The Waiau River in New Zealand’s North Canterbury rises in the Spenser Mountains and flows south and east for 105 miles to enter the Pacific Ocean. Its generally hilly drainage basin, 1,270 square miles in area, borders the Canterbury Plains to the south. Packrafters can easily access he Waiau’s upper gorges from Lewis Pass via a pleasant tramp along the St James Walkway.
There is a Maori legend associated with this river and the Clarence. According to the story the Waiau-uha (Waiau) and the Waiau-toa (Clarence) were respectively male and female spirit lovers living in the Spenser Mountains. For some reason they were transformed into rivers, the sources of which were not far apart. When warm rains melted the snows and caused floods, it was said that the parted lovers were lamenting and that the rivers were swollen with their tears.