packrafting paradise

Although i’m living in North Dakota now, i spent the last year and a half living down in Te Anau, on the south island. Packrafting became my passion - and i agree the NZ is pretty much the ideal place for it, with so many rivers inaccessible except by either helicopter or long hikes. River pack-rafted included - Ashley (near chch), hurunui (also near Chch), Greenstone (including the gorge!!!), Kawarau (parts),the arthur (as part of a one-day ‘advenutre’ over Dore pass and through the milford track), Wairaurahiri, the Lochy, the hollyford (falls creek run), the iris burn, and the borland burn. these last two runs demonstrate the sheer adventure potential of the boats and, at least with the iris burn, were likely first descents. This is the land of unexplored class II and III creeks - and if you’re brave enough, probably beyond. But a word for visiting PRers - don’t be cocky! I’d done class IV in the sierra and canada before moving to NZ - many of the class III river’s kicked my butt as much or more…

I’ll try to get some photos on sometime, but can’t promise anything. In the meantime, if you live in NZ, you can read about a couple of the adventures - the october 2006 NZ wilderness has an article about the wairaurahiri trip and the NZ adventure february 2007 mag has an article about the lochy trip (quite an epic).




Having spent a 10 day trip last summer kayaking around the middle and north fiord of Te Anau, fly-fishing the Glaisnock and Worsley rivers , and packrafting down both (the Glaisnock after 2 days of rain!), I envy you your time over there. The Worsley was pretty tame, but the purpose of the rafts was purely for egress after a day’s fishing, and it was an exciting and quick trip back downstream.

I had heard of an article in Wilderness Mag about packrafting the d-Urville in Nelson , but not the other articles you mention. Either way, I have not been able to access these articles online - but would love to read them ? any chance of emailing them to me at ?

Am off into one of the Karamea tributaries in Jan for similar fishing trip, and taking the rafts for the downstream bits.

Andrew Allan

Andrew - guessing it was you & GG who I (and my colleague) spoke to in that Karamea tributary - during your raft out. We camped below your (I’m guessing) corner pool spot above the slip & got onto a bunch of good fish during the few days before the flash flood came thru. River came up a metre in 15 minutes, chocolate brown, and would have provided very entertaining rafting back … esp through the bouldery gorge section! River dropped overnight and was clear again the next evening. Pays to be on the right side of the river when the water hits through.

Would you mind giving me some info - based on your trip … Obviously, we’ve found the rafts you mentioned and are sizing them up - I’m guessing you both had Alpaca’s - but my mate is 6’2 so is thinking of a Yak - necessary? Did you use your floor mat as a base or is the seat ok on the rocks?! Gary looked a bit stiff climbing out - is that just the long trip or would a backrest help? Did you use Splat paddles? PFD? Any holes/rips? I really appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

Didn’t spot Gary’s camera! Perhaps next year!

Michael & Tapio

Yes, it was us you ran into on “that” river - what a hoot the raft out was, although a bit more water would have made some of the sections easier. The section below the corner pool above the graveyard of trees above the slip was fantastic - we caught 10 fish between 3.5 and 5lbs in that 2-300m “pool”.

Bad luck about the flood - it does come up very quickly, and you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of the river… unless you had a raft (we took them with us each day, and rafted back down from the day’s fishing. Paradoxically I think a lot of the river would be easier to raft in flood, as it all smooths out - our biggest problems were hitting boulders half way down a rapid where water divided over them, and almost getting tipped one way or the other.

I’ve got 2 Llamas (the mid-sized ones). I’m just under 6 ft, and the size is pretty well perfect. It is nice to be able to push back against the front of the boat, as I find myself slipping forwards off the seat. We did some rafting with the mats in the base, but we found the boat more tippy, no doubt because it was higher. Neither of my boats have backrests. I made the spraydecks myself, but in that sort of weather I was often happier without the deck - plus I was anxious about getting out if I tipped. Both paddles were splats. PFDs were home made, using 10l milk/wine bladders inside some sleeping bag nylon covers - they weight 300g each, and provide adequate floatation - G came out in a rapid above the Gorge, and bobbed along quite happily!

