This is a lovely introductory trip in a scenic gorge with road access to put-in and take-out. Popular with kayakers, rafter and tubers, it’s a great trip, but even though the road isn’t far away, the gorge walls mean that its not easy to escape once you’ve started.
Thanks to Martin Robertson and Carol Exton for the information for this page.
Otaki River (II) Forks to Kaitawa Road
The Otaki Gorge road is subject to washouts and closures. Check the Kapiti District council website. for road status before heading to the river.
The usual put-in is at the tramping track overnight car park. If the flow is high on the rock under the swing bridge it may be possible to start at Schoolhouse Flat camping site further on at the road end (which is actually the Waiotauru River).
There used to be a track on the true left of the Otaki River to Penn Creek, but it was officially closed due to huge slips. Hardy folks have found this old track and followed it upstream to make for a longer trip.
There is one easy access point to the river mid gorge, but it’s a along a private road, so permission must be granted beforehand. This is where the commercial rafting trips begin. It’s on a very steep 4wd-only track after the Shield’s Flat stone walls reserve information area. After this bridge, There are only a few rapids of note below this put-in but plenty of mild riffles.
The usual take-out is the Waiohanga (aka Kaitawa Rd) suspension bridge. A good canoe/raft exit is just below the Captivate Tararua Outdoor Recreation Centre site, just downstream of the Waiohanga Bridge. A track just upstream of the Waiohanga suspension bridge gives a good exit from the river for rafts, kayaks, etc.
Otaki River (I/II) Kaitawa Road to the mouth
Its possible to continue floating all the way to the river mouth if you want more river time; there’s a few small wave trains and a few spots where the current runs into small rock walls. There’s also a few metal stakes sticking up out the water lower down..
Otaki at Pukehinau
The trip is good above 10m3, with anything under this a bit boney. Kayakers like to have 20m3. Over about 50m3 creates some good holes through the top rock gardens on the Waiotauru. If the water is well up on the rock under the bridge at the normal put-in you can go to the top camping area or even walk up the river further. It’s possible to do the trip at 6m3 but its very boney on the riffles and more suitable for sunbathing on a lilo as you float down.