Kiritappu Wetland Canoeing

霧多布湿原 | Ki-ta-p

Posted on Aug 25, 2020

Posted on Aug 25, 2020

1 3


0.5 day(s)


0.1 mpk



Water clarity

Class I



Best season

The Kiritappu Wetland (霧多布湿原) is a large wetland area on the Pacific Ocean in far east Hokkaido. It's home to a vast variety of wildlife, including bears, eagles, and the red-crested tancho crane. Biwase River (琵琶瀬川) flows slowly through the wetland, allowing paddlers an intimate view into the heart of the marsh. Being close to the coast, birdwatchers will enjoy the river access to viewing of oyster-catchers and other marine birds too. Here, we outline the classic out-and-back route. You'll be paddling upstream on the return, but the flow is slow enough to keep it one of the most pleasant, easy-access wetland canoe trips in Hokkaido.

We visited this route on Jul 20, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Grade: I
Remoteness: 3/5

River Details

This route is on Kiritappu Wetland (霧多布湿原), or Ki-ta-p in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Other river, 13.4km in total length. This section of the river is between 1m and 70m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 0.1 mpk (0.53 FPM).

Weather: weather forecast for Kiritappu Wetland

Water level notes: There’s no water level gauge on the Biwase River, but it’s a wetland river with plenty of water throughout the year.

This canoe route is on the Biwase River in the heart of the Kiritappu Wetland on the southern coast of far eastern Hokkaido. It’s just west of the small town of Hamanaka on the Pacific Ocean coast.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

Put in at the bridge across the Biwase River on Route 808 on river right. There’s a large parking area just after the bridge, heading towards the Kiritappu Wildlife Center (霧多布湿原センター, location) from Hamanaka Town.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The take-out is the same as the put-in – the bridge across Route 808. There’s very little flow to the river, so paddling upstream is no problem. If the wind and tide is favorable, paddlers could conceivably paddle all the way downstream to a boat ramp just west of the Hamanaka fishing port, officially on the Ichiban River (一番川), here. Note that in early morning, there will be a lot of fishing boat traffic, which has right of way.

General notes

Kiritappu and surrounds has somewhat of a cult following in our minds. There’s the wetlands of course, but there’s also the dramatic Cape Kiritappu jutting out of the coast, along with a free campground perched on the cliffs popular among cyclists and travelling motorcyclists. Just next to this is a beautiful onsen hotspring facility. When we camped there on an across-Hokkaido cycle tour a few years back, the campground was enveloped in mist, giving the lighthouse an eerie look. It’s powerful light shone into the murk as the light of day faded. It’s an area one could happily spend a night at – preferably camping – to soak in the atmosphere.

  • Ramsar Convention Site: The Kiritappu Wetland is a registered Ramsar Convention site. Under no circumstances should paddlers walk on the wetlands or otherwise exit their canoe on the river.
Route description

Start at the Route 808 bridge and head downstream. Alternatively, it’s possible to paddle upstream for a ways but beware – the river soon becomes too narrow to turn a 16ft canoe around in, as we unceremoniously found out. We had to back-paddle until the river widened up again before turning around. Being the sensible individual are, you’ll head straight downstream from the bridge. Follow your nose downstream for about 3km before returning the way you came.

Route Timing
Trip time: 3hrs 0min

How long it takes you to paddle this short out-and-back section of river really depends on how long you spend wildlife watching. We splurged almost three hours on the water without getting bored of it.


Public transport:

There’s no public transport directly to/from the route. A taxi from Chanai JR Station (茶内駅, location) on the Nemuro Line would likely cost around 3,000yen one-way. Try Kiritappu Chuo Hire (霧多布中央ハイヤー, TEL: 0153-62-3141) – we’d recommend booking in advance, letting the taxi company know your expected arrival time at the station. Ask to be dropped off at ‘the bridge just beyond the wetlands center on Route 808’ (shitsugen senta sugite no happyaku-hachi go-sen no hashi, 湿原センター過ぎての808号線の橋).

