A shorter and more exciting alternative to the Wanganui multi day. The Manganui-a-te-ao is tucked away between Raetahi and the Wanganui River. It’s a better option than the Wanganui in a packraft as it has some decent rapids over the first two thirds of the trip. Trout and Whio abound and the scenery ranges from bouldery mountain stream to Wanganui Canyon. Best done by overnighting at Ruatiti Domain and a second night at Ngaporo on the Wanganui.
The Manganui-a-te-ao is one of the only sizeable rivers in the area where water is not harvested for the Tongaririo Power Scheme. It has been quietly famous for its Whio and trout fishery. Avoid annoying Whio in the late spring /early summer period.
This trip has a number of put-ins depending on the experience of the party.
If based at Ruatiti the Hoihanga Bridge to Makakahi Bridge is a good day trip. Venture beyond and it’s a one hour shuttle to Pipiriki. Neither road-end feels particularly secure so consider paying for a shuttle. Raetahi Camp Ground will run shuttles and this is the best way to do it as a multi day.
The Ruatiti Domain is half an hour from Raetahi. Drive north from Raetahi on SH4 about 4km and follow the signs to Ruatiti. At a road junction near the Orautoha school, the road splits and becomes Pukekaha Road and Ohura Road. To get to the higher put-in, follow Pukekaha Road for about 3.5km to a fork. Take the left fork to the Hoihenga bridge, the last 100m down to the bridge is steep and slippery, so your average car is best left at the top of the final zigzag.
To start at Ruatiti Domain head past Orautoha School and follow Ohura Road for just over four kilometers to the bridge at the Ruatiti domain (note- you will see some nice Class II+ from the road and probably start looking for a spot to turn around).
For the Pipiriki take-out return to Raetahi and then head west on Seddon Street which becomes Pipiriki-Raetahi Road it’s a little over half an hour from Raetahi.
On the Water
The trip is divided into 3 discrete sections. The first is 9kms of Class III then 37km of Class II that eases the closer you get to the Wanganui confluence. Then there is 12 km of Wanganui River Class I-II to Pipiriki.
Hoihenga Bridge to Ruatiti Domain
The Hoihenga Bridge to Ruatiiti reach is 9 kilometres of Class III -IV easing to Class II by the Domain. Upstream of the Hoihenga Bridge looks even tougher (note – this is the infamous Makatote (Class III-IV) Run accessed from the big Viaduct on SH4).
A track on river right, adjacent to the bridge, leads down to a small beach. Below this is the top gorge be mindful of the flow as its Class IV in high flows. The rapids are a series of large waves and hydraulics. Now and then they crash into a wall at the bottom, but there is usually a good pool at the bottom of each rapid.
Below Myers bridge (a small footbridge which can be reached on the river right side if someone needs to leave the river) the river widens and the rapids ease to fun Class II-III down to the bridge at Ruatiti Domain.
If doing this as a multi day camp at Ruatiti Domain there are no other options for the next 40km.
Ruatiti Domain to Makakahi Bridge
This 10 km section is mainly Class II with II+ in higher flows. There are also long flat sections (aka amazing trout pools).
Makakahi Bridge to Pipiriki
This 27km reach is increasingly slow and flat but still has some good Class II. By the confluence the river is much like the Wanganui slow moving in a steep sided trench. Up to here all the land beyond the esplanade reserve is private. For the last 3 km to the confluence the forest to the north (inaccessible from the river) is National Park.
Another 3km down from the confluence is the Ngaporo campsite. Note this is a “Great Walk” campsite that must be booked from October to the end of April. Outside this period demand is lower and no booking is needed.
Paddle 9 km down to meet your shuttle at Pipiriki in the morning.
There is no gauge so it’s a matter of assessing the upper Wanganui gauge or looking at recent rainfall on Ruapehu.
Mangawhero is to the south
Whakapapa is to the north but the flow may be impacted by hydro water extraction.
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