Isabelle Creek Canyon v4a4VI***

Max drop 70m (2x 70m + 1x 50m min)

24hrs of movement, usually requiring a full weekend (2 nights)

Public Access

Isabelle Creek is Chamberlain Creek’s big sister!

A stunning, vertical, sunny creek with a chequered history.

It has 3 distinct canyon sections that successively grow in interest and stature during descent – topped off by a trip up one of the more spectacular and interesting sections of the Waiohine River Gorge to exit.

This is an adventure canyon, river and tramping trip that will keep you busy for 48 hours. The
recommended schedule is to walk into Powell Hut on the evening of day one. Canyon to the Mid Waiohine Hut on day two (12+ hours) and walk out on day three.

First descent: 22 & 23 January 2022 (Justin Hall, Gavin Holden, Alex Horvat)

Thank you to Justin Hall for the photos and topo.


An incomplete guide to Isabelle Creeks exploration.

July 1969 saw the search and later body recovery of police constable Tweedale (a member of the Wellington Police SAR squad) from the base of R4 (upper falls on the canyontopo). The search had Tom Clarkson descend by rope the first couple of jumps as well as R’s 1 & 2 to the top of R3 where he looked into a pool (in later literature referred to as Clarkson’s pool) that fed the slide to the upper falls (R4) edge.

R1 also had evidence of the Victoria University of Wellington Tramping Club (VUWTC) building an anchor around a boulder. 3 months later in better (less wintry) conditions, constable Tweedale’s body was found at the base of R4.

Tramping literature and rock graffiti in the canyon also suggest forays into the open sections of Isabelle Creek occur with some regularity.

A rock in the streamway immediately above R6 bears the etching VUWTC, presumably an indication of the furthest point downstream in the middle canyon section reached on a tramping trip which dropped in on the creek between canyon sections. This was impressive as it would have involved steep scrambling around R5 in the bush and wet down climbing of smaller falls not marked as rappels.

Further to this, Tararua Tramping Club (TTC) trip reports indicate several rappels / series of rappels can be bypassed in the bush by scrambling steeply around spurs and slopes – though this would mean missing many of the best canyon sections.

One report describes how the feature of R12 was reached both top and bottom over two trips by the same person – looking onto where they had stood previously however unable to make the connection.

Collated by James Judd, Jan 2022

2 Trip reports Log your trip

  1. Joe Nawalaniec says:

    I suspect I’m the person referred to in the “R12 feature” ; plus also one of the 2 persons from the “TTC trip report” (although I’m not in TTC)
    -I travelled up Isabelle Stream from its mouth on two trips 1/ solo, up to R12 feature, then 2/ with Franz Hubmann from R12 right up through both lower and mid-gorges to the base of the top most big waterfall.
    I (and then, we) followed the line of the stream as closely as we could going upstream (more difficult doing this going up than going down, used a rope on the 2nd trip with Franz for safety only), pulling out up to High Ridge only after getting to the base of the top big falls.
    I avoided dropping down the R12 feature because it would have been a hassle trying to reclimb out of it again.
    We went to the base and to the top of the 2nd big falls.
    On my solo trip, I climbed under the back of the huge chock stone, up through an eyehole.
    Good trips both, and also fun solo

  2. Ray Molineux says:

    Re Isobel Creek decent. Prior to the 1969 recovery trip by Tom Clarkson a party of TTC and a police Sergent decented the creek in mid winter with heavy snow conditions.
    We also spent a night at the foot of the sin Water fall before decanting to the Waiohine yhe next day.
    We had a rope in the party the allowed us to under take the abseiling through the waterfalls

    The party consisted of Nev Pslmer, Dave Bartle, Sargent Arther Jonas and one other that I can’t recall

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