Catlins River (III) middle section

A pretty river through beech/podocarp forest. A continuous series of fun rapids and fun features formed by papa shelves making drops between half a foot to 6 foot high. Easy access, nice bush, and an online gauge just downstream.

Thanks to Jamie Mcaulay for the trip information and photos.

View Larger Topographic Map


From the Tawanui Campsite, the Catlins River track runs alongside the river most all of the way and allows really good scoping of key rapids as you walk upstream. This track is flat and easy, but winds it’s way around quite a bit – walk time about 12kms ~ 4 hours. It is also possible to drive to the put-in (but then why did you buy a packraft?)

It’s a rain run: flows and gauge info.

Its likely this is a ‘rain run’ where you need a bit of a storm, and to catch a good flow as the river is dropping. These ideas are based off two visits; please record your experiences in the comments so we can update the flow suggestions for this page:

The Catlins river at Houipapa gauge is a few kilometers downstream of this section. The records show a median flow of 2 cumecs, and spikes of 15-90 after storms.

The flow was 7 cumecs for the information and photos provided below.  Jamie has previously scouted this river at 5 cumecs and thought it wouldn’t go.

It appears that it could go nicely with a bit more water, with some of the larger features (drops) would perk up a bit, while the smaller ones may wash over.

Middle section, Catlins River (III): Chloris Stream to Tawanui Campsite.

At 7 cumecs, it was a series of Class II rocky sections and small drops, half a dozen good II+ features, and 3 Class III drops, with short pretty sections of flat water between.

We are at the low end of the intermediate skill level, portaged 3 drops (two uncertain holes and one bigger drop) and got out of boats to scout about 4 other rapids. All features are very easy to portage, with loads of good eddies and space to stop at that flow. Good bail options with the track close by.

Where the track re-joins the river downstream of Pukepiko there are three drops in a row – these are visible from the track looking upstream.

In heavier flows, a short section of rock garden where the river is away from the track, between Franks Stream and Wallis stream (3km’s downstream from Pukepiko) could pick up quite a bit. This section is one of the only parts not visible from the track as you walk upriver, in heavier flows could be worth a bush bash off the track to check out how it’s looking. The rest is all very much how it looks from the track.

Our paddle time was 4 hours at a relaxed pace.

Submit a trip report

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *