Lower Motatapu River (I) – Matukituki River (I) loop


As of 20 Dec 2021, there are at least 4 river wide strainers upstream of this section.. Downstream there are more than a few strainer hazards: In high flows, it would be difficult to avoid some of these, so be warned and avoid this unless you’ve been down recently at normal flow.

An interesting float circuit, providing some different perspectives to a popular area.

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Be aware that Wanaka River Journeys (as well as recreational jet boaters) regularly operate on the Matukituki River. Read the Jetboat courtesy code before you head out, and give them a call!

The shuttle
There’s a good sized official carpark at both the take out and put in. The West Wanaka Road is mostly gravel, but any car will make it to the carpark. The Wanaka Mt Aspiring Road gets quite busy with visitors during the summer months, so I’d be less inclined to bike or walk than to drive between road ends during that time.

Motatapu River (I) Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road bridge to Matukituki River
In normal flows, the Motatapu is a shallow meandering river, passing through farmland. Although class I, there is a little bit of manoeuvring required to avoid a number of strainers, including some river-wide log jams and a farmers fence! The fence is about 10 mins down from the bridge, at the toe of a large bluff that comes in from river right. You can also expect a bit of “get out and walk” in some places on gravel bars where its too shallow to float.

There’s some great views of Treble Cone and it feels quite isoloated, despite being very close the road. In spring and early summer, there’s lots of trout in the river and usually some fishermen. So if you encounter any, wait in an eddy for them to wave you through, and do so quietly. It’s a public place and all river users should respect each others wish to enjoy the place.

About 2hrs for this section in slightly higher than normal flows.

Lower Matukituki River (I) Motatapu confluence to West Wanaka bridge
Once out of the tiny Motatapu, there are wide open views up the Matukituki. On a clear day, you can even see Tititea/Mt Aspiring.

The Matukituki’s median flow is about 40 cumecs, and although there are some shallow sections through the braids, the main channel has decent flow and a few dead trees to avoid.

The river is a popular place for Jet-boating, so keep your eyes and ears open. Plenty of space to pull to the side to avoid any surprises.

About an hour for this section.

Matukituki at West Wanaka.

In low flows the Motatapu would likely be so shallow that you’d spend too much time out of your boat walking, so this trip is probably better when the rivers are a bit fuller.

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