Pearse / Upper Pearse


Needs extra water


1-3 hours
Put in: 
Walk in from the Pearse Valley road end.
Take out: 
At the road end, or in higher flows down to the waterfall.
Tight, steepish gorge
Hot tip: 
Bring your elbow pads

The Pearse offers a bit of steep close to Nelson. With a bit of a fresh, the top gorge goes and is a short but very tight gorge with some fun small drops and steep short rapids. At higher flows the gorge can be quite intimidating, but the lower stretch of the river offers some fun III+ for more intermediate paddlers, or makes it a good length river trip if doing both sections.

From the put in, the top gorge goes straight into steepish boulder gardens. There are small pools between the rapids. There is potentially one portage at the end of the top gorge at lower flows. The portage is heralded by a difficult to boat-scout drop on river left. At most flows it can be scouted by clambering on rocks at the right. From here make your choice. If you are not paddling the drop, launch in on river right and skirt the sieve-y drop to boof off a small gap in the rocks. After a flat bit, the top section ends with three quick and fun short rapids/drops just before the road end.

If there is a good amount of water at the road end, the lower section is well worth doing. It has even-gradient rapids for the most, apart from a drop in the middle that may require scouting and a waterfall at then end. The bottom waterfall can be paddled at very high flows, or otherwise use the rock-slide on river left.

The Pearse traps timber, so tread carefully. The top gorge will be a mighty handful at very high flows and will be continuous, hard to scout and dangerous. Although short, it can be very difficult to get out of.

To get to the put-in; from the Motueka River West Bank Road turn onto the Pearse Valley Road. Drive to the end. This road is usually negotiable with a two wheel drive, but on occasions can become too rutted or muddy and you may have to walk further. At the road end, cross the river and hike up an excellent track. Ignore the longish section of flat water - it gets better at the top. After 30 minutes you will get to the high-point in the track with a bench built into a small cave in the rock face. From here, walk five more minutes and bash down the second tiny creek you cross to the river.

To get to the take-out; depending on flows, the takeout is at the road end, or if enough to do the lower section the recommended take out is at the waterfall next to a large tree with parking spot - about three kilometres from the road end or half way down the road.

Andrew Goodger
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


andrew.goodger's picture

There's been a few changes. The possible portage in the top gorge is now non-negotiable and requires a bit of thought as to how to best bypass. Also the "three quick and fun short rapids/drops just before the road end" are not all runnable at low flows now, one is pushing into an undercut rock in a bad way.

andrew.goodger's picture

Was thinking about flows at the weekend when we ran the Pearse as I never put flow information into the posting. The top gorge seems good when Baton is in the 15 - 35 cumec range. Definitely want it running clear. I have run the top gorge in extra low flows - it is so tight it is still runnable - but not recommended.

Jeza's picture

The lower gorge is runnable after 2mm of rain. The top gorge, however, needs more water. 4 cumecs would be ideal.

riverplay's picture

Recently ran the lower as well as the three drops immedatiely above the road end at pretty low flow (the baton had 7 cumecs on TDC website), it was running about 7-10 cumec, the lower section was still well worth it with some fun boulder gardens and a couple of small drops, grade 3 with one waterfall that we walked. The three drops above the roadend take 10 minutes to walk too and are all pretty classy, grade 4. One of the most underated runs in Tasman Bay.

riverplay's picture

this section is sweet, primo water very accessible, mostly scoutable from road/ walking track.