Spring On The Ngaruroro River

One of my favourite Spring rafting trips is a two-day sojourn on the Ngaruroro River (nah-roo-raw-raw) in sunny Hawkes Bay.

This smallish river is born in the Kaweka and Kaimanawa ranges. It’s journey to the sea takes it through native tree lined gorges before it’s mad rush slows down, and it meanders its way through the rich farming soils of the Heretaunga Plains before meeting the sea at Clive.

Over thousands of years the Ngaruroro River has deposited gravel and silt on these plains. This has created the rich soils that have become the heart of New Zealand’s apple and stone fruit industry. Pockets of gravel, such as the Gimblett Gravels area, which were once dismissed as being to poor to grow anything, have now been recognised as producing some of the finest Bordeaux style wines grown in this country.

While fine wine, apples and pears are certainly of importance, what really interests rafters and other river runners are rapids, clean water and wilderness. Lucky for us, for a couple of months in Spring the Ngaruroro has all of these.

Why Only Spring?

In general, the eastern areas of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand do not experience the predominate rain giving westerly weather patterns. While this lack of rain may be ideal for ripening fruit, it is not so great for keeping rivers and streams topped up.

What this means for the Ngaruroro is that our season to have some fun on and really enjoy this river is very short. Go too early in the Spring and it is too cold. Go too late and there is not enough water. These factors limit us to about 10 weeks in October, November and December, our season starting on the 4th October and finishing mid-December.

What to Expect on the Ngaruroro River

A two-day trip – Kuripapango to Whanawhana – is two days of contrasts.

The first day is all about technical rapids up to Grade 3, crystal clear pools and rugged forest cloaked gorges. Camp that night is on a pretty Manuka cloaked river flat almost immediately downstream of the biggest rapids of the trip.

On the second day we slowly leave the wilderness and steep rugged canyons behind and floating downstream we see the river transform to a braided pattern. This pattern while common on many rivers on the east coast of the South Island is rare for the North Island. A highlight of this day is floating through the Black Backed gull colony.

Expect to be off the river by about 2.00pm.

What is Stopping You?

Few multi day river trips in New Zealand are so accessible. No helicopters are required making the trip quite affordable. Most of the trip is however far from roads and people giving it a nice wilderness feel.

We think this is an ideal trip for a small group of friends or a family with teenagers. We supply just about everything on the trip, so no need to incur further expense.

If we had to choose the very best time? We would have to say labour weekend, this year that is the 20th to 22nd October, through to late November, water levels permitting.

We are taking bookings now. Hope you can join us on what is a special trip.

Brian Megaw