Waiau River (I/II) Te Anau Control Gates to Lake Manapouri

This section provides lots of options for trips; half day trips using shuttles or walking, full day paddles, overnight options including paddling on Manapouri itself. Despite being bordered by the Kepler track on the true right and roads on the true left, it has quite a wilderness feel, with lots of options.

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Trip ideas/access

Its easy to drive within a short distance of the river in several locations; 100m below the control gates, Yerex Reach, Queens Reach, Rainbow Reach and Boulder reach, so you can mix and match your trip to suit your time and inclinations.

  • Day trips with cars or hiking between the road access points.
  • Overnight trips camping or staying at Shallow Bay Hut. (The ‘little triangle’ round trip from Rainbow reach is a classic intro overnight packrafting trip. Class I below Rainbow reach)
  • Staying at Moturau Hut (bookings required in great walk season)
  • Paddling to Supply bay at Manapouri (calm conditions needed on the lake)

Waiau River (I/II)

Most of the river is class I with a few wave trains. Upsream of Rainbow reach, there’s a few class II rapids, notably where the river splits around a huge mid-stream boulder. The river usually flows right up to the bushy banks, especially in the upper part, meaning there aren’t always nice beaches to stop and re-group.

There’s also plenty of trees/strainer/submerged logs to keep you on your toes, but they are generally easy to avoid if you are paying attention.

Jetboats are also a hazard, but there’s usually plenty of space on the river, so it isn’t hard to keep out of their way.

These hazards and their implications are important to keep in mind if you are new-ish to packrafting (or have newbies in your group).


The Waiau is dam controlled. We floated it at 320 cumecs. The gauge can be found under Upper Waiau River Queens Reach here: http://envdata.es.govt.nz/

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