The 2nd entry for the second section starts just above the gorge. Coming from Palmerston North, there is a bridge as you emerge from the gorge, take a track off to the south. This track is through public common area. Drive along the track until you reach the river.
Our group mostly used fixed hull canoes and kayaks, however I was using my inflatable Sevlor Tahiti canoe. This river is not really suitable for inflatables in one respect - it is very windy under most conditions. The Manuwatu Ranges is home to many of NZ's wind farms. For this reason, it is not suitable. Contrary to expectation, the gorge area is not always sheltered from these winds, but can actually act as a conduit for them. If you are using an inflatable I suggest judging whether its better to follow the edge of the river (for shelter) or stay mid-stream to utilise the speed of the current. It is also advisable to use both seats, so your canoe sits lower, or to place a heavy carry bag in the front. Otherwise try to position yourself in the middle. If you sit at the back the front tends to catch in the wind. The more you can distribute your weight along the canoe the better. The less water in your canoe the better, so tip out any water if you stop. There were a few areas where we were fighting winds.
This gorge is not particularly scenic, though it was a good river to introduce my partner to canoeing. It was also a good opportunity to test two canoes that we had bought 2nd hand. Fortunately both worked, except for a slow leak in one compartment. Clearly the previous owner was too lazy to fit it. I have found you get a leak about one-in-ten times I go canoeing, and its easier to fix a leak than portage a fixed hull canoe around a rapid. Try slipping on some rock with a heavy canoe compared to a light air mattress.
If you are interested in learning more about how to canoe with inflatables - we have written an eBook on the topic - Inflatable Canoeing Adventures. We have used these Sevylor inflatables in Japan, NZ and Australia so far. The attraction is the functionality of the canoes, their lightness and compactibility, so you can pack them in the back of a car or even take them on a train, as I did in Japan. I think activity like canoeing adds an extra dimension to a holiday experience. i.e. Like mountain biking across the Himalayas. I'm not writing a book about that though...pity the sucker who does.
The following map provides location guidance.
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Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
Wanganui, New Zealand