Waingaro / Forks Hut to Hamama Road


0.8 - 1m gauge optimal

TDC Hydrology Dept

6 -7 hrs from Forks Hut
Put in: 
Forks Hut
Take out: 
Farm track at Hamama Rd or Paynes Ford bridge
Helicopter section 6
classic Golden Bay moderate creekin’
Hot tip: 
Drop gear at the hut and head up river.

The Waingaro is a tributary of the Takaka. It’s a long valley with its headwaters close to the Cobb in amongst high mountains so spring flows are good and allow paddling most of the time through this period. Otherwise rain is required. 0.8-1 gauge is an optimal flow and there is plenty of playboating to be had. Above 1.5 gauge the section from Forks Hut is more than enough to keep a good tem busy.

The Stanley/Waingaro were first run in 1992 as a two day trip with an overnight stay at the Forks Hut. The Stanley is a steep creek which begins its life at a spring below the slip which forms Lake Stanley. It is runnable with many long rapids.

The Waingaro above the Forks Hut is very small (6cumecs) but offers four hours of class III - IV water. There is a short class V gorge just above the hut involving a waterfall with a rather retentive hydraulic (underneath the swingbridge). The most frequently chosen line is to portage on the left down to the hut.

From the hut the first few kilometres are open class II paddling. The first gorge is obvious and is home to a dozen or so class III - IV rapids. There is a brief respite before the next gorge which takes a couple of hours to get through and is mostly class IV. Keep eyes open for the common Golden Bay sieves. The gorge ends with a 3m waterfall then the river opens up and settles into a routine of class II - III rapids with a sprinkling of class IV just to keep you honest. A final gorge just above the take out provides a good finale to the trip and has some good playspots for those with enough energy left. The take out is 1km downstream of the river gauge or at the Paynes Ford bridge.

To get to the put-in: Arrange with the pilot to get picked up at the Paynes Ford bridge or, with bigger groups, from the Cobb airstrip and leave a car at the bridge.

Trip length: Stanley 6km, Upper Waingaro 4km, Waingaro 20km

Nathan Fa'avae mentions doing a first descent: "I enjoyed some very challenging trips on the West Coast and logged a first descent of a technical Grade 4 river, the right branch of the Waingaro in Golden Bay," p197 of "Adventurer at Heart".
Rob Bryant
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


andrew.yates's picture

The Waingaro is a gem of a run which needs a spring top up to bring out the true colours. Deep, clear pools in every shade of green you can imagine!

Our solid crew of 4 paddled it at 30cu (Hanging Rock gauge) or about 1.0m on the river gauge on 28/10/13 after flying in with Helicharter Nelson (Matt is a great pilot: 021 575 146) from the Hamama Road end (land owner permission is required).

The run rates as a class four run and took 4.5h from the forks hut to the take-out (a few hundred metres below the overhead wire across the river). Putting in below the second gorge (where the gradient eases markedly) would be fantastic for G3 paddlers with a good roll - 10km of continuous G3 down to the takeout.

Good wilderness boating with a real sense of remoteness - don't forget your split! We saw 11 whio on our trip. The clean 1-2m single drop boof (boat scoutable) signals the middle of the 2nd gorge. The last drop in the 2nd gorge has a rather retentive hydraulic at the bottom, there's no real warning it's coming, no great eddies above it and a bouncy run out below! Stay sharp!

andrew.goodger's picture

Couple of photos of a couple of crux drops, poor quality though as stills from video.

riverplay's picture

24/10/10 walked into waingaro via the killdevil with IK's. Took 5hours to get to the point where the track meets the river which put us directly above the first gorge. The river was flowing 13 cumec, the main gorge was pretty bony but most rapids were still on.

riverplay's picture

On 10/10/10 rafted the waingaro at 20 cumec from Fuller Creek, tons of grade 3 and one grade 4, took us 3 hours.

riverplay's picture

Ran the waingaro on 27/9/10 after having mountain biked in via the KillDevil track. We had our boating gear flown in and out bikes flown out, which was cost effective option and very cool! The river rose to 110cumec over night and we put on at around 45cumec. it was pushy and near continuous through the top gorge. When we got to the main gorge, it was obvious it would be continuous class 5, not suitable for the IK's. We embarked on a 3 hour portage fest. Very pleased to see the tail of the gorge we then undertook 15-18km of unbelivibly fantastic near continuous class 3-4. We took out at 35cumec.
In summary Graham Charles' guide book once again under grades a challenging wilderness run, For a 'easy' grade 5 day out on the waingaro go on the drop where you'll be in the gorge at less than 30 cumec.

FOR HELI ACCESS; call Bill Wallace 03 524 8214

riverplay's picture

Most recently paddled from Forks Hut on the 24/10/09. The 2nd gorge mentioned starts 1km below porthouse Flat and is two km long. There is no 3m waterfall but you'll know when you're getting close to the end of ths section as the last two rapids rate as Class 5- (in my opinon). We paddled it at 0.7 on the gauge which was slighty under 20cumec, Everything was still on and could be paddled lower. At flows above 30cumec or 1.2 on gauge put in below Fuller Creek for a stomping big water run with near continuous rapids. Heaps of action and stunning country, we saw 17 whio on this last trip. Well worth the heli dollars.