Waitaha / Above Moonbeam Hut to Morgan Gorge




5-9 hours
Put in: 
Above Moonbeam Hut
Take out: 
Start of Morgan Gorge
Helicopter section 7B
J34, I34
Steep boulder gardens, big drops.
Hot tip: 
Morgan Gorge is an unreal place but you probably don’t want to go there.

One of the best runs on the coast and thus one of the best in the country and is a step up from the Arahura and Whitcombe Rivers - it even has a lovely wander through lush forest near the end.

The normal put in is just above Moonbeam Hut. A short warm up and class IV boulder gardens lead down to ‘the big drop’, an obvious slot between two giant boulders and HUGE hole at the bottom. Good luck and keep ropes handy. Clear of this some more boulders take you into an easy gorge and chance to relax and enjoy the scenery. The tunnel section is next up and has three big rapids in a row culminating in The Tunnel. This is a fabulous stretch of water and is all portageable if needs be. The river takes a break for a while and pushes through a couple of gorges. You’ll come to an obvious rapid which runs hard into a wall and then turns hard right through a very small gap. Either run the rapid or portage on the right and seal launch off the obvious break in the cliff into the run out of the rapid. Things ease after this down to the portage. Once down to Morgan Gorge either find the track on the left and get amongst it or pucker up for the Morgan Gorge run. It is a hard work portage no matter who you are. If it is your first time it is a good idea to stick together as it is very easy to wander off the track and waste time trying to find each other. Put back in where ever you feel the urge. There is still some solid class IV boating (which feels harder because you’ll be knackered) before the gradient eases right off to the shingle fan and walk up to the cars.

To get to the take out: Phone the farmer for permission (03 755 4931). Drive south from Hokitika to the Waitaha Valley Road on the Hokitika side of the river (about 600 past the Kakapotahi Road). Drive about 12 kilometres up this road to a farm house and gate. Continue past the small conical hill to the road end before the obvious shingle fan. Make sure to check with the helicopter pilot you are going to the same place.

Graham Charles
NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 


tom_b's picture

Just did the Waitaha and portaged Morgan's gorge on the new track on river right (take out left then cross the bridge). It is fairly easy going but climbs high above the gorge and only drops back to the river after the grade 4 section below the gorge so you miss out on this. There might be a way down earlier but we couldn't find one--a GPS would have helped. It's still an awesome river, one of the best on the coast!