‘Holy shit, I’m getting out of here’ a wide-eyed Saz Simmons gasped as he rolled up in a rare eddy after being back-looped right over the top of me by a 3.5-metre breaking wave. Unfortunately for Saz, we were surrounded by vertical, moss-covered walls in a small gorge - the narrowest section of the Matiri. ‘Yeah, right, Saz’ sympathised the team, who then had to coax Saz into more of the non-stop maelstrom that was the Matiri in HUGE flood.
Big rains come every year to the Murchison area, and the Matiri is one river that really benefits from it. The Matiri is famous for its romping stomping high flows. The days after a big rain see a throng of vehicles making their way up the valley filled with kayakers, oozing with excitement at the water they are about to meet. Basically, the higher, the better. In flood the river moves very fast, the whole riverbed moves and the short gorge produces waves up to four metres high - monsters that take your breath away and blow the minds of many first-timers to the ‘joys of flood’.
In these flows, the rapid after the bridge is solid class IV. In normal flows, the river is a pleasant class II+ float trip through lovely bush and a short gorge. Many beginners take advantage of these conditions. The river drains Lake Matiri to the north through an impressively steep series of drops, which attracted attention in the past, but did not prove to be worthwhile.
To get to the TAKE OUT: from Murchison head north on SH6 for about 5.5 kilometres to the turnoff to the Matiri Valley. Drive seven kilometres to the end of the seal then a further 1.2 kilometres to a small opening and access point to the river next to the road, about one kilometre before the bridge. To get to the PUT IN: continue up the valley for about seven kilometers to the road end. Park in front of a gate and DOC sign. A small, unobvious track leads down to the river.