This section takes in some delightful open river flats, and a spectacular limestone gorge. A great spot to convince your friends how great packrafting is and also possible as an evening trip from Te Anau. On a warm sunny day, one could spend some time exploring the gorge, as it’s possibly to climb out onto the banks in a few spots and jump back in. It’s a truly spectacular location and you’ll feel like you are right out in the wilderness.
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Thank you to Penzy Disdale for contributing extra information towards this trip page.
There are a few entry and exit options for this section, depending on how much time you want to spend.
Put on locations;
Once the Te Anau – Milford highway enters the national park, there are numerous DOC campgrounds and scenic viewpoints. Check that you have sufficient water, and put on where it suits! The lowest easy option is from Walker Creek Campsite, and we have confirmed info that up to Mackay Creek it remains the same character: class I/II with braids and occasional logs.
Upstream of Mackay Creek Campsite, the East Branch splits off and into a steep rocky gorge, but the west branch is likely to be the same character (grade I/II with braids) until at least Deer Flat, and probably until the Mistake Creek Confluence. (Let us know if you’ve paddled this section so we can confirm this assumption!)
Take out locations
Below Walker Creek Campsite, there are only two simple options for taking out;
Below the gorge. On the topomap, there is a very short vehicle track marked from the river to the highway. Fiordland National Park comes almost right up to the highway here, so it is possible to exit here via the track. It is not easy to determine the take out from the river unless you’ve scouted it before hand. Don’t miss this spot; there are few other easy options until the river mouth! Upstream it is quite steep to get to the highway, and downstream it a fair distance to the road (and across private land), so you do want to check out the spot before hand (or go with someone who knows).
Lake Te Anau. The other option is to paddle all the way to Lake Te Anau. The road from the highway to the river mouth is a bit rough in places, so don’t take your low slung race car.
The majority of the traffic on the road heads north during the first part of the day. As the day wears on, its only folks who are planning to camp who will be driving north. So Hitch-hiking is best done not too late in the day. (Side-note; people are more likely to pick you up if you are holding a novelty item such as your paddle!)
Also, bear in mind that this road sees a huge amount of tourist traffic, so sometimes the quality of the driving is not as good as you’d hope for, so perhaps think twice about doing a bike-shuttle.
On the water
Above the gorge
The paddling from Walker Creek all the way to the mouth is class I to II. Above the gorge it is reasonably straightforward braided river, with the occasional tree in the wave train rapids to remind you to keep vigilant.
The limestone gorge
Upon entering the gorge, the first (and only) rapid of any note is known as Flipper, for what it has been known to do to rookie packrafters, but is actually fairly straight-forward. Its basically a wave-train that goes straight into the gorge wall on the opposite side like a T junction. The gorge is spectacular, but it is quite short, so don’t be in a rush to paddle through! There as also trees around in some of the rapids below this.
Below the gorge
The river again becomes braided and tends to have a few less trees lower down. Leading into the big right-hand corner, the river becomes very braided (i.e. shallow) and may require some walking at low flow. Try and go right early to avoid the shallow section (and a willow tree that hangs over the far-left braid).
Visual. If it has been dry for a while (more than a couple of days) you might expect some scraping and walking on the braided sections.