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The Shotover – Queenstown’s majestic whitewater

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.

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.


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.


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 flies 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.

Before the spectacular canyon, customers start at Deep Creek where they encounter calm moving water before heading 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.

During the trip customers experience Oxenbridge Tunnel which carries you nearly 570 feet (170m) though the mountainside before dropping into the heart of Cascade Rapid to complete the adventure.

For more articles, check out our friends over at Rafting Magazine

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