The Makawhio is another classic West Coast helicopter river, more moderate than many and long overlooked. In early 1999, Erik Bradshaw, Jon Hunt, Katherine Macey and Tony Ward-Holmes had eyeballed the river but had to wait a month for the rain to stop before they could get in there. The steep walls and stunning waterfall off the side of Mt Herman provide the big-country scenery and set the scene for the day.
The trip starts in a beautiful gorge at the confluence with Jumbo Creek. Smooth rock and elegant water-worn formations provide a surreal background. The first big rapid and portage, Stop Sign, is completely shut down by the rock of the same name. When this rock eventually gets moved there will be an awesome series of class V drops. You can put in before the end of Stop Sign, but beware of the last small drop with its slow but sure re-circulation - it is perfectly shaped and offers no easy exit, as Katherine found out. Good fun class III+ to IV+ water then follows until a lake. Everything is to scout and/or walk if need be. The lake is reminiscent of the earthquake lakes on the Karamea, and like the Karamea lakes, it too has a complex slip rapid at the end of it. The entrance drop has yet to be run, the rest adds up to class IV. Below that the river slowly eases.
To get to the PUT IN: drive 30 minutes south of Fox to the small town of Jacobs River. Fly from here by contacting the Sullivan’s 03 751 0828 to use their field for the chopper, which is the first turn on the left after the bridge. You may get permission and the key to use their access road, in which case the last flat five kilometres is eliminated.
The river was run in huge flood (estimated 150 cumecs) in 2005 by Glenn Murdoch, Tyrone Blyth and Mike McWhirter who report it has a fun rollercoaster with consequences!