Kākāpōtahi / Mid Gorge to SH6 (Lower Kākāpōtahi)


IV (IV+)
any level

visual/local beta

4-8 hours
Put in: 
Mid Gorge
Take out: 
Kakapotahi Road Bridge on SH6
Very tight, technical, committing, photogenic, sheer granite gorge.
Hot tip: 
A 'destination' river trip.

The lower Kakapotahi has proven itself as a lasting run for intermediates and experts alike. Best with a good fresh of water but it can be paddled at most levels.

After the class IV descent to the river there are some good class II rapids to warm up on before the river sidles into an innocuous looking gorge (aren’t they all?). Just above the gorge are a couple of big boulders on river left - be wary of pulling in behind them. They are perched on hard basement rock and a lot of water goes underneath them. I once got sucked completely underneath one in a huge creek boat and fortunately surfaced on the other side. The very next trip Mick Hopkinson went to do an S-move behind the boulder only to find the exit blocked completely and he was wedged up to his chest under the boulder - in his boat! Keep this in mind next time on the river.

Once the swingbridge is in sight, get out on river right and scramble up past the bridge to a good vantage point where a small stream has cut through the gorge. This drop is the most difficult in the section and is class IV - V depending on the flow. Portage on the right to the bottom of the gorge or take a deep breath and ride the chicane to glory.

The tempo doesn’t ease for 2.5 kilometres as you negotiate fantastic granite class IV boulder gardens through spectacular moss-lined granite sub-gorges with some fun play spots. Once the river spills onto the open river plain you are on the final stretch to the take out. Either go on down to the bridge or take out on the left side at a paddock with a mud road that leads up to the Kakapotahi Valley Road a short distance in from the main road.

To get to the take out: from Hokitika drive 40 kilometres south to the SH6 bridge over the Kakpotahi River. Park on the south side, or head up the gravel road a short way to a gate on the left with an obvious dirt road leading down to a big paddock on a river flat - park here clear of the gate and road. To get to the put in: drive 500 metres south from the Kakapotahi and turn left up the Mikonui Forest Road (unsealed). One kilometer up this road is a gate and another six kilometers to an obvious cleared area (be careful at a Y-junction a couple of kilometers past the gate – stay on the right). The put for this run is down a grassy/mud slope leading out of the clearing.

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


brookestream's picture

Ran at low water in the last week of Jan 2019. Swing bridge seems to have wandered off. A tree was blocking the entry to the first gorge....could be seen from either side of the river and easily portaged on the left. Highly recommend to scout BEFORE turning the corner to drop into the gorge....it could not be seen from a boat-scout, and no last minute escape eddies were available at that level!

Otherwise incredibly gorge-ous ;D well worth the approach!