Since 1996, when Bruce Barnes and I did the first descent and both nearly died in Carnage Gorge, this river has kicked more guru ass than the spotted guru ass-kicker from planet Kick Ass. Hence its reputation as a tough run. BUT - in the manner of changing nature, debris movement in the Kokatahi seems to have mellowed it a lot since its heyday! That probably means only one thing – it’s on its way back!
There are a range of trips but YOU MUST check with locals as to the status of the river and Carnage Gorge. This is a river of constant change and Carnage Gorge may be runnable - or it may not - and you don’t want to find out the hard way. Dave Kwant made two trips down during the 2006 season and he was amazed at how much it changed even in the space of two months without major floods. Unless you were there the day before - every trip is a first descent.
From Crawford Junction dive into continuous class IV-IV+, mostly boat-scoutable, paddling all the way to the stand out drop called Cover Shot (despite the name it has never made it to any covers!). Things get a little sketchy after here with a range of slots, sieves and mank, a short easier section, then it steepens up again. It’s tight in here with very small eddies and would be touch and go in high water. One more ugly sieve/slot rapid and then its IV+ to Carnage Gorge. Hopefully your homework has been successful and the Gorge will be about the easiest water so far on the run.
It is possible to get dropped off in the middle of the Kokatahi and except for the one big complicated rapid just after Carnage Gorge the rest is fabulous class IV/IV+ paddling that has been getting the double thumbs up from anyone who has been in there. It begins with IV+ through the first couple of gorges including Skateboard Ramp - a very funky kicker off some cool bedrock. It opens up for a while until the BIG waterfall - portage on the left. Once back on it is mostly III-IV (there are still plenty of sieves, it’s the nature of the river so don’t drop your guard). It opens up briefly and this is the signal to get out on the left to find the portage on the track, across the swingbridge, joining the river below the last gorge and paddle to the car and pub!