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Blue Creek : Exploring a dry canyon in New Zealand

At the beginning of February, I had the chance to join some Abel Tasman Canyons’ guides for a day trip to Blue Creek. Like me, none of them had yet had the opportunity to see the place. Blue Creek is the only dry canyon in New-Zealand and the first one I had been to. I always associated canyoning with jumps and slides in water, and abseiling waterfalls. First doubtful, and then excited about discovering something new, I decided to join Pete, Oscar, Jack and Adrien on their day trip.

After an hour and a half drive from Motueka through the Kahurangi National Park, we arrived at the car park and arranged our equipment. As it’s a dry canyon the others decided not to take any wetsuit, but I chose to take my long john, just in case.

The trip begins with a brisk 45-minute walk. First on a steep track, and then through the bush for the last part, the path is marked with colored tape (which didn’t stop us from getting lost for some minutes, due to some other markers leading to a cave entrance.)

We prepared the gear once at the top of the canyon, where I eventually decided not to wear any wetsuit because it was too hot. Putting on a harness over shorts and a long-sleeved shirt only was a weird feeling at first, but being lighter and freer to move around than when in thick neoprene wetsuits was such as bliss!

After a short down-climb to the “wadi” (though water goes beneath the ground and re-emerges further down the canyon through a spring), we arrived at the first obstacle. The descent begins with a 5-meter rappel which leads the canyoner in a chest-deep pool one must cross before continuing the rappel further. This pool was one of the two we found in this canyon.

The canyon progressively becomes more narrow and, as a result, totally inescapable due to the surrounding high cliffs. At some point, one may even extend their arms across and touch both walls simultaneously. Progressing through the canyon, the steep-sided geology keeps much of the sunlight out. The thin moss covering the walls of the canyon creates a strange and gloomy, yet pleasant atmosphere; and the temperature is ideal during a hot summer day.

The karst formation displays an amazing diversity of shapes and colors, not without reminding of marble. Even though there is no river in the canyon anymore, memories of how powerful water is and has been there remain, as the rocks were marked by thousands of years of erosion, and huge logs littering our path.

The descent continues, alternately rappeling, down-climbing big boulders and walking in the river bed. I am the only member of the group who doesn’t yet know how to rig and unrig, so the guys are relaying each other to go faster while Adrien is filming and taking pictures.

After about two hours, the canyon reopened, the temperature immediately rose, and we arrived at the spring where the river emerges again.

Blue Creek is one of the most beautiful canyons I have descended, and in particular because of the beauty of the nature and the geology surrounding it. Even if this experience has been completely different from the excursions I had the opportunity to do before, it fulfilled all my expectations: Adventure, exploration and rappelling in a beautiful environment.

Noémie Castaing – ICOpro CA3

If you want to become autonomous like Noémie and discover such wonders of nature, there are several Canyoneer 1-2-3 training courses in the northern hemisphere during the summer: www.icopro.org/schedule


“All you need to know about the basic of Canyoning Activity and Progression.”


223 A4 pages full color
In Canyoneer Level 1 manual, you will learn about ICOpro, the activity basics, canyoning equipment, knots, communication, behavior and environment, hydrology, geology, physiology, tour preparation, physics, horizontal rope progression, vertical rope progression, and basic rock climbing. After you learn this manual, you will have all the necessary foundations for techniques covered in Canyoneer Level 2 manual and beyond.