An out and back overnight (or long day) trip to a beautiful valley. This trip benefits from a 4WD and bit of rain, in normal flows you’d probably be scraping or walking rather than floating. Beautiful backdrop to an interesting paddle.
Thanks to Dan Clearwater for the information and photos.
Walk in: Lake Ohau Valley Road to Huxley Forks Huts
Beyond the Temple Valley, the road soon deteriorates markedly. The line on the map begins at the 2WD carpark, though a 2WD with a bit of clearance could get a bit further up the track. At the time of writing (Jan 2017) the track is soft in places, with some Matagouri, small fords and detours to negotiate. A decent 4WD can make it to Monument hut, but requires driving skill and acceptance of the risk of vehicle damage along the way. A folding hand saw is worthwhile kit to deal to a few bits of scrub infringing on the track, as is a shovel should you get stuck..
Its about 2hrs (9km) from the 2WD car park to Monument Hut, a nice place for lunch if its raining! The track continues up valley, though its quicker and easier to walk up the river bed if you don’t mind wet feet.
There’s a big orange triangle marking the start of the track up the Huxley. In the Huxley Valley, there isn’t really a track, though sheep trails do converge in places. There are occasional markers, but its not worth stressing too much about trying to find them.
One exception is the ‘high water track’ that goes up and over a section of river that hugs the true left closely. There’s a big orange triangle just downstream of that spot. If you’ve got enough water to make the Huxley worth a paddle, you’ll probably be needing to use the ‘high water track’. Only about 10-20mins of walking, over a swingbridge and onto the true left of the Huxley.
Upstream of the .685 feature, you can peer into the river to scout it on the way up to the huts.
Huxley Forks Huts (2 of them) are in a terrace on the true left. The rather small, newer Officers Hut sleeps 3 on bunks. The main hut sleeps 6 on bunks, and has a fireplace, woodshed and water tank.
Check out the Huxley valley tracks page on the DOC website for more information about access in the area and the huts.
Huxley River (II+/III-) from the Huxley Forks Hut to the .685 feature
After significant rain, you can put on at the Huts and get into rapids that are continuous class II+ wave trains with a few holes that are easy to avoid.
Continous II+ means there are few eddies, and any capsize will likely mean a long swim.
The crux rapid (class III- in high flows) is just above the .685 feature, where a large slip fan on the true left causes the river to narrow and steepen slightly. There are a series of holes (or rocks at lower flow) to avoid, though its straightforward to make the line through the rapid. Its easy to scout or portage on the true left.
Huxley River (I/II) Below the .685 feature
The river braids out a bit more and gradient eases. There are a few more wave trains and sections of flat moving water. In low flows, you’d be picking your braids carefully to avoid walking.
There’s no rapids of significance in the (barely) gorged section by the swingbridge. From the exit of the valley to the confluence with the Hopkins, it gets very shallow, so expect some walking if you’re not here at high flows.
Hopkins River (I/II) below the Huxley confluence to the 2WD carpark
Check out the Hopkins River page on PackraftingTrips.nz. for more info on this section.
Visual. There’s no gauge in the Huxley or Hopkins.
The nearest gauge is on the Ahuriri at SH 8. The Ahuriri is the next major valley to the south west of the Hopkins, so may give an indication on levels in the region. After we got home, we noted this gauge peaked at 40 cumecs during our trip, where it rained lightly during the walk in, and very heavily overnight.
A note about paddling flooded rivers:
Just sharing one of our F&#k ups to help others think about what we did wrong..
On our trip, it’d been raining lightly for most of the hike in, then rained heavily overnight. The Huxley was running quite high and coloured, and was a great flow for a bit of challenge and excitement. I’d suspect that in normal flows it’d be very bony and not worth it. To provide context, the Ahuriri at SH8 gauge peaked at 40 cumecs during the storm cycle.
We paddled the Huxley in similar conditions (post rain) and one of our team had a swim….
At high water, the wave trains were long and continous with far-fewer eddies than normal: Although we assessed the conditions, the run outs and consequences of a swim, we assessed that it was well within the skill level of our team. However, one person tipped some how.
That person swam for several hundred meters, before making it to a safe exit spot, shaken but unharmed. He was at the front of our group, and once we’d supported him to get to the shore, we had to chase and bulldoze his boat for nearly 1km more before being able to find a safe spot to eddy out…
As we all know, among many things, high water often means worse run-out, and more difficult rescues. Sharing is caring – be safe everyone.A cautionary tale from Dan Clearwater