Unprecedented Summer River Flows mean Great Rafting

A typical summer rafting season on an undammed free flowing North Island, New Zealand river such as our home river, the Rangitikei, works something like this.

Spring – September to mid-November – plenty of water, but overall, river flows tend to taper off by late November, but even then, there is still plenty of water. There are quite a few days when we cannot raft the Grade 5 section because the river is too high.

Merry Christmas

Early to mid-summer – December to mid-January – typically ample flows but markedly tapering off by mid-January

Merry Christmas

Mid to late summer – mid-January to late February – this period consistently has the lowest flows. We will often be in duckies (inflatable kayaks) for at least some of this time and, on occasion, into March. The warm water and air temperature make for fun times on the river.

Merry Christmas

Autumn – March to May – while there is occasionally an autumn drought, in general, river flows will slowly pick up over the latter part of this period. Both water and air temperatures can still be relatively balmy until mid-April or even later.

Autumn Rafting


One Offs

Depending on the year, any tropical cyclones or storms that reach New Zealand can affect river levels, but the effect, while often being a significant flood, only lasts for a few days. These cyclonic weather systems generally make landfall from late December to late March.

This Season – October to late January

Well, this season, everything that I have described above can be thrown out the window.

If you want to do a lot of sunbathing, this summer at River Valley has so far not turned that sort of weather on consistently. Days have mostly been warm but often wet. We have had river flows and weather patterns more appropriate for November than January.

There is a plus side. This summer is turning it on for anybody wanting to enjoy some great rafting river levels! In fact, in my 37 years as a raft guide, I can never remember a summer like it.

What is there not to like? Daily temperatures are now warm to hot, and there are still enough rainy days to keep river flows at a tremendous rafting level.

misty ranges
Rafting Grade 5 Summer
Rafting Grade 5 Summer
Rafting Grade 5 Summer
Rafting Grade 5 Summer
Rafting Grade 5 Summer

How long will this combination last?

That is anybody’s guess, but looking at weather charts for the next ten days, it seems like we will get a few more, but not a lot more, wet days. This, combined with the amount of water still coming off the landscape, will ensure a continuation of these excellent rafting conditions until February at the very least.

In a typical season, a weather system bringing summer rain lifted river flows for only a few days. The big difference now is we are enjoying great flows every day.

What is there not to like?

Brian Megaw