Clarence River NZ

Anyone got any info on this one? Ran into some folks in a hut when I was packrafting elsewhere, they told me it’d be a great trip, and from everything I’ve gathered on the net, it looks highly worthy of such an endeavor. It’s a long stretch of water at ~200km or so, but besides a couple class 3’s (high volume though) it sounds relatively mild. I think I’m going to try it here in the next few days. Just wanted to check if anyone else has any word on it.

We plan on paddling this in a few weeks. I would be interested to hear how your trip went, as well as some of the logistical details, etc.


Here’s a great resource online for the Clarence and other rivers It’s Graham Charles’ Guidebook text.

I just got back from this trip, it was awesome. I spent about 2.5 days running it; I could have happily spent a week though, doing day hikes along the way and such–it’s a sweet area. Crawlin with feral goats. Great changing scenery, easily negotiated rapids, and not a lot of people. There’s several Ritzy huts along the way.

The logistics are pretty easy for me, because I’ve been using my thumb to get all over the island and have all my gear with. No hectic shuttles! I spent a day in Hamner Springs before I left; it’s a nice town and there’s a great hostel there if you’re so inclined (Hamner Backpackers). I’d met some folks during an earlier trip on the Hollyford/Pyke from Hamner who said they’d drive me to the put in if I came through. They took me to the ‘Accomodation House’ (worth a peek, good place to camp too) and from there I mobbed down the river.

I’d say you’d be looking at a pretty shallow float in a couple weeks. I had to put in at the Acheron…not enough flow before then. There were a couple spots I had to walk my boat along the way. For the most part you’d be okay, but expect to scrape on a lot of rocks. Maybe do a rain dance? All the rapids are pretty easy…challenging enough to be interesting, but not threatening whatsoever. They could all be easily portaged as well. I had frequent headwinds the whole way down. The last strecth saw me getting blown back upstream in spite of my paddling efforts, so be prepared to wait out some gusty inland winds.

The best rapids IMO are also on the last section, particularly the one after the SH1 bridge. I’ll post some pics after I get them developed.

Thanks for the info, we plan on paddling the Clarence in about a week.

Do you think we could hitch from Hanmer to the put in at the Acheron?


One thing I’ve learned here in NZ is that you can hitch anywhere, if you wait long enough :smiley:. You shouldn’t have a problem though. I would just ask the same folks who took me up there to do the same for you, but I could tell they were really going out of there way to take me up there. It might actually be easier to hitch up Jack’s Pass than Jollie’s pass though. I hired a mt bike the day before and rode both passes; more people go Jack’s pass it seemed.

You’ll love it out there. I wish I would’ve stayed a couple extra days…

Just finished the trip, the Clarence is amazing.

Flow was low, started around 5 cumecs but gauge read below 3 the last few days. Still good in a packraft this low, would be faster and more fun at higher flows (we took 5 1/2 days of 6-8 hours floating per day). Here is a link to the gauge

From some local paddlers: “you can run the Clarence down to about 5 cumecs on the gauge putting in at the normal put in at the Acheron (which doubles the flow)… you need about 20 cumecs for the upper section from Jack’s pass to the Acheron, this section will add a day to your trip”.

We took a bus from Christchurch to Hanmer, and got a ride from Hanmer to the put in with Hanmer Adventure Center ( Cost some money but were on the water 4 hours after leaving Christchurch. Hitched from the take out to Christchurch in a few hours.

We had an amazing trip at the Clarence this Christmas.

We walked from Hanmer Springs over Jollies Pass, and could put in the first time we met the Clarence river at the end of Jollies Pass road. This required to step up frequently to walk over some rapids, still much better than walking until Archeron.

We had very bad weather the whole trip (expect a couple of hours, not days), about 10°C and very Strong Foehn wind. At the begining it was blowing us on the side of the river and drying our wetsuits in one hour (it was so dry that I had a headache). Further it was raining frequently and sometimes for a long duration. At some point it rained so much that the flow increased and started to be threatening. We almost couldn’t counterpaddle backcurrents on the sides, and rocks were starting to fall from the cliffs (rock quality is overall very poor). We skipped about 3 rapids.

The plan was to spend some time and (try) to hike and maybe fly down with our paragliders. We stayed in one hut because it was such a nice place (snowgrass hut). It looks like paradise there, a very special place. We had food for 2 weeks, but stayed 9 days with a two days stop at the hut. The summits were always overcasted, unfortunately.

