The Waihohonu, which literally means ‘deep water’, is a small creek born from a spring on the eastern side of Mt Ngauruhoe. It flows east under SH1 to a hydro intake immediately above its meeting with a pubescent Tongariro River.
Most kayaking trips start their journey off SH1. It is possible to walk up the Waihohonu track for 15 minutes and put in on the Ohinepango stream that winds across to join the Waihohonu immediately above the road bridge.
From the main road bridge there is a couple of fun class II kilometres which pick up when the river steepens and converges into a short chasm. This entry rapid is worth scouting as the water funnels into a gorge 265cms wide. The precise width is all part of useless paddling trivia you glean from seeing an Acrobat 270 wedged across the gorge. Fortunately the paddler exited before the boat flexed and released from this entertaining alignment. A second rapid follows that sports a mean hydraulic at its base. It has seen a few unplanned runs to date. Some people have been running the drops quite successfully, others not so. Keep your eyes open and decide for yourself. Portaging on river left offers the easiest line. Once back in the water the river eases off for the final scenic kilometre to the intake structure and the take out on river right.
To get to the put in: once on SH1, 31km south of Turangi, the Desert Rd crosses the Waihohonu River. Put in from the southern side of the bridge. For the upper section continue south along the Desert Rd for 800m. The start of the Waihohonu track is signposted on the right.
To get to the take out: head south on SH1 for 700m. Take the first turn on the left marked Kaimanawa Forest Park, Rangipo Intake. Drive down this road for about 3km and look for a gravel road on the left. Follow this for 600m to the intake structure.
There has been much discussion since New Zealand Whitewater by Graham Charles was first published in 1997 about whether this should be recommended as a mandatory portage. Graham was once accosted by an unfortunate team from the West Island (Australia). They had read the Hot Tip but failed to see what he meant. The ensuing garage sale was quite spectacular as every member of the team went through the rinse cycle and eventually washed out. Five of them with boats and gear all floated, somewhat disgruntled, out to the take out.