Clarence River

The Clarence River is one of New Zealands great multi-day paddling adventures, it offers great scenery and a real wilderness experience. The top and bottom sections can be run as day trips, but from the Acheron Confluence down to the Glen Alton bridge takes around 4 days, so food and camping gear will be required.

Important: A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck northern Canterbury on the 14th of November 2016, causing significant damage around the Kaikoura area. The Department of Conservation (DOC) have advised people to stay clear of the Clarence River, which has had numerous landslides & rock falls which have caused damming and significantly changed a number of river features. Large aftershocks are likely in the area and may cause further rock falls and landslides, so stay away from steep cliffs and overhanging rock faces if you do decide to access this area. The Glen Alton bridge has also been destroyed and there is a major new rapid upstream caused by a large land slide.

Clarence landslide dam 15th November 2016. Photo by Shaun McCracken.

Clarence landslide dam 15th November 2016. Photo by Shaun McCracken.

Getting there: The top section is access from Hanmer via Jacks Pass, this is a gravel road but is still suitable for ordinary vehicles, though care will need to be taken. The lower section is accessed from State Highway One, north of Kaikoura.

Flows: This river is paddleable all year round, even at the height of summer when flows may be as low as 2 cumecs on the Clarence Jollies (NIWA) gauge near the top of the river, but the trip will take longer and some sections will be quite boney. Spring and Autumn are quite popular times to run the river as flows are generally higher. The Clarence Valley gauge is at the State Highway One bridge but may be inaccurate.

Run: Down to Acheron Confluence      Grade: 2    Length: 11km
Clarence Jollies (NIWA) River Level

Put in / take out: Access is from Hanmer via Jacks Pass, this is a gravel road but it is suitable for ordinary vehicles, though care will need to be taken. The take out is above the Acheron Confluence near the bridge crossing the Clarence River.
Description: This is a series of small gorges with rapids and boulder gardens and requires a reasonable flow to be run.

Running a man-made weir on the Clarence

Running a man-made weir on the Clarence

Run: Acheron Confluence to Glen Alton Bridge      Grade: 2/3       Length: 185km (approximately 4 days)
Clarence Jollies (NIWA) River Level

Put in / take out: Put in above the Acheron Confluence near the bridge crossing the Clarence River. Take out at the Glen Alton bridge or continue down to the State Highway One bridge (recommended)
Description: This is a multi-day trip and should only be undertaken by suitably prepared parties as it is very isolated and the is no mobile phone coverage. The scenery is spectacular, with the river running between the inland and seaward Kaikoura mountain ranges, very interesting geology as well. The rapids are generally gravel chutes, bluffs and boulder gardens and are generally grade 2. The Chute rapid in the first gorge is a narrow chute between two rocks and is rated grade 3. Nose Basher and Jaw Breaker are two grade 3 rapids in the last gorge area, Saw Tooth Gorge, before mountains recede and the river flows out into farm land. There are plenty of nice camp sites beside the river (though less in the gorges) but you should ensure you have everything you will need on the river as this is a wilderness trip.

20150125 The Clarence River Day Three 081a

A mixture of white water, wilderness, superb scenery & geology.

Run: Glen Alton Bridge to State Highway One Bridge      Grade: 2+      Length: 11km
Clarence Jollies (NIWA) River Level

Put in / take out: Drive north along State Highway One from Kaikoura until you cross the Clarence River, then take the first left turn up Clarence Valley Road. The put in is at the Glen Alton bridge (the first bridge you come to) or you can continue on a little further up Waiautoa Road until you get to a suitable spot to put in.
Description: A bouncy run down a braided river through farm land, with generally wave trains type rapids. Take care around the State Highway One bridge approach and beyond as dangerous river protection works are present. There are rapids all the way to the sea but access for take out may be awkward.

20150127 The Clarence River Day Five 037

Bouncy wave trains but watch out for the river protection works.

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