Crooked / Upper Gorge


10-15 cumecs

Water level needs to be below the bedrock/concrete interface under the old bridge piles on river left.

40mins - 4hours
Put in: 
Where the track first returns to the river or Morgan Creek
Take out: 
At the old bridge site
Walk or helicopter section 7B
Stunning schist canyon, steep, pool-drop rapids.
Hot tip: 
Calf, as in small cow, deep mud!

The Crooked River is just north of SH73 between Arthur’s Pass and Greymouth. It flows west from the Kaimata Range and winds its way crookedly into the eastern side of Lake Brunner.

A fun sport run when you aren’t flying into the longer helicopter runs, the Crooked is a fabulous little canyon that will really put a smile on your dial. But be warned this beautiful schist cleft has claimed one life and there are plenty of traps for the unwary. If it is your first time in the Crooked don’t leave it until late afternoon to walk in. It’s true the locals people make it to the put-in in less than 1 hour and paddle out in about 45 minutes - but they know the run. If it is your first time you’ll need 2 - 4 hours to walk in and 1.5 - 2 hours to paddle out - and you’ll be knackered. Or you can fly and put in at the Morgan’s Creek/Crooked confluence and get another 4 kilometres or so of class III - IV

The water is crystal clear in the shallows and aqua blue in the pools, the rock gorge is folded into impossible shapes and swirls and the boating, while short, is mighty fun. It’s probably the combination of these things that keeps paddlers going back and erases the pain of sore shoulders and sight of mud encrusted legs.

On the water you have 200m to warm up before the first drop. Once in the gorge getting out is difficult and the portages are slippery. Good boat scouting skills are a pre requisite. Five drops down is Bent and Twisted, the crux rapid with a difficult lead in to a steep and narrow chute. A couple more class IV drops follow before things ease and you float to the take out.

To get to the take out: find the road between Jackson’s (SH73) and Stillwater (SH7), get to the T-junction south-east of Rotomanu. From this junction head north-east for just over 2 kilometres. There is a farmhouse on the right about 50m off the road. You need to call the Burgess’s (03 738 0177) ahead of time to get a key to the gate and arrange payment ($20/group) if you want to drive all the way to the take out. A further 800m after the farmhouse there is a gravel road on the right. It is 2.8km to the road end and as long as it isn’t raining really hard it should be fine for most vehicles. Please leave all gates and electric fences as found. The farmer has requested that people don’t run or bike through the farm track as this spooks the cattle more than vehicles.

To get to the put in: from the take out head along the obvious track behind the ‘Otira Kopara’ sign. Walk, trip, grovel and mud wrestle for 1-2 hours until the track returns to the river. It is possible to fly to a put-in below the steep upper section and this adds a few kilometres of Class III-IV.

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


mikenooney's picture

A group of 6 paddled this run yesterday. It was a medium flow and about my fifth trip down there and hadn't run it for 3-4 years. The gorge is stunning as ever and the track is easier than it used to be. Gone are the vines that used to entangle you as you waded thigh deep in mud! The track is mostly wide and clear, the main issue is the steepness of the climb and descent. Quite a few drops in the gorge have changed in character, are not as 'clean' and more technical. Two drops are not portageable at medium flow and another has a 4m seal launch (straightforward) as the portage. I think the lines would clean up at a lower or higher flow.