Perth River (Five Fingers)
|Stretch:||Five Fingers drop off to Highway 6|
|Flows:||~750 cfs to ~2,000 cfs|
|Gradient:||99 fpm from miles 3.1 to 4.5. 70 fpm total|
|Put-in:||Island downriver of Five Fingers Creek|
|Take-out:||Helicopter Parking lot near Highway 6|
|Featured in A Wet State #124|
New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 14:
I am going to start with the same paragraph from the upstream Scone Hutt write-up. I am sure I will catch a world of grief for breaking this into two runs, so I am going to start with my rational for it. I was very surprised on my trip, how many people make New Zealand a class IV destination. I always pictured it in my head as a solid class V destination and because of that was afraid to come here for years (due to the sieves of course). But little did I know that the class IV is not only plentiful but also quality. And on the Perth, we had half of our group as only class IV boaters who flew into the lower put-in and got to enjoy a few hours of classic paddling as well as the prettiest of the gorges on the Perth. So, rather than leaving these options as a footnote in the guidebook, I wanted to bring more attention to it, so that more people can enjoy these runs. OK, so with that out of the way... So, after paddling down from the Scone Hutt section we were relieved to see our friends on the shore downstream a few more rapids. The endless scouting that we had experienced was hopefully going to end! Once at the top of the island that marks the Five Fingers drop-off (actually a kilometer downriver of Five Fingers Creeks) the boating was quite fun and cruisy. There were some boulder gardens that I am sure change yearly, and were in the class IV range. After a few of these though, the river mellowed to be class II to III down into the valley. We camped at the end of the valley at Nolan's Hut after maybe 30-45 minutes of paddling on this section. The Hut is a smaller one and only has beds for 4 people, we planned ahead though and brought tents in with us. The hut system in New Zealand is pretty awesome. The helicopters will drop your gear at them so you don't have to kayak a loaded boat for the first day, and there are typically things like propane tanks there, also usually an ax to accompany the fire place. Not bad on a cold day and at this point some 5 hours spent paddling, that is for sure! The next day we quickly got to the final gorge, which was the most spectacular from Scone Hut down. It was schist walls with super fun class III to IV rapids between the walls. Portaging is possible, though not always easy. The friends of ours that flew in just for this lower section scouted several of the rapids as they tended to be multi-move and not without consequence. There is one single-move rapid near the end of the gorge that is flow dependent which is an obvious horizon line, scout on the left. Downstream, the gorge walls open and fun rapids continue for a short ways before you bend left and drop into the Whataroa and begin your mellow float back out to your cars. I really wanted to break this run apart from the upstream counterparts because of how worthwhile I think it is, and how attainable it is for so many boaters. There is nothing more than class IV in there, and plenty of class III. If you scout a few rapids I think you would get close to 3 hours of boating for your helicopter dollars. Certainly more than flying into the lower Hokitika. And because of that, I would highly recommend this run if you want an adventure but not to bite off the whole Perth.
Previous: New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 13 - Perth (Scone Hut)
Next: New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 15 - Fox
I am going to do mileage both from Scone Hut as well as from the top of the Five Fingers dropoff island.
- Top of the Island (IV). There was a long fun rapid that ran the length of the island. We ran the right side of the island. It was a long boulder garden affair. And in all honesty, it is probably one of the harder rapids of the run.
Things then mellow out for a bit before you approach a small gorge.
- Little Gorge (III). A few nice smaller rapids are appear when the walls tighten again. They were all read and run. One in particular near a volcanic wall on the left was a little bigger than it appeared from above but went fine, just stay off of the wall.
- Nolan's Hut is on the left. You have to be looking upriver to see it from the river.
Boulder Garden #1 (III to IV). Not far below Nolan's Hut is a nice boulder garden rapid. We worked our way down it left of center finishing left.
Hairy Ferry (IV-). An easy enough rapid but severe consequences. We ran down left of center driving left into an eddy just in front of a huge rock that had a lot of water going under it. We then ferried in front of the rock to avoid it. The ferry wasn't hard, the dangerous part is working down to catch the eddy in front of the rock.
Brotherly Swim (IV-). We were waiting below the rapid above for everyone to come through. One person in our group decided to head down to the end of the pool with his brother. The next thing one person is hollering that his brother is swimming. Diane and I turn and burn and give chase. The rapid was easy enough, go well left of center to avoid a large pour over and then just follow the water back to the right. As Diane and I get the brother out, we look upstream and see the other brother swimming as well. Bad day for those two!
Small S-turn (III+). At the end of the pool is a small s-turn. WE started far left and then entered the main flow and worked right then left around the s-turn. Careful about the rocks on the left at the bottom as they are not super friendly.
Bigger S-turn (IV). This rapid is bigger and pushier than any of the others on the run. Some scouted on the left. I ran down the center before moving back to the left for the exit. This rapid is a bit sievy on the right at the bottom so take care there.
Enter the Gorge (III). A blind but totally good to go rapid drops you into the gorge. We ran down the right side of it.
Heart of the Gorge (IV to IV+). A single drop but it is sorta stout. At higher flows a slide around the main move opens. At lower flow the main move closes off. At medium flow you can drive left in the main current and boof into the pool below. The hazard is that the right side fades off into the undercut wall. So just make sure you are driving left. The hole also is worth setting safety on.
Flat water in a spectacular schist gorge takes you to where the walls open a bit.
- Boulder Garden #2 (III). As you exit the gorge there was a smaller boulder garden that had a small ledge that we ran left of center moving back to the right.
Boulder Garden #3 (IV). Perhaps the longest and most technical rapid, we entered center (maybe left of center) and went off a ledge that tail stood more of us than expected. We then worked back to the right and punched a few holes. It was a really fun drop. But being upside down would be painful for sure!
- Things wind down soon after.
- Confluence with the Whataroa which enters on the left. Downstream there are a few fun fluffy wave trains but nothing that you need to stay on your toes for.
Take-out: The take-out is about 1 hour south on Highway 6 from Hokitika. Immediately after crossing the Whataroa River (about 1 km before the town of Whataroa) turn left onto the first road and follow for 1.6 km to the helicopter companies parking area. This is take-out.
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