Overall the rapids are very reasonable, the first gorges near Bullen Hills might be the most tricky if it’s high level, because a few rapids might be difficult to avoid.

The last sections before the sea are amazing… it’s nice how steep the river is even a couple meters before entering the sea.

I made a small vid there:


Great video Rem, looks like a great float trip and the paragliding is amazing!!


Finally got to watch your video Rem after just getting back from NZ.

LOVED IT! Thought it was really well done - well edited and nicely shot. Great music too.

Hopefully it inspires many other packrafters to also do the Clarence - a great trip.

Love the idea of combining packrafting with paragliding. Really well done.


After purchasing some cheap flights to NZ sometime last year we only decided a couple of weeks before our trip to focus our attention on the Clarence River. And we are certainly glad we did as we loved it. There are numerous (and potentially infinite) opportunities to do multi-day packrafting trips in New Zealand but with only 8 days on the ground we were keen to keep things simple and aim for a cruisey trip rather than an epic which we normally aspire to. The Clarence provided us with an awesome 5 days of beautiful scenery, fun bouncy rapids/waves and some funky currents on corners and cliffs/bluffs.

Apparently we were lucky with water levels as according to local river guides it was at a medium to high summer flow level measuring around 9 cumecs at the Jollies gauge (which is actually upstream of where you put on). Obviously this flow rate is minuscule compared to what it must flow at in spring and after heavy rain storms. I can only imagine how big the waves get at these times as the final section of river has flood plains at least 2 kilometres wide. We were also blessed with good weather on this trip. Even though it was very windy the first couple of days we mostly had tailwinds thankfully as the trip is notorious for ridiculously(!) strong headwinds.

For those who don’t know about the Clarence and haven’t read the online description outlined in earlier posts this river flows without let up for some 200 km through some amazing country. Despite some quieter stretches the river flows at a really good rate making the distance achievable rather than epic. Initially it travels through alpine high country past two major sheep and cattle stations (although we saw more wild goats than anything). Despite the occasional 4WD access point and several high country shearer’s/fisherman’s huts the river still has a remote feel to it which is increased by the panoramic view of 2000+m mountains still lined with snow. You paddle through several major gorges but the paddling was very straightforward at the level we did it despite the reasonably high volume feel at times.

The guidebook says 3-4 days but we took 4 full days after paddling for an hour and a half the first evening. There are ways around the 6-7 hour car shuttle as has been mentioned earlier although due to our very limited time we opted to hire a car and have Clarence River Rafting do our car shuttle for us. This meant our car was at their base in Clarence ready for us when we got off the river 1.5km away. Although a significant cost it was worth it for us and they were great to deal with (as was everyone we met in NZ). Certainly another good alternative would be to catch the bus to Hamner Springs and then utilise Hanmer Adventures to get to the put in and then potentially hitch to Kaikoura from the take out.

For Australians planning on visiting NZ with paddling gear be really mindful of the potential of spreading the didymo algae as it would cause irreversible catastrophic damage to Australian waterways. We planned a full 48 hours at the end of our trip just to focus on cleaning and then drying our gear 100% to ensure we didn’t carry it. I suspect trying to return with wet gear could also be extremely costly when Australian Customs gets involved.

After really enjoying Rem’s video of their packrafting/walking/paragliding trip down the Clarence before Christmas I was inspired to get onto ours and finished it last night. If interested you can view it at:

Makes we wanna go there Mark, very very nice vid.


Special looking river and trip. Beautiful vid as always Mark, and inspired me to take another look at your back collection of other adventures to boot. Well done to you both and Thanks !

Thanks very much Steve and RFG for the kind words on the video. Much appreciated!

Great work Mark - really enjoyable viewing. I have not floated the Clarence but your shots appear to give a great sense of the river and the trip. Cheers.

Great Vid Mark, beautifully edited and shot (they just keep getting better).

Hi guys,

Thanks for the comments Mark and Steve !

Amazing video Mark. It’s very well done, great quality, shooting, editing and music !

I had a very good time reading your text and watching your film. There is a lot in common with the way we organised our trip, the reason why we choose the Clarence, and I could recognize a place where we also camped !

I totally agree with what you said about the river. With all of these information and vids, I’m sure the Clarence is prone to be a NZ packrafting classic.

Have some nice floats !