NZ, Dart River

I didn’t have time to walk any further up than the Dredge Burn, but from here it’s a clear PR2/Class II-/I+ run out, no doubt all the way to the lake, although I got out at the Route Burn, at which point it’s really Class I. The Dart is full of glacial silt which makes it very opaque, and it’s a big swift river, I had to pay attention in the upper part where there are some obstacles and small wave trains to negotiate. The first section (pictured) was the most fun and scenic, after about the Beans Burn the valley really opens out and you’re into braided gravel flats - stay in the main channel, otherwise you’ll be scraping across shingle.

Jet boats operate on the river (, but no further up than Sandy Bluff (and not always that far up, depending on the river). You can phone them and they will make a note of when you’ll expect to be on the water, so the boats can watch out for you (they can have 3 - 4 running at once). You’ll hear them coming a mile off though. Packrafts really seem awfully elegant in comparison.

If you’re considering doing the Dart-Rees loop and are wondering which way to go around: the Dart side definitely lets you cover more ground quickly + easily than the smaller Rees river, which is too small upstream of Hunter Creek, often too shallow even downstream of here, and has a section of rocky rapids near the carpark. On the other hand the Rees is boat-free and has clear water.

I’m sure there’s more raftable water higher up the valley - to be continued !

we just got back from the Dart river.

The 4 of us climbed cascade saddle from the Matukituki valley and camped by cascade saddle for a night. beautiful.
Then we rafted down the dart towards dart hut which was pretty easy going. a few portages due to low water levels but nothing too hard. The only scary bits were the constant avalanches all around us. one probally fell within 100m of us.

Right after dart Hut theres some pretty funky rapids that we chickened out which was probally a sensible idea. however from cattle flats onwards, it seemed really easy going… until one part a few km after the cattle flats swing bridge where theres a massive boulder that hides the rest of the river. we thought it was easy going so we continued, only to find some pretty hardcore rapids. I was yelling Yeee haaa going through the rapids then there was this whirlpool type of thing in the river that spun me round and round for a few turns and dunked me. i fell into the rapids and then the river kind of goes under all these massive boulders which i got sucked down underneath with it.

some reason i was pinned underwater by my paddle to the front of me and white water behind me. it was totally dark like in aan underwater tunnel or something. seemed like a minute had passed and i was running out of air after taking 2 gulps of water when i managed to free myself and got ejected out through a little 50cm opening and managed to cling onto a rock. half an hour had passed before i managed to leap frog back to where i got dunked only to find my raft still spinning round and round, so I was lucky nothing was lost (including my life)

2 friends who were behind me luckily saw me get dunked from behind and had already docked to the side to avoid the whirlpool but one mate who also got stuck in that whirlpool was on the other side of the river without his raft, with cliff faces on both sides and rapids in between. we chucked over 6 lots of 1.5mm glo cord to tie to him and winch him over which was a stupid idea because they all snapped under the rapids but luckily he got to the side again before falling into that little tunnel where i got trapped. (what ever you call it). unfortuantely it was that other side and not our side.

i think that near miss freaked him out and there was no way for him to climb the cliffs to get to the next or previous swing bridge, so we just popped the epirb and call in helicopters.

the incident nearly made me sell the packraft … but nah! fun outweighs the dangers.
lesson learnt: when in doubt, scout!
The helicopter rescue guy said he’s saved quite a few people from that section of water. it puzzles me because unless they’re packrafters, i wonder how they got their rafts into that spot in the first place. Its highly unlikely hikers would be found climbing down the cliff into that section of water.

other than that rocky section, the rest of the river from the helicopter looks fairly easy sailing.

Looks like a nice place to visit sometime Adrian.

…and Ninjapuppet!!! Heavy! Glad you made it out!

Ninja, that sounds pretty frigin frightening, we gotta be really really careful with these things, I got sucked into a big ‘hole’ after coming out doing a fall, was under water for a ong time with my raft getting sucked down on top of me… The river under boulders is a “colander”, they will kill you very easily as will strainers (tress in the river) and holes (the hydrolic suck at the base of falls etc) it goes on. Jules and I are organising some packraft specific whitewater training at the moment, as we are all in the same boat (good pun!!!) and training is needed before someone gets hurt or killed. I will keep the forum posted.


PS nice to see you across from the Bushwalking forum, I was a bit cut about being too slow with your Tarptent :slight_smile: