Turnbull / Turnbull Power Station Intake to river flats


IV+ (V)
Running clear after rain is optimal.


2-3 hours
Put in: 
Top of the road at the Turnbull power station intake.
Take out: 
When the river flattens out (see description)
Steep, technical, boulder gardens.
Hot tip: 
Getting to the river may be the hardest part.

The Turnbull has been out of action for a couple of years because of access issues. By virtue of being back in the guidebook doesn’t mean it is ‘on’ or you have a right to be in there. BUT as far as I can figure the road to the power station is a public road BUT the landowner still puts a variety of padlocks on the gate AND he is rather difficult to get hold of BUT if you do get the water and access and everything right it is a blast and worth a couple of runs.

Horizon lines are the most common feature on the whole run, though everything is paddleable with a bit of thought and imagination. Wait for a little rain to bring out the river’s full potential. At lower flows you can still get down, but some of the harder rapids may become portages. Don’t be misled by the distance. Allow a good couple of hours unless you know the run well.

Continuous class IV+ boulder gardens kick the trip off before a couple of larger drops make an entrance. The two crux rapids are about halfway. Both will probably require some scouting. Both demand a definite, narrow line to finish after some testy maneuvering and staying upright during the lead-in. Don’t even contemplate turning over!! If you’re prone to running rapids above your ability, a full-faced helmet may be your saviour or take up another sport. The intensity eases slightly, except for a couple of class IV+ drops then, suddenly, it all stops. Just like that. Continue to the first fork in the river, take the right fork. Right at the beginning of this fork look for a thinning in the bush. This is an old road. Take out and follow the road for 100 metres to an old riverbed. Turn right and follow the riverbed for 60 metres. Look for a cleared road on the left leading out to the main gravel road 800 metres below the power station.

To get to the put in: Call 03 750 1239 and ask about possibly getting the key. Please be very diplomatic as we need to prove to the farmers we can close gates and leave no trace. Grovel and beg. From Haast, head southeast 18km toward Jackson’s Bay until just before the Turnbull River bridge. Turn left onto a gravel road. Drive to the locked gate, carry on to the intake structure. OR - just go to the gate and walk in from there it’s not too far. There are plenty of sites for observers who can probably walk down the riverbank faster than you can paddle with all the scouting and carry on.

The take out is about 800 metres down the main gravel road below the Turnbull Power Station (see river description).

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: