Log in

  • Home
  • River Crossings: by Bill McLeod

River Crossings: by Bill McLeod

29/03/2021 9:01 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

It was absolutely terrifying! We’d been making our way up the Crooked River hoping to make it to Jacko Flat hut. It was a typical West Coast frog-drowning downpour and the main river was running a banker. There was a rudimentary track we were following and we made progress. The side creeks were swollen but we kept making our way. A slightly bigger side creek blocked our path. I found a place that looked feasible and started to make my way across. Over waist deep from memory and I made a misstep. Put my foot into nothing. The flow caught me and shot me down the creek and into the main river. Terror was the only emotion I can recall feeling. Just as I hit the main river I managed to grab an overhanging branch which pendulumed me in toward the bank. Grabbed another branch and got to the bank. Clive grabbed me from the bank and I managed to gain some footing. So thankful to make it out of there. I managed to find a safer crossing further up the creek so we made it to the hut. Next morning the rain had stopped so it was a much safer trip out.

Graham and I had to go into Bullock Creek, inland from Punakaiki to carry out an inspection prior to the purchase of the lease to add to the National Park . We’d crossed the river on the way in with no sign of any problems. Carried out our work and returned to the river. We’d been aware of the rain clouds up along the main range but weren’t concerned. When we got to the river it was in flood. The other way to get out took many hours and was just as prone to flooding. I decided to give it a go.  Got a little way out and realised No Way. Tried to turn around but wasn’t going to make it. The river went underground several hundred metres further downstream. I was in a bit of strife. Suddenly I felt a big hand come out and grab me by the shoulder. Chomp is a big unit and was on the Face Rescue team. He dragged me out of there. We decided to climb up through the bluffs onto the big escarpment running down the true right of Bullock Creek. Made it to the top then had to traverse a lot of steep country where all the drainage was underground. This meant climbing down one side of a doline then back up the other side. This went on seemingly interminably. It was West Coast raining the whole time. Finally made it to a place where we could climb down through the cliffs and make it to the lower carpark. We’d hoped that Chomp’s offsider who knew we were up the river would have met us or left a Ute. Nothing. It’s a long way down the bush road out to Punakaiki at night in the pouring down rain. Chomp’s offsider had left for Christchurch that evening despite knowing we were in a bit of strife. I still haven’t forgiven him. 

Doesn’t have to be the West Coast where you can get into trouble. We had a significant flood when Keith and I were in the Raukumaras. We’d been camp bound for four days but the rain had stopped. In the evening I said we would be able to cross. Keith said no way so to be a smart arse I crossed it and came back. Keith, who was a field officer and a hugely experienced hunter said he was very impressed. That meant a lot coming from him.

Learning from these and other nail biting experiences I find I have confidence in my method of crossing a river. I won’t get into a river that I think I can’t cross. I won’t get into a river linked to anyone else. If I get it wrong I don’t want to get anyone else into trouble. Rivers will kill you. I will only go into river crossings using a sturdy pole planted upstream to provide extra stability. Then only move one point of contact at a time. One foot, next foot, pole. I’m prepared to spend considerable time finding the right pole. I have been tempted to ditch the pole and make a break for it. Resisting that urge is important. It takes concentration to stick to the plan. Because I seldom if ever actually hunt with anyone else I can only recall a few instances where I’ve had to guide other people across rivers. In those cases I’ve made the crossing and then stationed myself in the most difficult part then have them use the upstream pole method. So far we’ve all come out of it OK.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software