Kawarau / Roaring Meg


100-350 cumecs

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

1-3 hours
Put in: 
Carpark 800m upstream of the Roaring Meg Power Station
Take out: 
The secret roadside area 5.2 km along the road
4.5 km
Big water boils and swirlies, narrow bedrock canyon
Hot tip: 
Squirty heaven

If boils and whirlies make your heart go pitter patter then get your teeth into this one. A fun run at any level with good surfing at regular intervals and locals have a regular Tuesday evening descent (6pm) throughout the summer months if you need to meet people or find a girlfriend/boyfriend.

At flows upto 200 cumecs there is a user friendly playhole at the put in. After the slalom site the whirlpools spiral down the gorge through a number of unnamed rapids. The only one of note is halfway down the run - a large hydraulic named Man Eater. I have seen proof, however, that this hydraulic is non gender specific. Around 170 cumecs it can only be run hard right. Between 170-250 it is huge crashing wave and can be surfed if you have what it takes. From here down enjoy the scenery and the endless seams to bury your tail in.

Take some time to reflect that this slackening water which now runs into a lake once flowed on to the famous Sargood's Weir. Sargood's Weir was one of the biggest, best rapids in the country. There were not many solid class V big rapids (200-500 cumecs) in the world. We had one of them. It exuded power, technicality and lack of emotion. Paradoxically it demanded of its suitors awe, fear, but most of all respect. It remained unpaddled until 1980 when Mick Hopkinson, then on holiday from the UK, paddling a fibreglass slalom boat successfully ran the rapids. Rob Lessor from the USA claimed the second descent in 1983. Then in 1984 Mick Hopkinson with partner in crime, Dirk Passchier, returned again. Dirk claimed the first 'Kiwi' descent of Sargood's. Through the late 1980s it became 'the rapid' for any aspiring hardperson and saw a number of descents. The intensity of use increased when the plans were published which showed that the lake from the Clyde Dam was going to flood the area to immediately above Sargood's Weir. People were keen to paddle the rapid before it died. When it finally drowned a slow and lingering death in 1992, Mick, who had paddled the rapid eighteen times, mourned its passing like a lost friend - indeed it was. May this murder of an international resource never be allowed to happen again.

To get to the put in: find the Roaring Meg Power Station on SH6. the put in is 800m towards Queenstown down a gravel road which descends a short distance to a large gravel carpark. A track leads to a gap in the gorge walls and the short clamber down to the river.

To get to the take out: from the power station drive about 4.5km down SH6 to a gravel road on the right cutting back down to a gravel parking area. There are some grey road marker posts numbered along this side of the road. The road is just after the 39 marker. If it is your first time on the run go down to the river so you can identify the exit point when you get there.

Class III+: >350 cumecs

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: