Tūtoko / River Flats to Tūtoko River bridge


Running clean and manageable at the bridge but needs some extra water


1.5-2 hours
Put in: 
See the description.
Take out: 
Tutoko road bridge
Walk, it's good for you.
NZ Topo D40
Steep, tight, technical with Mt Tutoko as a fantastic backdrop.
Hot tip: 
Take a watch!
Dr James Hector, a geologist for the Otago Provincial Government bestowed the name Tutoko on this stunning mountain and river valley.during his explorations in 1863. Chief Tutoko and his family lived at a small pa in Martins Bay at the time hector was trying to find a pass out of the Milford area. He had explored the upper Cleddau only to be, "repelled by a wall of mountains."

The most popular option is the lower section (see beta box). This offers the best of the Tutoko experience. Tight class IV boulder gardens, all boat scoutable and in a gob smacking locale. It is possible to walk into the upper reaches of the river which, reportedly, has much more class V and more portages – and it adds 3-4 hours of mud wallowing to the walk, don’t be fooled by the first hour or so of track it doesn’t continue like that!

Levels are tricky. The easiest, and only, thing to do is check the rapids just above the road bridge if it is running clean and looks like good manageable paddling chances are it will be just that. On one trip we checked the levels at the bridge and it looked good. We walked in to the lower, but by the time we made the river again it was bank to bank at the put in. We certainly got value for money. Despite an anxious start it was all quite manageable. The water level at the take out was flush with the top of the river left bridge footing – give it a go!

To get to the put in: drive to the Tutoko Bridge. Shoulder boats and head up the track on river right. Start your watch. Walk for between 50 – 70 minutes. Sometime after 50 minutes but before 70 you are looking for a stream crossing with mostly clean boulders in the bed, (instead of moss and slime) and possibly a rock cairn just before the stream (I built one there once). Take a punt if you are new to the game and bash down this (approx 35 mins) to the main river. You should pop out at the bottom of a heinously steep looking rapid. If you didn’t – bad luck. Put on and figure out where you went wrong. Paddle down to the bridge.

NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: