Wanganui, the River City, nestles at the mouth of the broad tidal Whanganui River.
This beautiful garden city is noted for its heritage walks, reserves, fine arts, culture and its outstanding museum.
Travel up the winding historic River Road and you enter a different world. This is the heart of the rugged, densely forested Whanganui National Park, which can only be penetrated by jet boat or canoe beyond the settlement of Pipiriki.
Early last century the Whanganui River was known to tourists as the Rhine of the South Seas, so popular were paddle steamer cruises through its scenic gorges. Today it is the most canoed river in the country and our longest navigable waterway, offering stunning scenery and no less than 239 rapids throughout its length. At least ten commercial operators provide jet boat, canoeing, kayaking and rafting services from bases in Wanganui, Ohakune, Owhango and Whakahoro.
The Whanganui River rises on Mt Ngauruhoe and flows north to Taumaranui, where most float trips commence as a 4 or 5 day journey down to Pipiriki. This section has breathtaking scenery, sheer moss-covered cliffs, tranquil gorges, 150 Grade 1 and 2 rapids, and superb campsites. The Whanganui has all the excitement of whitewater rapids but has long quiet stretches to give you time to reflect and feel the magic of the river. It is equally appealing to novice paddlers and experts.
The Whakapapa River is the major tributary of the Whanganui and offers good Grade 3 – 4 rapids after heavy rainfall. The put in is the Rangipo Hydro Scheme intake structure off S.H.47. Experience is needed to negotiate the tight chutes between boulders and some rapids may need to be portaged. The take out is below Owhango on S.H.4 before the river joins the Whanganui.
The fascinating combination of history, culture, scenery and modern waterborne recreation makes the Whanganui and its tributaries a memorable whitewater experience. It is river cruising at its very best – the ultimate New Zealand canoe journey.