We didn’t raft through the big boulders in the lower gorge, but rafted eveything else, including the long rapid below the slip, which was a bit hairy.

Overall I have been extremely happy with my rafts - they show almost no signs of wear, and make a great addition to a fishing trip.

My personal email is if you want any additional information.

Andrew Allan


As an afterthought, did you take any photos from the chopper as you flew over us? It would be great to have an aerial photo of us in the rafts, but even some aerials of the other bits of the river would be appreciated, as I’ve never flown over anything but the lower section - and certainly not as far up as where you flew over us. Must have been something of a shock seeing 2 rafts in a very very wilderness river!



I’ve just realised that I have 2 yaks, not llamas! I based my purchase on Sheri’s sizing pictures, so your mate may need a bigger boat, although there is some discussion in this site about boat sizing and how they handle. Having a pack on the front does restrict your feet area somewhat.

Hi Andrew, will respond more fully via email. Thanks a lot for the feedback. There sure were a bunch of fish in that pool - very close to the edge. Interesting comment re the deck, PFD, etc. And interesting that you rafted back each day - would have allowed a lot more fishing.

I’m not sure that rafting in flood would be better - the river was very hairy - I’ll send some photos to your email including an image right outside your camp so you can see how big the river got (you’ll recall that there is normally a sand/rock ‘beach’).

Our big walk back was surprisingly quick - about 8 hrs. A couple of up & downs - eg at the first big tributary on the side you camped on but fairly easy walking, angling down the valley.

No photos from the chopper - we were far too high up of course :wink: But they really stood out - great for safety. I recommend that heli company - they know the place inside out.


A few years ago we also experienced one of those “spates” on that river.

We would have been in the same area you were. Rained heavily all night, but by mid morning the river had only risen about 3". We were fishing in the rapids about 30m upstream from camp, and my mate was about 10m from then edge, fishing some pocket water, when I noticed that the river seemed to be rising. I mentioned this to him, and by the time he’d walked across to the side, the river had risen about 6". Over the next 3hrs, it rose about 4-5’, and, as you say, it was quite scary, particularly when you think about some of the difficulties in crossings anyway, when the river is at low flow. An extra 6" makes for a very difficult crossing, let alone the rest.

We spent the day twidling our thumbs. The rain stopped that evening, and amazingly by the morning the river had dropped 3-4’, and was reasonably clear, and very fishable.

I’m not advocating rafting this river in full spate, although you will have noticed that the rapids do tend to “iron out” a lot when it is running full, and the pools also become rapids - basically a very fast, but reasonably smooth trip in a raft, as long as you didn’t mind being washed up onto the outer banks on each outside corner, and were happy to just “hold on”! However, an extra foot would have made a perfect trip out for us in the rafts this year. Remember - in writing this I’m thinking “Rafting”, not fishing. An extra foot would make foot travel up and down this river impossible, and from the fisherman’s point of view would make the river scary. However, once on top of the water in a raft (or even on a lilo, as we did 3yrs ago), the whole perspective changes. This year, the biggest problem we had with rafting was that we’d get through a shute, and then there’d be some big bastard boulder right in front of you, which you had to try to turn around, but invariably one hit on one side or the other, which then tried to tip you one way or the other. With more water, this “bastard boulder” would have become a standing wave, and although this causes a “bucking bronco” ride, it is a lot better than being tipped one way or the other.

As I’ve said before, these Alpacka rafts are amazing craft. They are worth every dollar, and add hugely to any backcountry fishing trip (yes, we did get to fish for longer each day, as we were rafting out. Also, we were less “toxic” at the end of 10 days, as the smell of our single set of clothes had been diluted each day by rafting and getting wet!). And if you get them, and your mate can’t fish with you one year, perhaps we can join up and do a similar trip. You have my email.