The 145 km river journey from Taumarunui to Pipiriki takes an average 5 days to complete by canoe. A shorter 3 day journey from Whakahoro to Pipiriki is also possible.
Once you are on the river below Whakahoro there is no turning back and no place to buy anything you may have forgotten.
Make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared. The weather in the Whanganui National Park is changeable and can be cold, wet and windy, even in summer. Check at a visitor centre for information on weather and river conditions before you start.
The Whanganui River passes through isolated and rugged country and is a physically demanding journey. It should only be undertaken by people in good physical condition and fitness. Once on the river, emergency communication is available only at John Coull Hut and Tieke Kainga and there is only road access to the river at Whakahoro and Pipiriki.
Don’t canoe the river when water levels are predicted to rise or it’s in flood. If you capsize you may not be able to get back in, or swim to the river’s edge. Always pull your canoe up high on the bank and tie it to something secure. It may not be raining on the river, but rain elsewhere in the large catchment can cause the river to rise several metres overnight.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
On the river
- The river is not part of Whanganui National Park.
- When a jet boat approaches, canoeists should move to the right. If close to the left, stay there rather than paddle across the path of an approaching boat. To minimise the effect of the wake, turn at right angles to it.
- Canoeists should stop and even back-paddle to allow jet boats to overtake and get clear as quickly as possible.
- Jet boats passing canoes travelling in the opposite direction should either wait or barge slowly forward until clear of the canoes. Canoeists in this situation should keep paddling forward. Jet boats moving slowly are much less manoeuvrable and canoeists should not expect them to be able to get out of the way quickly.
- Jet boats in rapids are unable to slow down or stop.
- Remember: Craft travelling up river give way to craft travelling down river.
To help everyone enjoy the Journey, there are some basic rules:
- Many sites are of high cultural significance - please respect them.
- Camping is permitted only at designated camp sites.
- No dogs or other animals are permitted.
- No open fires - observe fire restrictions.
- Native plants and animals must not be disturbed, destroyed or removed.
- All rubbish must be carried out of the park.
- No hunting.
- Boil, filter or treat water if you doubt its purity.
- Use the toilets provided.
- Keep soap and detergents out of waterways.
- When using huts and campsites please consider others.
- Ensure your booking ticket is with you at all times.