Kawarau / Dogleg


100-400 cumecs

Otago Regional Council flow phone 03 479 6493, Chards Rd gauge

1-3 hours
Put in: 
Rafters’ put in 4.5km from Arrowtown turnoff
Take out: 
Dog Leg camping area, Rafters Road
6.5 km
Big water playboating in a bedrock gorge
Hot tip: 
Go wine tasting while you are there

Fun surfing, enders, splats, pivots, wave wheels and eddy line cartwheels at a variety of places, in a variety of flows on one of the biggest rivers in New Zealand. Summer flows may get as low as 100 cumecs, spring and flood flows may easily reach 600-700 cumecs. Whatever the flow there always seems to be something to do.

After the put in the gorge closes in around you and an ominous roar heralds your arrival at the top of Smith's Falls. Find a wave, or if your life insurance is up-to-date catch a ride in the big hole on the right side. Beware of plummeting bungy jumpers off the second of the Twin Bridges. Violence may ensue if you try to get out on their platform unless it's a dire emergency - exit here at your own peril.

The best surfing on Do Little Do Nothing is at about 165 cumecs, on the 3rd wave back where you can cross over to river right or recycle behind the rock on river left. The front wave is good at flows >300 but hard in short boats. A long stretch of canyon with excellent eddy lines leads into the final and crux rapid, Dog Leg. Out of control surfing in the first part of Dog Leg is not to be missed-but often is as the waves are fast and difficult to catch. Head left around the island and look for waves and a ledge hole on the left. The take out is on the right just beyond here and getting out here is a good idea as Nevis Bluff lies just a few kilometres downstream and there are no more take outs.

Camping at the take out is lovely, and there are some premium spots among the trees. At this stage it is free so let's look after it. We can keep it that way by cleaning up after ourselves and using the toilets provided. If you plan to stay a while and use an open fire please bring your own firewood. After two decades of use people have pruned, cut and savaged the resident trees to a seriously depleted state. New wineries have been sprouting all around the area so make sure you pay a visit or three.

To get to the put in: drive on SH6 between Queenstown and Cromwell. About 4km east of the Arrow River bridge is a gravel turning area with a road leading down to a carpark. A track leads to the river. Rafters clip their rafts onto a steep ‘zip' wire. I know of kayakers who clip their boats onto the raft wire. I have also seen boats split from the impact at the bottom. Your choice.

To get to the take out: the take out is further along SH6 towards Cromwell, down the first turn left (dirt road sign posted 'Rafters Road') after the Gibbston Winery, or 150m after a sign to Coal Pit Rd. Drive down to the obvious camping/parking area.

Class IV-: >400 cumecs

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: