A scenic and narrow gorge, with beautiful deep clear pools, huge boulders, pour overs, chutes and mandatory portages.
The Slate is an established heli-kayaking run, which normally begins in the headwaters (2km upstream of the Snow River confluence) after significant rain. Check out the Whitewater NZ www.riverguide.co.nz entry,
With normal low flows, the lower Slate can be an interesting packrafting day trip. It requires excellent eddy catching and river rescue skills, as well as good scouting and portaging skills.
Thanks to Martin Wilson for the imagery and photos, and Deane Parker for peer review of the page.
View the map fullscreen on www.topomap.co.nz
The trip begins from Devil’s Boots Road. (The Devils Boots are a cool limestone formation which the road passes through!)
Where you park and take out depends on your plan: (The line on the map shows option 2:)
- If you want to take out at the car, leave a vehicle by the bridge at the Appos Creek/Aorere River confluence, and walk or bikeshuttle to the DOC Carpark for the Aorere Goldfields. Your trip will end with a short float down the Aorere.
- If you want to avoid the extra road walking/river floating, park at the DOC Aorere Goldfields carpark and take out at the Slate/Aorere confluence. Mountain bike or walk for about 2km where you can find a hidden trail dropping down to the take out, passing by an abandoned gold panners hut. It is worth a quick trip down this track to the river, so you recognise the takeout. Bikes can be left on the 4WD track here.
Follow the 4WD track to get up onto the plateau. It is a little maze-like up there, so a GPS/phone map app is worthwhile to help you avoid taking a wrong turn.
Although it isn’t marked on the map, a foot track does descend into Moonlight Flat from the 4WD track. This descent is steep and loose in places.
Lower Slate Gorge (III/IV) with portages 2-3hrs
The imagery paints the best picture.:
At low packrafting flows, some of the features will be runnable,
And others will absolutely require portaging.
Like any run at this grade, the ability to catch a micro eddy is vital, and you can expect to be getting out of your boat to scout numerous horizon lines.
Don’t let the low flow make you forget this is still grade IV boating: the risk of pinning a boat or trapping a limb between boulders is very real and highly dangerous. Do you know how to rescue someone from a foot entrapment? If not, you shouldn’t be here.
And likewise, paddling a grade IV section in super low flows doesn’t mean you can paddle a grade IV on another river in normal flows…-Wise words from a paddler with more experience than you or me…
This is the flow by the takeout, and like many other steeper runs, it is highly flow dependant.
Between 10-16 cumecs on the Aorere at Devils Boots gauge seems to be a suitable flow for packrafters to scrape, bounce and portage. Above this it would soon become solid IV or higher for heli-kayakers.