Taipo / Julia Creek Hut to Mid-Taipo Hut (Upper Taipo)


IV+ (V)
2.8 - 3.2 gauge

At the river, by the bridge

5-8 hours
Put in: 
Julia Creek Hut
Take out: 
Taipo bridge on SH73
Helicopter 7B
Steep, technical, busy water, very scenic, classic test piece.
Hot tip: 
a must do

The Taipo, meaning monster or taniwha, was so-named because it claimed the lives of many Maori who traveled through the area. One story also claims the name was coined because the water was so cold it felt as though a monster had grabbed the loins of those crossing.

The Taipo is a great adventure river run. It offers stunning scenery and location, excellent whitewater and good length. The lower 3 kilometres through the short, scenic gorge has been used by kayakers and rafters for several years and is a good day out if you are new to the Coast and at a loss for something to do. Kayakers began flying up the valley to Tumbledown Stream in 1993. They returned with stories of amazing water and wild experiences. Bruce Barnes et al went higher to paddle from Julia Hut and produced a mega-classic. Above Julia Hut the river divides and the lack of volume will restrict exploration to times when there is plenty of water in the main river.

From the first breakout at Julia Hut the action is fast and busy – 6 kilometres of continuous whitewater with only small eddies to rest in. Entrance Exam - a class IV+ drop in the first 2 kilometres - has a pushy hydraulic at the bottom that will take most by surprise. A kilometre below Tumbledown Stream is a short gorge with two hard-to-scout class IV+ rapids - Tit and Tat. If anyone in your party is struggling now it would be a good idea to portage the whole gorge on the track on river right. A further 800 metres, just above Dexter Creek, is the biggest, steepest rapid on the river. Showcase-a class V multi-tiered drop. A pushy S bend below here leads to more moderate class IV water. Scouting is easiest from the right as is the ensuing portage for many.

You can be dropped off at Tumbledown Stream, allowing an easier warm-up for a kilometre or so instead of the intensity of the Julia Hut put in.

At Mid Taipo Hut the gradient eases markedly into 13 kilometres of class II-III boulder gardens through open valley flats to the last gorge and the road bridge. If flows are very high (>3.4 gauge) this section on its own is a lot of fun and gets into class IV at flows around 4 on the gauge.

The length and difficulty of the entire run makes it a very serious proposition. Make sure the weather forecast is solid and be conscious of the time. A strong team will get down in 4-5 hours, but with time spent scouting and portaging, many will take 7-8 hours.

To get to the take out: find the Taipo River Bridge on SH73. On the upstream side of the bridge on river right is a gate into a clearing. Park there and leave room for the helicopter.

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: