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The Shotover River - Queenstown's Majestic Whitewater Experience

The Shotover River - Queenstown's Majestic Whitewater Experience

Queenstown NZ Adventure Options

Situated along the breathtaking shores of Lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is often hailed as the ‘adventure capital of the world’.  This incredible tourist mecca offers innumerable adventure experiences to suit everyone’s imagination. Adventure options include everything from bungee jumping, mountain biking, and horseback riding to being the gateway to many of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Among these fantastic adventure opportunities however you will find some of the world’s best whitewater nestled in this incredible corner of New Zealand.


Shotover Rapids

This is the home to the Shotover River, located in the Otago region of the South Island. The river carves its way south from the Southern Alps though the awe-inspiring gorges of Skippers Canyon. The Shotover watershed drains a rugged stretch of 7000 foot snowcapped peaks between the Richardson Mountains and the Harris Mountains before flowing into the Kawarau River east of Queenstown.

Character of the River

Skipper's Canyon

The Shotover River is Queenstown's the most popular river trip.  The emerald waters of the Shotover can be rafted year round with whitewater rafting being most popular during the southern hemisphere’s spring and summer months of November, December, and January.  Outfitters typically run the 8.5 mile (14 km) stretch of the Shotover River Though Skippers Canyon. You can expect to find a challenging mix of Class 3-5 rapids to push your comfort zone.

Getting to the River

Skipper's Canyon Road

Guests are typically met at the outfitter’s rafting base to get a brief rundown of the equipment which they will need and what the day’s adventure will look like.  The trip then begins with an unforgettable coach trip into Skippers Canyon, famous for the exciting cliff edges and gold mining history. To gain access in the winter months from June through to end of August customers have to upgrade to a ‘Heli-Raft Trip’. This combo trip will fly you through these spectacular gorges and drop you off at the put in since there is no clear road access available through Skippers Canyon in the winter.

What to Expect in the Gorge

Shotover Safety Talk
Deep Creek Put-in

Before you get on the water for this spectacular canyon you will meet your guide at Deep creek put-in.  From Deep Creek you will encounter some calm moving water before you head toward the exhilarating rapids of the lower canyon. 

The lower canyon is filled with classic adrenaline pumping rapids like Aftershock, Squeeze, Toilet, Oh shit, Pinball and Jaws to name a few. 

Heart of Skipper's Canyon

During the trip you will get to experience Oxenbridge Tunnel which carries you nearly 570 feet (170m) though the mountainside before dropping into the heart of Cascade Rapid to complete your adventure. You can expect to spend around 1.5 to 2 hours on the water from put-in to take-out however, you can expect the whole experience to last a half day, about 4.5 hours, from pick up to drop off.

We would like to offer up a huge thank you to Flip Collins from Queenstown Rafting and Rafting Magazine Team Boater Daniel Jenkins (who is currently working on the Shotover) for helping us out with content and consulting on our article.Check out Queenstown rafting below and if you are on a trip ask for Daniel. 

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