We did this run thinking it was a first descent but have since heard it may have been done before. The reason for the lack of traffic was due to the two drops marked on the map which would be pretty serious if they were actually there. As it turns out, the good old topo map wasn’t quite right and the biggest drop on the run was only a six-footer.
The run starts where the Mackintosh track crosses the river, carry (drag) your boat the 15 knee-breaking-minutes down the hill and put in at the bridge. The first rapid you can see below the bridge is pretty much indicative of what the run has in store so if you don’t like the look of it you’re about to have a terrible walk back up the hill.
The run is tight and very committing, mostly in a gorge where escape on foot would be tricky and escape with a kayak not an option. Having said that the rapids are not super hard; mostly tight little bouldery numbers (which can be scouted fairly easily) and some clean slides and drops. The best part of the run is where the gorge is steepest and tightest. It is heralded by a boulder rapid which then turns hard right around a corner - a log can be seen sticking out around this corner and be warned - it is in play. Catch the eddy on the left of the corner or scout from higher up. From here there are some slides (watch for the undercut one - go hard right) and a clean six-foot sloper.
The crux rapid is not far below this clean drop. It starts with a boulder garden which tempts you ever lower and then swings left and tightens into a narrow corridor very similar to the Waihohonu drops. There is a hole with a recirculating eddy which is tricky to get out of. This rapid is hard to scout and set safety on - if you’re first don’t stuff it up! It would be very difficult to portage although it could be done on the right. At high flows this hole may become much worse or wash out, it is hard to tell - go in lower first.
After the gorge there are lots more bouldery rapids and some amazing scenery. Keep an eye out for wood - there are a few logs in play spread down the run but nothing which needs portaging.
We had a level of 2,100 on the gauge downstream and wouldn’t want it much lower as the boulder gardens will be manky. At high flows the gorge would be moving fast and there wouldn’t be too many eddies. Basically check the river at the takeout and see if it looks good.
This run is excellent for an intermediate crew who are getting into creeking, and learning about eddy hopping and on river communication. Having said that, unless you are solid on class four, go with someone who has either been down, or is confident boat scouting at this level. This is a creek run; there are consequences for blown lines and missed eddies.
Take out: To get to the take out drive up the Taihape road for half an hour from Fernhill, turn right onto the Lawrence road and follow this to the end (7km).
Put in: Drive back out the Lawrence road and continue for another 10-15min on the Taihape road, turn right onto the Lakes road and follow this for another 10 mins following signs to the Mackintosh carpark. Walk down 15min down the Mackintosh track to the river.