Wairoa / Wairoa Gorge Road to Andrews Road Bridge (Upper Gorge)


60-250 cumecs

Tasman District Council flow phone 03 544 3393

2.5 to 4 hours (depending on flow and put in)
Put in: 
a number of put in sites along Wairoa Gorge roads
Take out: 
take out on river right immediately before bridge at Andrews Rd, approximately 6km upstream from the Wairoa-Lee confluence (Grid Ref N28 179736)
upto 11km
easy access class III rapids in rocky gorges
Hot tip: 
this river drops quickly, and there are two Andrews Roads

The Wairoa River flows directly out of the rugged Mt Richmond Forest Park to emerge behind Brightwater. Within easy driving distance from nearby Nelson (30 minutes), the Wairoa provides a popular after-work run for local paddlers when the flow is right. About two days of consistent rain turns the Wairoa into a superb technical class III whitewater run with great play spots and dynamic eddy moves. Not recommended at flows less than 60 cumecs.

Access to both the take out and put in is via the Wairoa Gorge Road on river left. Which of the four put in options you choose should depend on group experience, flow, time available, state of road and how much you prize your vehicle. The first of the put in options is at the boldly signed Wairoa Gorge Recreation Reserve, 16km from the Brightwater pub, and immediately below the confluence of the left and right branches. A further two put ins are accessed from the Old Mill Rd at the Andrews and Anslow Rd fords. These roads turn off from the Old Mill Rd at 2km (Andrews) and 4km (Anslows) above the confluence. Even higher put ins are available but note that road access above (upper) Andrews Rd ford can be marginal, particularly in wet conditions.

All options provide class III water with more technical rapids below the confluence. The choice is yours and will depend on flow and time available. The river can be scouted from many spots along the road. Trips from above the highest ford can take up to five hours.

At very high flood flows (250+ cumecs) many of the more technical rapids wash out, leaving a formidable class III+ to IV big water run with typical flood features of very fast moving current, unusual hydraulics, few eddies, and the occasional tree. A more conservative put in below the lower ford at this flow would be prudent and the run should be contemplated by more experienced paddlers only. At very high flood flows there are few places to inspect the harder rapids on the section below the confluence and it is a good idea to run it with someone who knows the river. Flows from the TDC river gauge are taken below the Wairoa/Lee confluence. The flows given above are based on this combined flow reading.

The Wairoa Gorge is accessed from the small township of Brightwater. Head down River Terrace Rd behind the Brightwater pub, following directions to the Wairoa Gorge Rd. Access to the Wairoa’s upper reaches is by continuing up the road up the true left bank.

Sarah McRae and Geoff Miles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: