The Mokihinui (mo-key-he-nui) was a feared river for travellers along the coastal trails from the Arahura greenstone areas. Crossing in times of flood cost lives and the trip was fraught with other dangers. An ingenious solution to these dangers gave the river its name.
A large war party from the North Island was journeying down the coast to the greenstone areas. As they traveled they were repeatedly attacked from the rear by some of the local tribes. To avoid splitting the invading party the chiefs ordered a number of kahikatea trees felled and trimmed. These were tied together with flax into a big (nui) raft (mokihi) so that the whole party could cross at the same time. The raft was left and in later times repaired and added to by travelers going up and down the coast. It remained in use for many years.*
Any time the river is running clear it contains five or six rapids that reach class IV. All are easily portaged. The scenery is spectacular, starting at the wide open Forks and an old earthquake dam caused by the ‘twenty-niner’ earthquake. The first few steep rapids flow between large limestone boulders that tumbled from the surrounding hillsides at some stage in the past. These give way to even larger granite boulders and fantastic boulder garden rapids so common along the West Coast. The rapids ease after the first hour. Long, flat pools give a study in every shade of green possible.
In higher flows or when the river is running brown, expect a similar grade, but with a lot more push and less time to make decisions. The trip is much faster and requires more commitment.
To get to the take out: drive north from Westport for 44km to the small settlement at Seddonville. Take a right turn signposted to Seddonville for 2 kilometres. At a junction by the pub carry on straight, following the sealed road for another 1.7 kilometres to a farmhouse and shed. Continue past the shed on to a gravel road for 2.3 kilometres, crossing two fords. At the second ford there are good camping sites and an area for the helicopter. If the fords are uncrossable you can be picked up anywhere else, but this needs to be communicated to the pilot. Go down to the river and identify the take out spot.
Once finished and in need of refreshment head back to the main road and cross the bridge. Follow signs to Gentle Annie and drive about 4km down to the Mokihinui river mouth and the Cow Shed Cafe where Ellen’s muffins are reportedly ‘to die for’ especially the Pumpkin Surprise. Chow down. There is accommodation and camping available here also.* From Greenstone Trails-The Maori search for pounamu by Barry Brailsford