Canoes, kayaks and jetboats work the river, tailoring trips to your needs. The rapids are mostly Grade I with the occasional Grade II, making this an excellent paddling river for those with little or no experience. That said, the river shouldn’t be underestimated: talk to operators about variations in river flows before embarking.
Taumarunui to Whakahoro
The navigable section of river starts at Cherry Grove in Taumarunui, from where it’s about two days’ paddle to Whakahoro, essentially just a DOC hut and a boat ramp at the end of a 45km road (mostly gravel) running west from SH4. Between these two points the river runs partly through farmland with roads nearby, and throws up a few rapids that are larger than those downstream.
Beside the river, several kilometres southwest of Cherry Grove, a former stronghold of the Hau Hau is the site of a couple of nui poles. In 1862 the Hau Hau erected a war pole, Rongo-nui, here, with four arms indicating the cardinal points of the compass, intended to call warriors to their cause from all over the country. At the end of hostilities, a peace pole, Rerekore, was erected close by.
Whakahoro to Pipiriki
Downstream from Whakahoro most people take three days to get to Pipiriki. Along the way you’ll see the Mangapapa Stream Ravine, the Man-o-war Bluff (named for its supposed resemblance to an old iron-clad battleship) and the Tarepokiore Whirlpool, which once completely spun a river steamer. At Mangapurua Landing it’s an easy walk to the Bridge to Nowhere (1hr 15min return), a trail that becomes the Mangapurua Track. Further downstream you come to Tieke Kainga (aka Tieke Marae), a former DOC hut built on the site of an ancient pa that has been re-occupied by local Maori; you can stay or camp here or across the river at Bridge to Nowhere Lodge, a terrific base for river activities. The last stretch runs past the Puraroto Caves and into Pipiriki, where most paddlers finish.