WRC flow phone 083 225 495 for Whataroa Bridge. Take 40% of this for the Perth River.
Outrageous is the only word to describe the first few kilometres of the Perth River. It has become one of the ‘must do’ rivers on any hard-paddler’s Coast hit list, and for good reason. The scenery is stunning, the water is blue and the paddling totally absorbing. The lower section from Five Finger Stream has also become one of the established intermediate runs on the Coast.
Once unloaded near Scone Hut check out the scenery - the mountains at the head of the Perth are fantastic. On the water you have a kilometre or so to get warmed up and ready for action. Once the gradient increases there is no let up until after Five Finger Stream.
The run slowly unravels like a well-played chess game until near Five Finger Stream. A steep drop onto a large boulder – Pinball’s - has put people off to date, but there is a runnable class IV sneak line on river right. A large slip on river left soon after this heralds Knuckle Grinder. This steep class IV-V teaser is a result of floods in 1995. Most people take the right side entrance and then dig deep to avoid the undercut boulder at the bottom. The risks from the boulder are very real, and I believe God or Elvis lives under there as most sub-boulder survivors see one or the other.
The intensity eases after here and you can relax into class III+ water for a few kilometres past Nolan’s Hut until the final gorge. This is a stunning, smooth, schist gorge well worth getting the camera out for. It contains four or five class IV rapids. The Weir is an obvious river-wide waterfall/slide thingy which many people portage. It can be run at most levels.
Once clear of the gorge the confluence with the Whataroa River arrives quickly. Six kilometres of leisurely floating, with a couple of surprises, take you down to the old bridge site, carpark, beers and sandflies. Load the car as quickly as possible and head to the Harihari pub for celebrations.
The river has been run at very low and very high levels. The upper and Scone Creek need higher levels and a good weather forecast. In 1999 Peter Kettering, Ollie and I put in at Scone Hut with about 80 cumecs in the river. This provided a mostly paddleable but very intense big-water class V run. Gone were the boulder gardens and intricate moves. Instead it was a rolling thumping brown monster-we were happy to reach the lower reaches of the river intact.
To get to the take out: find the Whataroa River bridge on SH6, turn eastwards on the gravel road on the southern side for 2 kilometres to the old bridge site. There is a large parking area, and camping is allowed. Make sure you have a ready stock of insect repellent because the sandflies are rather aggressive.