The Rangitaiki is the longest river in the Bay of Plenty. The Aniwhenua is a great beginner trip, or just a cool spot to play around with some good mates. There are quite a few surf waves and eddy lines to practice up your skills on. Many kayak clubs use this as a skills building trip for beginners and advanced alike. The bonus is that it can be done all year-round, as the source is the Aniwhenua reservoir. Words by CalebTarzwell Photos Martin Robertson.
The put in is at the Aniwhenua power station. There is ample parking at the end of the road, used by paddlers and tourists gawking at Aniwhenua Falls. Walk down the road about 200m until you get to the dam, with the option of going down to the falls viewpoint for an upper look at the waterfall. You can lower your gear onto the lower platform of the dam using a 15m throwbag. There is a steep path down to the right of the dam.
There are two potential takeouts. One is a pullout on the side of the road as you start to climb a hill and leave the riverside. To access this from the river, take the obvious fork on the right when the river splits. It will also be the first time you encounter the road.
The other is a dirt road pull-off right after a bridge over a creek if you are driving north. This is noticeable on the river after a relatively rapidless stretch you come to a final rapid with a concrete boat launch on the right for the jet boaters. This is a better option if you have multiple vehicles. It adds about 15-20 minutes of easy paddling.
The put-in is the outlet of the power house adjacent to the bottom of the Aniwhenua falls. The spectacular columnar jointed volcanic rock rises in a sheer wall in front of you. Check out the form of the original river bed above the falls, visable because most of the flow is diverted through the powerhouse.
After a 800m you will encounter the first of two big wave trains. These are either lot’s of fun or very intimidating depending on flow and your experience. Beginners might swim here, so regroup at the eddies after the rapids. You can sneak around the wave trains but that would defeat the purpose of riding the bronco.
The river continues following a beautiful Class 1 gorge featuring some fun Class II rapids which give lots of opportunity for playing. The second big wave train is about the 2.5km mark.
For most of the trip its pleasant gorgy scenery. Near the end of the trip when the road comes into view you begin to see the signs of pine plantations.
The main hazard to watch out for are possible wood. However, with the stable flow of the river, this seems less likely than in other rivers. Most groups won’t need to scout, but keep your head up.
It’s only 6km, so it would possible to do 2-3 laps if desired. There is also the possibility of carrying on another 14km in slow water to where the road crosses the river.
Despite being a practice run for many clubs, it does run through a beautiful gorge and starts at a waterfall – I can think of worse ways to spend a day!
Because it’s sourced from the dam, you can paddle the river all year at nearly any flow.
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