Hollyford River (Falls Creek Run)
|Stretch:||Falls Creek to Marian Creek|
|Difficulty:||Class III to IV|
|Flows:||~400 cfs to ~1,500 cfs (visual only)|
|Gradient:||168 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Parking before or after Falls Creek|
|Take-out:||Lake Marian parking lot at the swing bridge|
|Shuttle:||1.5 miles, just a few hundred yards on good dirt|
|Season:||Year round, needs a little rain|
|Featured in A Wet State #125|
New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 18:
Sleeping at Roscos Milford Sound Kayaks guide house, we went to bed with the sound of heavy rain and hopes for the Cleddau. The rain came, 90 mm of it. Somehow though the Cleddau did not rise to a runnable level. Nor did the wind come, so all of the guides woke up early and were out the door before Diane and I crawled out of bed.
The Arthur had water for sure, maybe the Tutoko (it did). But Diane and I both decided that hiking was not in the cards for us that day so both of these runs were scrapped. However since it was another day of just us, we also needed a section we could hitch or jog the shuttle on. So we went back over the pass to the Hollyford to do the upstream, and easier, Falls Creek section of the Hollyford. I think Diane and I were both getting tired by this point in the trip as we had started to snip at each other a little. In hindsight maybe I should have waited longer to ask “why didn’t you boof?” after she plugged a big hole, back-endered and was pushed against an undercut. It worked out ok as she got herself off of the undercut and stayed in her boat. But my question was not received well. Who would have thought?
The run is road size and thus an easy walk. It was raining so no one stopped to pick me up while I tried to hitch… not surprising really since everyone on the road is tourist and we know tourists nearly never stop. The first half is also on a spur road that gets decent traffic, but yea, I jogged it. The run is short so it went quick. The river starts off with a busy rapid just above Falls Creek, Falls Creek itself has an impressive cascade that looks like the bottom tier might be runnable if you are super fired up. Once below the creeks inflow, the rapids stay busy with a standout ledge just downstream before a mile of boogie keeps you occupied. The biggest rapid is where the spur road leaves the highway and sports a good size hole which pushes right into an undercut. Downstream a few hundred yards of class IV boogie keeps you occupied before it mellows out for the last short distance to take-out.
The river was a good portion higher than the day before, so not base flow, and still felt low. I would only do this section after a recent rain to ensure it is up. Luckily, this area gets on average something like 6 meters of rain a year. No joke. 6 meters. 236 inches. So rain is rarely an issue.
The plan was to head downriver to do the short class IV+ section of the Hollyford where Moraine Creek comes in… but similar to the previous day, we decided we were too tired, and too grumpy and just wanted to start driving back towards Queenstown. So that’s what we did. We ended up having a nice afternoon in Queenstown. We were going to eat at Fergburger which is a super famous burger shop, but the line was out and around the corner so we decided to eat at Devil’s Burger which we were told was just as good but not as trendy. We then went to Mrs. Ferg for some gelato. And in a total act of coincidence, literally bumped into the guy that gave me a hitch on the Marian Creek section of the Hollyford the day before.
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- Put-in (IV). The busiest rapid is directly at put-in. I am sure lots of people put-in below it. If you do run it, just take a look and find a clean channel amongst the small boulders. We started right of center, worked left, and then back right.
- Ledge (IV). Just downstream was a nice ledge that we ran down the middle. At high flow I bet this one packs a punch. Diane scouted and ended up hitting a nice boof left of center. Scout left.
Boogie (III to IV). There was some fun boogie in here that was non-descript. It was a very continuous section though with no pools but plenty of eddies to catch your breath in.
- Crux (IV to IV+). As the river bends left, where the highway breaks away from the river, the crux greets you. There are two holes, the second one stouter than the first, and the second one pushes right into an undercut on the right. Boof both driving left across both. Set safety on the right if need be.
Exit (IV). The exit around the corner, although not as big, is long and full of holes and boofs. I bet more carnage happens here rather than in the crux rapid, as people let their guards down.
Take-out: From what I would consider the gateway of Milford Sound, the town of Te Anau, take Highway 94 North. Continue up Eglinton Valley for 87 km to the Hollyford River. Just as you get to it, turn right onto Hollyford Track. Turn right onto Hollyford Track and continue for 1.1 km to the Parking area for Lake Marian.
Put-in: Go back out to Highway 94, and continue towards Milford Sound. After 1.4 km you will come to Falls Creek. We parked at the small turn out just before the bridge. There is also some access points just after the creek.
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