5 Fast facts about the Shotover River

The Shotover River was one of the richest gold-bearing rivers in the world. Back in 1862 when gold was first discovered on the river at Arthurs Point, the river has been panned, cradled, sluiced, and dredged to its heart's content. Teams of miners worked on the river for years, right through where we raft today you will still see the remains of some gold mining machinery on your paddle adventure. You might try your luck at gold panning. Small-time gold seekers still work the river and two neighbouring tributaries for gold.


The Shotover River is accessed down the notorious Skippers Canyon Road. At the beginning of the gold rush, no track or road was present in Skippers Canyon, As the gold miners travelled through the canyon tracks were formed. They were rough and steep but established ways to Deep Creek, Māori Point and Skippers were in use in 1863. The road was built by four contractors in 1883 over a period of seven years. Many sections of the road remain today very much as they were in 1890. It is listed as one of the world’s most dangerous roads, come and experience for yourself.


Starting high in the Southern Alps, the river flows south on a journey through Skippers Canyon, passing between the Richardson Mountains and the Harris Mountains, before flowing into the Kawarau River east of Queenstown. The river is 75km in length and is fast flowing. You will find a total of (12) commercially rafted rapids on the lower section of the river with your final challenge, cascade welcoming you out from the Oxenbridge Tunnel.


The river has a raftable tunnel. That’s right, the Oxenbridge Tunnel at Arthurs Point is a 170-metre tunnel that was part of a failed mining scheme. In an attempt to divert water from the river to recover gold from the riverbed, the tunnel was born. It is now used by rafters and kayakers to finish their epic Shotover river adventure. The rapid that runs down the outside of the tunnel is named, mother-in-law, because it’s the one you don’t want to meet.

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The Shotover river has been commercially rafted since 1974. Due to Mother Earth moving and shaking, some of the rapids have changed over the years, and you will meet a variety of Grade 3-5 rapids during your adventure. You will embark on a man V nature battle of willpower in one of the most scenic environments in the world.

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