Backyard NZ – The Lee Stream

Backyard Run // The Lee Stream, Otago

For the small number of descents the Lee Stream has generated a fair share of conversation amongst the Dunedin paddling community. The secret gem in Dunedin’s crown is not a regular performer. If it were there would be a lot more sick days, prolonged degrees or maybe “rainy day clauses” in people’s employment contracts. Bring on the funky rain of this next environmental epoch.

The Lee StreamHistory

The Lee Stream was first run in June 1996 by with the crew being propelled downstream by Jo Kippax, Keith Riley and Paul Pujol’s voracious appetite for first descents.

21st century

This last New Years Eve Al Ritchie, Howie Wilson and I managed to slither our way again down the Lee again. Better than we remembered, bigger drops, cleaner lines, “excellent” portaging and some big potential.

How to get a piece of Otago Gold.

The Taieri has to be up, but on the drop (peaked at 230cumecs the day before, this last trip)! Check the Otago Regional Council web site; get a feel for the regions flows after a good rain, the classic old Caramel Milkshake is a must.

At the ford you will find the level marked in yellow paint! The last two trips were at approximately this flow, anymore and making the compulsory portage at “Gated Community” might be a tad unlikely. Its character is a narrow, treed, low volume creek, which punches well above its weight.

The Lee StreamThe key nuggets and portages have been named; and we were a little over excited; Gated Community, Rim shot, Head high tackle, Balooga Falls, and our imagination faded with Pencil Dick sharpener & Pencil dick Falls (3 metres). Pinball then slowly and steadily leads into Depravity, the downward slide…. Of which the initial slide/drop has been run.

The Lee StreamAfter the portage at “Gated Community” the run just starts dropping. The tea stained water is never too pushy, some manky micro portages are needed now and again. You will never confuse these with the portages proper, which are quite sporting, to say the least.

As you scout the un-run Depravity, which can also be described as a “sieve” you will see in the distance the ridges meeting at the confluence of the tea and the milkshake.

For all its closeness and short shuttle, once you head in there is only one way out, with gravity, pack appropriately. For the keen keep one eye on the weather, and the other on the ORC website.

Gradient Average:30 m/km
Level:It needs Rain!
Gauge:Marked in paint
Time:5 – 7 ½ hours
Map:I44 – J44 Dunedin
Put in:10 km from Outram bridge on the
George King Memorial Drive.
Take Out:Standard lower Taieri take out at Outram Glen
Flavour:Gorgeous, Woody, Adventure Portages

Words by and images courtesy of Craig Adams

This article was originally published in CUMEC Magazine Issue #2, April 2007