This is a beautiful section of river that has been popular for years and has much to offer at a range of levels. The best time to be here is during a fresh or one of the three planned 30 cumec releases during the year.
Boisterous boulder riffles provide all the excitement needed for a class III trip when the water is low (15-30 cumecs). Take time to enjoy the surrounds as you crash down the 60-odd rapids in this stretch.
Surfing and playing between 35-120 cumecs is excellent and the whole river running experience is improved with more water. The rapids don’t change much. If this river was flowing naturally it would run at around 40 cumecs, so it can easily take this amount without appearing to be in flood. These flows are definitely the time to catch it.
The big runs (120-400 cumecs) are interesting. The river reaches flood point around 120 cumecs. The major problem at these levels is the speed with which the river piles into many of the sharp corners. Buffer waves just keep getting bigger, easily reaching 1.2-1.6m high, accompanied by very confused water afterwards. It has been paddled in flows as high as 900 cumecs. In these levels it takes around 45 mins to do the entire run but you must have a very strong team and be able to follow the golden rule of flood stage paddling – never, ever swim.
At levels over 150 cumecs the weir at Poutu Intake runs. Don’t even consider paddling this, it has already claimed two lives from two attempts!
To get to the take out: find the Poutu Stream bridge on SH1 about 7km from Turangi. On the southern side of the bridge is a turnoff. Drive 2.3km of gravel to the roadend and carpark at Blue Pool.
To get to the put in: return to SH1 and head south for 8.5km to a signposted turn onto Kaimanawa Rd, Waikato Falls and Rangipo Power Station. Follow this for 2.8km to a left turn signposted Waikato Falls/Beggs Pool. A further 450m sees you at the Poutu Intake structure. Park on the river right. Burglaries, unfortunately, are common so don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle.
The Tongariro River is named after the mountain of the same name. Tongariro means ‘seized by the south wind’; when the mythical chief Ngatoro-i-rangi was on the summit of Tongariro and in danger of perishing with cold, he called to his sisters in Hawaiiki for fire with the words, “Ka riro au I te tonga”, or “I am seized by the south wind”.