Bekanbeushi River Canoeing

別寒辺牛川 | Pekanpe-kus-i

Posted on Aug 21, 2020

Posted on Aug 21, 2020

1 0


0.5 day(s)


0.3 mpk



Water clarity

Class I



Best season





NOTE: To paddle the Bekanbeushi River, paddlers need to get a license from the Akkeshi Waterfowl Observation Center. See the General Notes section for details.

This is a technically easy but remote wetland canoe route on the Bekanbeushi River (別寒辺牛川) in eastern Hokkaido. Wending its way through the expansive Bekanbeushi wetlands (別寒辺牛湿原), you'll see red-crowned tancho cranes, Hokkaido native deer, white-tailed eagles, and a plethora of other rare wildlife. With no roads running parallel to the forested upper section of the route, there's a real sense of escape from humanity. The flow is gentle enough to allow paddling upstream, so more experienced paddlers can extend the route to a solid daytrip into even more seldom-visited corners of this slice of eastern Hokkaido.

We visited this route on Jul 18, 2020

Thanks to Greg Bruere and Jerry Halvorsen for input on river access rules.

Last updated Aug 22, 2020


Route Map

Need to know details

Grade: I
Remoteness: 3/5

River Details

This route is on Bekanbeushi River (別寒辺牛川), or Pekanpe-kus-i in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class B (二級河川) river, 43km in total length. This section of the river is between 7m and 30m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 0.3 mpk (1.58 FPM).

Weather: weather forecast for Bekanbeushi River

Water level notes: There are no water level gauges on the Bekanbeushi River. However, it’s a wetland river, so always has plenty of water in it, and will rarely suffer from flood-like conditions.

Bekanbeushi River is located in eastern Hokkaido, flowing from north to south into the vast tidal Akkeshi Lake next to Akkeshi City, on the southern coastline of eastern Hokkaido.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

The upper canoe port put-in (bekanbeushi-kawa-hashi-eki canu-pooto, 別寒辺牛川橋駅カヌーポート)  is easily accessed via taxi from the take-out next to the Akkeshi Waterfowl Observation Center (location). We called a taxi (Sakura Hire 桜ハイヤー, TEL: 0153-52-2137) from the center and they were there within about 10 minutes. From the Waterfowl center, it’s about a 10km (5,200yen) taxi ride to the put-in. Ask to be taken to the Bekanbeushi upstream canoe port (bekanbeushi-joryu-kanu-pooto, 別寒辺牛川上流カヌーポート). Staff at the Waterfowl Observation Center may also be able to help you communicate with the taxi driver. There’s some hefty up-and-down on the way to the put-in from the center, so if cycling, allow a full hour.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The take-out is at a canoe port/boat-ramp next to the Akkeshi Waterfowl Observation Center (location). This is the lower of the three canoe ports on the river. There’s another canoe port about two thirds of the way along the route, here, although it’s less well serviced (カヌー乗降場 中間点 別寒辺牛川).

General notes

This easy, short 9km-ish section of the Bekanbeushi River is one of the more well-serviced canoe routes in Hokkaido. There are three canoe ports on the route, with very good access to the river. The route itself cuts through the Bekanbeushi Wetlands (別寒辺牛湿原). Unlike many rivers in Hokkaido, there are no roads for kilometres around once you’re on the river. Expect to see an abundance of wildlife, including white-tailed eagles, native Hokkaido ezo deer, and plenty of kingfisher birds.

  • River Access Rules: This canoe route is in a protected Ramsar Convention conservation area. In order to protect the delicate wetland area in the vicinity, the river is only open to canoe access from May till October. At certain times during this period, there are only a limited number of canoes allowed per day down the river (nine in May/June, 15 in July, 30 in August, no limit in Sep/Oct). Furthermore, the water foul center asks that all those wishing to paddle the river to take part in a short lecture and receive their ‘river license’ before paddling the river (you’ll actually get a souvenir certificate). Either arrive early to the water-foul center and ask directly to get your license, or book ahead (Email:; TEL: 0153-52-5988; URL: to ensure you don’t miss out. For more details (in Japanese), see this link: Paddlers should only access and/or leave the river via the official canoe ports.
  • Difficulty: Besides the relatively remoteness of this section of the river, this is an otherwise very safe, slow-flow wetland river. The flow is slow enough to allow paddling upstream from the put-in, which adds as much time onto the trip as the day allows.
Route description

Starting from the upper-most canoe port, paddlers can either head straight downstream, or paddle for a ways upstream before turning around and paddling back down. The only point of note is the fork in the river at around the 6km point. Take the left branch here – the right goes to a dead-end created by an earthen bank for the railway.

