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Packrafting Whakatane River Grade 2

This is a great two to four day wilderness trip through Te Urewera as described by Stu Bilby. It is suitable for paddlers with basic skills. A choice of huts or great camping each night, wild horses, beautiful forests, striking history and Tuhoe culture. Good hunting, fishing and swimming. This is a traditional canoe route for local iwi. Mataatua Marae is named after the original migration canoe to New Zealand and just below is the traditional put in for trips down the river.

Upper Whakatane
From the Mimiha put-in the stream is small, windy and picturesque, with small rapids for 5 km. There is then a 200 m stretch of large boulders.

Boulders
At low flows these form strainers and big drops, maybe grade 3+ in flood flows. Drag the packrafts, scramble and lower over the boulders mainly on river left.

Mid section
Once over this the river relaxes into small easy grade 1 and 2 rapids for the next two days. There are three rapids named on the map. Only Tarakena Rapid is of any significance – the river narrows between big boulders and drops out of sight. It can be scouted from the true right. At modest flows there is a chute on the left that pops you through without trouble. At low flows there are rocks to jam on. Still Grade 2 if you aim carefully.

The five riverside huts are pleasantly situated and a little run down. There are abundant good campsites on clearings in the forest. The last hut, Ohora Hut, is 600 m up the side stream. Just drag/paddle/carry your boat up the stream until you see the hut. Don’t bother looking for the track.

A few kilometres below the pleasantly situated Hanamahihi Hut the river eases into grade 1 riffles with a few willows to avoid.

Heading for Ruatoki
Below the Pekatahi Bridge the river slows and widens and it is an additional 5 hours (20 km) flat water paddling into the town of Whakatane and the sea.

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