If you want a good introduction to east side rivers, then this is the trip to do. It’s easy to get to and from Christchurch hitchhiking or with a shuttle. It’s reasonably scenic, and a super fun beginner/intermediate packrafter river and doable in a day and as a loop without a shuttle, but you miss out on the end float.
It’s a NZ version of Denali’s Sanctuary River by way of the Savage River, except there’s a walking track in and no bears. It’s also a forested hike. Hike up the Andrew’s Creek trail from Andrew Shelter in Arthur’s Pass National Park. Here’s info on the hike http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/canterbury/waimakariri-area/arthurs-pass-andrews-poulter-tramping-track/
The Poulter River is about 20 km to the bridge. it took me two hours. Like all these short NZ rivers, it gets big, as in high volume fast. You can also take out and walk over a pass back to the car park and Andrew’s Shelter, but I just wanted all the river and easily caught a ride back to the car – about 15 km.
The river starts off as a creek – upstream looked to low to float. It’s sort of braided in 2 at most 3 channels. The water color is extraordinary. There are no sweepers – it’s gravel bar. After about 30-40 minutes a side river comes in from riverleft (or as Kiwis say “True left”) and doubles in size, but still braided. Not too long after you pass under and electric fence – stay alert and duck!
Ahead you see the mountains pinching in two make a canyon. No worries, lots of fun, PR2-3. It always looks like it’s gonna pinch off and get hairy but never does. You can pull out above this section and hike back to your car over a pass.
A two day trip with the Hut at the end of teh first day hiking up Andrew’s Creek and into the Poulter would be fun. Exploring the upper Poulter for the vegetable sheep plant would be high on my list of things to come back for.
I ran it in rain gear and my decked Yak. No dry suit needed.
Volume on the late December day i ran it was around 500-750 cfs to start with and doubling up to 1000-1500. I’d say it was around 50 feet/mile. The Department of Conservation’s Arthur’s Pass National Park Map is good enough.
It was a five hour hike to the put in, walking slowly and talking with Peggy and Jazz.