first rapid of note had a big hole avoidable on the left. After this, the main hazards were mid-stream pourovers an the upper stretches, fairly easily avoidable. The Barricades had some large drops and holes, all of which were runnable at about grade V. Not many eddies though, and a swim wouldn't bear thinking about. It took us 3h45.
At levels any higher than this the parking at the take out would be underwater.

Gwyn Ashcroft

Sid's picture

Rafting New Zealand has some shots on their webside of the gorge (

The Hawkes Bay Canoe Club web page also includes a number of trip reports with photos of this trip (

Sid's picture

Put in the Kuripapango Bridge on the Napier-Taihape Road. To get to the take out: turn left at the Whanawhana bridge (driving from Napier) and drive down to the river. The trip takes 7-10 hours, so it is a long day. Make sure you know where the get out is, otherwise its a long walk in the dark.

I've only done the trip on the back of rain. I've only done it once at about 1050 on the guage ( and it was a pleasant class III run. The gorge is beautiful and has a remote feel to it. At this flow there were some nice easy play features in the middle of the run.