Backyard NZ – The Glenroy

Backyard Run // The Glenroy River, Murchison

The GlenroyTucked away in a bush-clad corner of the Matakitaki valley lies its largest tributary, the Glenroy. A mere 45 minutes from Murchison (or less depending on what time you are due at the pub) this little gem offers tight and technical paddling.

It is on this run that aspiring class four kayakers choose to test themselves (and sometimes fail) before heading off to paddle more committing rivers on the West Coast. Many a good story and temporary legendary status has been created on this run.

The most popular ‘regular’ section puts in at Random Creek, making for a short braided warm-up stretch before the river enters a beautiful beech lined gorge. Fantastic technical paddling ensues through class 2 and 3 rapids as you head deeper into the gorge. Catch as many or as few eddies as you like along the way. As you continue deeper into the gorge, the rapids become longer and more complex.

There are two rapids of note on the run and are simply known as the ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’ drops. Although this description alone is of no use to first timers they are an obvious step up from the other rapids found on this run. Be warned, they catch a lot of wood so scouting is a good idea, be it your first or your 40th run. Believe me, I know this better than most. After boat scouting the ‘top drop’, I committed to the line, only to find to my horror that the exit was full of wood. Things turned out okay after a few nervous moments. It pays not to mess with the Glenroy’s wood.

Both of the harder drops are easily portaged at river level on the right if things are getting too hectic. The rapids below the ‘bottom drop’, although easier, are responsible for a great deal of the carnage/ hilarity found on this run as hapless paddlers celebrate the taming of the river a little too soon.

The GlenroyThe run can be done in less than 20 minutes by fast teams so lapping the run is often a good idea. For those less familiar with the run, or first timers, upwards of two and three hours on this section is not uncommon. For those after a longer section to warm up or just some more paddling, it is possible to head up river another couple of kilometres and put in using a steep gravel farm track dropping off to the right. Here you will find open gravel beds with a few bouldery rapids to keep this interesting.

All in all, the Glenroy is an awesome backyard run for those in the Murchison area, offering classic paddling in a beautiful gorge tucked away from the troubles of the world. After a great day head back into town to the Commerical pub for a well earned pint of Monteith’s and a world famous Commercial Burger. Let the stories roll: “No sh##! You should have been there….. I almost died…”

Graham Charles’ NZ Whitewater guidebook (2007) will point you in the right direction with shuttles and a few other specifics.

Ben Jackson is one of the ‘local’ instructors at the NZ Kayak School in Murchison. With every summer spent on the rivers in the area and further down the coast Murchison is definitely Ben’s Backyard,

In brief:
Class: IV
Level: 15-60cumecs – visual gauge
Length: 2.4 km (6km for long run)
Time: 2-5 hours
Watch for wood!

Words by Ben Jackson, Images by Jess Brown

Ben Jackson is a kayak instructor at the NZ Kayak School in Murchison,
This article originally published in CUMEC Magazine Issue #3, October 2007