In older canoe guidebooks, I’ve seen mention of paddling all the way down the river, onto Akkeshi Lake, and on to Akkeshi City. We were considering doing this when we were there, but there was a strong on-shore wind blowing, so we abandoned this idea. If conditions are favourable, this could be a nice extension to the trip. Guidebooks suggest the boatramp around here, at the western end of the lake, to be suitable for taking out. Note that Lake Akkeshi is a very shallow tidal lake – I’d only attempt a foray onto the lake if I could be confident of coinciding with a high tide. Also note that this would add an extra 5km of flat-water paddling to the trip – allow at least 1.5hrs extra.

Route Timing
Trip time: 3hrs 0min


Public transport:

Beyond private taxi from Akkeshi City on the coast, there is no public transport access to the put-in or take-out location.

By car: 

There’s plenty of parking at all the canoe ports on this route. Check the put-in and take-out details above.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kushiro-oota (釧路太田) – map no. NK-55-32-2-3
Official Topo Map 2: Itoizawa (糸魚沢) – map no. NK-55-32-2-1

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

The main concern on this route is the relative remoteness of the route. There’s no mobile reception for the majority of the upper section of the route, so paddlers need to be self-sufficient. Also note that access to the riverside is limited, and foot access across the wetlands is also extremely limited. Ensure plenty of daylight before setting off.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Bekanbeushi River


Onsen nearby

The closest Japanese baths is Kiraku-yu (喜楽湯, location) sento. This is a super-traditional, simple Japanese public bath, located in Akkeshi City. It’s about 6km from the take-out point.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to explore the Bekanbeushi River with an experienced guide, contact Masao Ashida from Ashiyan Canoe ( Follow him on Instagram here. He’ll be able to pick areas with recent wildlife activity, upping your chances of seeing rare wildlife up close.

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Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes description of the route (translated)

Bekanbeushi River wends its way through the Bekanbeushi Wetlands, a registered Ramsar Convention site. The river flows into the vast coastal Akkeshi Lake. Paddlers can enjoy a variety of vistas, including a jungle-cruise-like atmosphere in the upper section, and wide-open vistas in the lower marshland-like areas in the lower section. Red-crested tancho cranes nest in the wetlands, so sometimes the route is closed to canoes. But it’s a very special river where one can encounter tancho red-crested cranes up close.

With our university lectures all moved online for the first semester of 2020, Haidee and I decided to make the most of the rather unique situation to document some far-from-home canoe routes out east in Hokkaido. The first on the list was Bekanbeushi River and the Bekanbeushi Wetlands. We arrived at the put in at around 8am, and were pleasantly surprised at the very well made canoe port. The local canoeists must have pulled together well to have such a well mapped, signed, and set up canoe route.


After dropping off the canoe, we made the 10km drive down-river to the water-foul information center. The staff at the info center advised us to call Sakura Hire Taxi, and just 10 minutes later we were in a taxi returning back upstream to the put-in. 

It was 10:30am by the time we actually got the canoe in the water. With only 9km or so to paddle, we decided to paddle upstream for a bit to see what there was to see. It was a hot day, but the wetland river was shrouded in tall trees, giving plenty of shade.

We paddled for about 1km upstream before turning around, reveling in the sudden boost in speed.

From what we’d read about the river, we were expecting great masses of wildlife along the way. Perhaps it was the time of day, or perhaps the time of year, but the river was surprisingly quiet. We saw a couple of iridescent blue kingfishers and a white-tailed eagle, and that was about it. Given the right season, apparently paddlers can see red-crested cranes with their young along this river.

About half way through the route, the wind picked up. It was a headwind. We zipped up the spraydeck and plodded on.

As we pulled up at the lower canoe port, I was feeling relatively ambivalent about the river. Maybe it was the headwind that had sapped my spirits. Haidee, being the avid birdwatcher she is, was more upbeat. “We saw kingfishers and stalks and an eagle,” she gushed. “It was a great paddle!”

It was now mid-afternoon, and we still had a long drive ahead of us to get to Lake Furen – our destination for the next five days. We would base ourselves at a cabin on the lake where we could deliver our online lectures and take part in online meetings during the day, and paddle in the early mornings and evenings.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Bekanbeushi River, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Bekanbeushi River Canoeing Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending













GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.