The Wairoa (meaning long water) is the largest watershed into the Tauranga Harbour and is formed by the merging of the Mangapapa and the Mangakarengorengo just above McLaren Falls. It drains a number of smaller rivers and streams all of which offer exciting paddling when levels are high enough, or on the regular dam releases throughout the year.
During the summer months the dam releases every sunday, and less frequently through the rest of the year. Check https://www.trustpower.co.nz/our-assets-and-capability/power-generation/wairoa-river-flow-dates for release dates.
100m into the run is Humpty Dumpty, a fun little play spot and a great place to warm up. Flush out of the pool and you launch into Mothers Nightmare with a tricky entrance and 50m of confusing pillow rocks. Run the final drop hard right. A pleasant pool leads to a class II even gradient rock garden with some good play holes. Below here is Double Trouble and Mushroom. Another pool leads to the top of the Devils Elbow, a slightly more complex rapid with a few moves to make before the final wheel or boof over the bottom hole. This puts you in the pool above the Waterfall and Rollercoaster rapids, home of the annual Wairoa Extreme Race and fun place to hang out watching all manner of good and bad lines through the rapids. Both rapids can be portaged if you get there and dont feel up for it. The Roller Coaster has a couple of entry options including a sneak route start from the right, or down the central line into the Cauldron. The lines can be scouted from the right using the ropes to access the viewing/photography ledges. There is a nasty undercut wall about 30m below the rapid and right in the runout zone, avoid it at all costs. If you blow it there is a save yourself rope hanging from the cliffs above.
The gradient eases markedly from here down through the 200m rock garden to the top of the slalom site. It is possible to access just this lower section through Browns farm over a well maintained track and there is a $2/person/day fee. Either take out by the Kaimai Canoe Clubs clubrooms or continue another kilometre to the Ruahihi Power Station take out. This section includes a couple of class II-III rapids, a great rock splat wall and a 2m ledge drop.
Credits: WWNZ and Graham Charles (NZ Whitewater 4th Edition 2006). CC BY-SA 3.0 NZ