Access 10 is one of the premier roadside runs in the North Island. It has a reliable year-round flow of about 16m3 and a number of schedule release days where it is allowed to flow at what would be its normal flow of 30m3 or more.
Link it up with the upstream Access 13 run and continue down to Turangi for a full Day.
Drive 4km down Kaimanawa road off SH1 and turn left before the bridge. The road crosses the dam and there is a large parking area. Walk down a short gravel access to the river.
There are campgrounds near the put-in. The more distant Kaimanawa campsite is more pleasant. The closer Urchin campsite has become a gravel carpark overcrowded with campervans (although post Covid perhaps not).
Leave a car at the Red Hut or Blue Pool access about 1km south of Turangi. Leave nothing of value visible. Taking out at Blue Pool annoys a few less trout fisherman but Red Hut (downstream) is right beside the Highway.
There is plenty of traffic for hitching. Talking up the Tree Trunk Gorge or Waikato Falls gorge will usually result in your ride coming down to the river to see the marvel of nature you have described.
On the River
This is a great reliable Class III run. After a short calm stretch to adjust your thigh straps and top up your boat you are straight into it. This is often the first decent Class III that paddlers do. Watch the expression on first-timers faces as the hit the first grunty Class III and tell them there’s a load more where that came from.
Most rapids are boulder banks over smooth rounded boulders firing into bluffs. Most have (trout filled) pools for a safe run out.
Below the Rangipo Prison access road bridge the river eases to Class II to II+ down to the Blue Pool where trout fishing becomes prevalent. Give the trout fisherman a polite wave and try to glide through along the opposite bank. After 15km on the river the take-out is where a bridge comes into view. Pull out river right and walk across the bridge to the carpark. Prey to the river gods that anything you left in your car is still there. You can carry on through Class II and Class I water another kilometre to Turangi or a few more to Lake Taupo. Or do a second run of the meaty stuff.
The Put-in is at a key point in the Tongariro power scheme where water harvested from the headwaters of a most (if not all) of the rivers draining the eastern side of Ruapehu exits a tunnel and enters the Poutu Canal. Once upon a time the mean flow of the Tongariro below this point would have varied and the bed of the river is capable of dealing with larger flows than it receives. It runs at a steady 16m3. On scheduled release days it can run between 30m3 and 60m3.
Release days and gauges are here