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Whataroa / Butler Hut to Barrowman Flat, IV+ (V)

Alternate Name: 
Upper Whataroa


IV+ (V)
40-120 cumecs (roughly 60 per cent the flow from the WRC gauge)
visual, or WRC flow phone for the Whataroa River 083 225 495
3.5-6 hours
Put in: 
Butler Hut
Take out: 
Old SH6 bridge site.
helicopter section 7B or 7C
Big boulder gardens, big water feel.
Hot tip: 
Be ready for some big pushy water.

The huge north face of Mount Elie de Beaumont provides a stunning backdrop for the first couple of kilometres of the upper Whataroa, the only problem is there’s not much opportunity to stop and look at anything except the next difficult rapid. Once landed at Butler Hut it is possible to walk upstream and get a kilometre of steep water on the Butler. Otherwise walk downstream of the hut on the track and get out to the river wherever you can. Expect a gradient of 28.5m/km for the first 3 kilometres, and 8m/km from there.

The first few kilometres pack plenty of punch and are the crux of the Whataroa experience. This is a river that is big and feels big. Like the Whitcombe, the moves are often complex and huge and the water is silty, and hard to read. If you aren’t prepared to paddle some big water don’t bother flying in to the top. This is not a creek.

The action starts with busy, large rapids steep enough to require scouting. Most have a route somewhere that will only become apparent after scouting or brave eddy hopping or portaging. About 2 kilometres down is a large rapid which has yet to paddled completely. Portage along the rocks on the right or clamber up the stream and go along the track to the bottom of the rapid.

Once back on the water enjoy some fun rapids and easy sections. Keep your eyes peeled for the approaching Portals of Doom. Once you see them, portage on the right side close to river level (there are cairns marking the track start) to the track, then follow this past the gorge and get in at the first obvious route down to the river.

NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006: 
Graham Charles
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