A beautiful walk in through a densely forested valley with scattered grassy clearings and high open tussock ridges, backed by rocky summits. To top it off, the river is visually stunning, an easy class I-II with an exciting class III section through a small gorge.
This trip page is adapted with permission from a trip report by Kate Lord, from a trip she did with Colin Kinnison in a double packraft 17/18 December 2016. Thanks to Sharalee MacDonald for the update about the logs under the swingbridge.
Nina Valley Track to Nina Hut put in
The track starts at Palmer Lodge. It is clearly marked and generally well formed, with some small side stream crossings.
About 45mins from the road, there’s an old side track, unmarked on newer maps which leads down to the top of the class III gorge section. This provides an option to scout the rapid on your way in, or leave the river without paddling the gorge.
After another 45 mins or so you cross the Nina at a swing bridge.The track then continues on the south side of the river for another 1.5-2 hours to Nina Hut, a 10 bunk hut (with fly screens) set on a high terrace offering superb views of the mountains.
The Hurunui College undertakes regular restoration work in the valley here and conducts a Kiwi and Whio monitoring program with many sightings noted in the logbook.
To access the river follow the marked trail west of the hut sign posted to Brass Monkey Bivy. This takes you steeply down the hill to the north where after 20 minutes it meets the Nina River and an easy put in.
Read more about the Nina Hut and Nina Valley Track on the DOC website.
Nina River (I/II) Nina Hut to the gorge
From the put in, the river is mostly single channel, with a few brief braided sections. Its mostly class I with the occasional class II rapid. In low flows, expect some shallow sections and perhaps a little bit of walking/dragging of boats. About an hour from the put you’ll pass under the swing bridge, through a deep gorged pool.
As of mid March 2018, there are a few trees in the gorge under the swing bridge that may be hazardous; especially in higher water when they may not all be visible. make sure you have a good look as you walk in!
An hour below the swingbridge, the river begins to narrow, with more consistent class II paddling, until a very sharp right hand bend signals the start of the gorge. Just before the gorge, there is a large orange triangle track marker on the true left on a broader grassy section. This marks the track, which you could take to rejoin the main Nina valley track and avoid (or access) the gorge.
You can scout on river right before entering the gorge.
Nina River lower gorge (II/III)
The gorge is reasonably short, but has about four class II/III rapids with pools in between. (The first, named “At Loggerheads” and the last “Gorgeous”).
In lower flows, it was possible to portage some parts of the gorge, but in higher flows it would be unlikely.
Nina River below the gorge (I/II)
Below the gorge, the river is mostly braided, with class I/II paddling. Its possible to take out at the confluence with the Lewis River, then walk steeply up to the road and back to Palmer Lodge.
A better option would be to continue down stream to where the Lewis meets the highway and then walk back 2km along the road, or leave your car here in the first place. Best of all, this take out is at the Sylvia Flats Hot Pools.
The closest gauge is for the Hope River at Glynn Wye. This gauge is a long way down stream, in the main river valley that drains the Lewis Pass catchment to the east, so it would only give a vauge indication of the flows of the area.
For the photos in this blog post, the gauge was at 0.76m, which was a little higher than the median flow of about 0.5m. This trip could probably use a little more water to save pushing your boat, though the ability to portage and difficulty in the gorge would likely change at that higher water level.