Our purpose is to preserve New Zealand's whitewater resources and enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.

Wairau / Rainbow Run, II-III+



anything up to huge flood
2-4 hours
Put in: 
Schroders Creek near the Old Rainbow Homestead
Take out: 
Rainbow Valley Skifield turnoff
N29, N30
single braid, interspersed boulder gardens with straight shot rapids
Hot tip: 
something different

As a child I watched in total horror as my father attempted to run a rapid on the lower Wairau in his newly built fibreglass kayak. The water was awesome (class I), the danger extreme (nil), and excitement intense (true). Needless to say he tipped out and the boat disintegrated around a rock, which only added to my already overloaded sense of awe about this weird sport.

Different sections of the Wairau River in Marlborough have been used for years by kayakers. The lower reaches below Renwick are good first timer territory and many of Blenheim’s kayakers get their first taste of moving water on this stretch.

Blenheim multisport paddlers use the section from the Wash bridge down to Renwick as a good 60km braided brain number prior to embarking on the Coast to Coast multisport race.

For true whitewater action, paddlers have to drive to the head of the valley for a choice of runs. The most popular is the Rainbow Run. Warm up on the first few kilometres of class II before the action picks up and the river takes on a boulder garden appearance. The main water of note on this section is the Hamilton Rapids. This is a 100m section where the gradient steepens and the boulders are big enough to create a series of drops that push the top end of class III. In higher flows this rapid may reach class IV. The rapid has an ideal scouting/watching area from a swingbridge across the river in the middle of the rapid. The rapids begin just above where the Hamilton and Lees creeks flow into the Wairau.

Below here the river eases off to the odd class II+ chutes that maintain interest on the way down to the Rainbow take out.

For those wanting a little more, drive higher up the valley to above Hells Gate. Put in near Coldwater Creek for a 3km section of steep, technical class III that pushes class IV in high flows. Below this section the river is flat and braided down to Schroders Creek.

To get to the take out: turn off SH63, between Blenheim and St Arnaud, at the signs to Rainbow Valley Ski Area. This turnoff is about 12km east of St Arnaud. Drive on this gravel road to the skifield turnoff.

To get to the put in: continue up the valley for a little under 10km to the Old Rainbow Homestead. Not far beyond the skifield turnoff is a locked gate. Phone 03 521 1838 and arrange to collect the key and pay the key deposit (some of which is refunded on return of the key.)

Catchment: 601000
Egarr_Comments: "{Egarr's Upper}most popular section
Egarr_Code: 162.01
Egarr_Vol: SI
Egarr_Page: 136
Egarr_Rec: 3
Egarr_Scen: 5
RUS_Code: 2616

NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 
Graham Charles
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