By car: 

There’s plenty of parking at the parking area just next to the bridge on Route 808, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Biwase (琵琶瀬) – map no. NK-55-26-14-4

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

It’s worth noting that there’s very little foot access to the wetland – paddlers should be self-sufficient. Also, if headed all the way down the river, keep an eye out for fishing vessels, giving them the right of way.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Kiritappu Wetland


Onsen nearby

The Kiritappu Yuyu Hotspring Onsen (霧多布温泉ゆうゆ, location, 500yen) is a must-visit. There’s a restaurant attached with the usual reasonable onsen restaurant fare.

Extra Resources

In Japanese

Guide Options

If you’d like to explore this route with an experienced local guide, contact Masao Ashida from Ashiyan Canoe ( Follow him on Instagram here.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes description of the route (translated)

The Biwase River flows through Kiritappu Wetland, a registered Ramsar Convention wetland. Paddlers can enjoy the Kiritappu wetlands – well known for its red-crested cranes, waterfoul, and flowers – from river-level.

It was the first Monday of our two-week ‘workation‘, and we started off the week in style – a 3am wake-up to we could drive to Kiritappu, have a paddle, and get back to our cabin at Lake Furen by 9am for remote work. We got to the put-in at just after 4am, just as the land was being lit up for the day. As we were unloading the canoe and gear, a friendly local drove up and had a chat.

“You’re up early,” he chimed. “Great time to see the birds!” he continued.

He regaled me with some stories of his escapades in the wetlands and then carried on his way.

We knew it was going to be a fairly quick trip, so we started out by paddling a ways upstream. It didn’t take long before we had painted ourselves into a corner, and had to paddle backwards downstream to get to where it was wide enough to turn around. Even then, it was a tight squeeze.

We got the boat turned around, and carried on our way our way downstream. It was eerily calm, with a low mist hanging over the landscape. Misty Kiritappu at its finest. 

“This is sort of like Bibi River on steroids,” I remarked to Haidee. Bibi River is a wetland-like river just a few kilometers away from Hokkaido’s main airport – New Chitose Airport.

Just like Bibi River, there was long, head-high grass on both sides of the river. Unlike the Bibi River, however, here on the Biwase River there’s a vastly deeper feeling of wilderness. Carefully standing up in the canoe, we could peek over the grass, and get eye-to-eye with curious deer on the wetland plains.

Further down the river, we sneaked up on glorious white-tailed eagles. They were mostly nonchalant, only giving us the occasional disinterested gaze. 

Aware of needing to be back ‘at work’ before 9am, we turned around at the 3.5km mark and made our way back upstream, against a receding tide. 

We agreed that we could happily get used to this kind of before-work morning exercise.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

3 thoughts on “Kiritappu Wetland Canoeing”

  1. Rob, love reading about your Hokkaido canoeing adventures. I would be interested in paddling some of these rivers and lakes by public-transport accessible packrafting where it exists. I recognise packrafts aren’t as fast and obviously not as durable as canoes but from a practical standpoint carting around 3 kg in rubber will be hell of a lot easier than dealing with a heavy and bulky hardshell canoe. For these canoe touring routes would you foresee any particular issues substituting a canoe for a packraft or extra precautions to be aware of. In other words, do you think you would feel as confident in your packraft (beginner / intermediate routes) as you would in your canoe?

    1. Hey David, short story is yes – most, if not all routes, would be suitable for a packraft, even (or perhaps especially) the advanced river routes (caveats regarding flatwater and wind for packrafts aside). That’s why we try to include public transport options where available. The reason we don’t use our packraft more often is simply because we can use the canoe, which is more roomy, comfy, and efficient. Doesn’t bounce off rocks as nicely though 🙂

      If I get the chance, I might add some notes to the routes regarding feasibility for packrafts. The main concern will be flatwater unsheltered from the wind. We’ve paddled into a headwind in the packraft before and it was not ideal 🙂

      Cheers for the comment, and apologies for not getting back sooner – we were in the hills for a few days.

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Kiritappu Wetland 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.