The Hawea is a hydro dam controlled river. In its usual state of 10 cumecs, it’s a very simple class II run, close to town. When the dam releases, the play wave in the middle is rated at class III and will be full with all the local kayakers!
The Hawea River Track
Its about a 2 hour walk, for about 9km of high quality track. If you want to do the walk, the best place to start with your car is at the Hawea Slalom course. The Hawea River track starts at the massive swingbridge just upstream, and continues all the way to Lakea Hawea itself. You can even walk a few minutes up to the Hawea township to buy an icecream or lunch if you like. This track is easy to cycle too if you want.
Its easy to do a car shuttle for this river. The top put in (just beneath the Dam) is best accessed from the main road (river right) side. Pull into the petrol station, then drive north to where there is a vehicle track through a gate. You can drive almost the whole way to the water.
The other easy put in is at the Hawea Playwave, by the Camphill bridge.
Hawea River (II)
From the Lake to the Play wave (immediately above Camp Hill Rd bridge), is class I/II with a couple of small rapids. Some of these can make fun ‘mini wave’ surfing features for packrafts. The features tend to be more pronounced at residual flows (10 cumecs) at higher flows, these features wash out and its just wave trains. There’s printed warning signs on the river bank as you approach the wave, and its easy to get out and portage on river left.
Below the Wave there are a few more features than in the upper section, so if you only have time for a shorter paddle, this is the more interesting section. The main danger on this river is Willows along the river edges, that can sometimes form strainers. Whenever there’s trees near a rapid, make sure you can visually confirm the location of any strainers before you paddle the rapid!
The swing bridge marks the location of the campsite/slalomcourse. There’s lots of takeouts on river right. Don’t paddle into the Clutha unless you want to be taking out a long ways downstream on NZ’s largest river by volume.
The Hawea White water park (II/III)
At residual flow (10 cumecs) the two features are simple class II drops. But when the dam releases, the top becomes a retentive hole, and the bottom one a large surf wave, both class III.
Residual flows from the dam are about 10 cumecs. The river is runnable, but bony in a few places at this flow. The dam releases are usually scheduled, so it pays to check online before you go. Releases of up to 40 cumecs are still fine for packrafting. Occaisonally they release big volumes (200 cumecs)
Gallery photos show a trip at 10 cumecs, and another at 40 cumecs.