Lower Shiribetsu River Canoeing

尻別川 | Shir-pet

Posted on Dec 10, 2019
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Posted on Dec 10, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min
6.2km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

0.3 mpk

Gradient

2/5

Water clarity

Class I

Difficulty

Apr-Nov

Best season

This lower section of the Shiribetsu River (尻別川) near Niseko is a great, mellow section of river for beginners and bird-lovers keen for a relaxing down-river morning or afternoon. It's only just over 6km, so may be over before you know it, but with Annupuri and Yotei-zan towering in the distance behind you, it can be a truly spectacular canoe trip. Not to be confused with the hardcore rapids section further upstream, this section is for those days when you just want to get away from it all and relax.

We visited this route on Nov 23, 2019

Chris Auld contributed photos to this post.

Last updated Jun 18, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Beginner (3/10)

Remoteness: 2/5

River Details

This route is on Shiribetsu River (尻別川), or Shir-pet in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class A (一級河川) river, 125km in total length. This section of the river is between 20m and 50m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 0.3 mpk (1.58 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Shiribetsu River

Water level: 9.00m and receding. No river level warnings issued. Last updated 2020/7/5 17:40 (Source).

Location

The Shiribetsu River is a large, iconic river that flows through the Niseko resort region of southern Hokkaido. It starts much further east from this section of the river, and flows around the imposing Yotei-zan volcano. The put in for this route is about 16km from the sea, under the Sakae-bashi Bridge (栄橋), here. Access the river from the downstream Rankoshi side of the bridge – there’s a faint path through the undergrowth. Vehicles should be parked well to the side of the stopbank road, to allow traffic to pass. The take out for the route is near the Nagoma Fish Museum (蘭越町 フイッシュ・アンド・名駒), around here. The riverside can be accessed via an overgrown dirt road, but in summer it may be near-impossible to drive down – paddlers may need to park about 300m up the road on the river side of the stop banks (here).

General notes

From Sakae-bashi Bridge (栄橋) in Rankoshi Town, the Shiribeshi River really takes a deep breath and relaxes for its last 20km or so before spilling into the Japan Sea. There’s hardly any swifts or rapids to speak of, but this section of the river still has a decent enough flow to help paddlers on their way. Expect plenty of ducks and other birdlife along the way. Beginners will enjoy this lower section of the Shiribetsu River, as will the more experienced, looking for a relaxing bob along one of Hokkaido’s most iconic rivers.

  • For a more exciting route on the Shiribetsu River, try the Kimobetsu-Kyogoku section much further upstream – Route Info.
Route description

The route starts at the Sakae-bashi Bridge (栄橋). Only a couple of hundred meters downstream is what seems to be an old mini-weir of sorts – there’s no substantial drop of any kind, but take the river left side and you’ll pass without bottoming out. Beyond this, there’s really nothing to note – there’s no tricky strainer bends or pushy swifts. Towards the end of the route (around here at the 5.5km mark), you’ll have the option of taking a left or right fork. Take the right – the left goes to a ‘dead end’. The dead end option has a way out towards the end, but the right fork has a fun swift to enjoy.

Route Timing
Trip time: 1hrs 0min

This section of the river will likely take no longer than 1 hour.

Transport

Public transport:

This route is marginally accessible by public transport, albeit quite infrequent. The free Rankoshi shuttle bus – the Rankoshi Ranran-go (らんらん号, timetable here) – does two loops of the Rankoshi Mena Valley area on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. To get to the put in location, you’d need to take the Ranran-go bus from the Rankoshi Cho-min Center (蘭越町民センター, location) next to Rankoshi Station (蘭越駅) at 11:50am, and get off at Otani Kenshu-senta-mae bus stop (大谷研修センター前, location), a trip of about 50 minutes. From there, it’s a walk of about 800m to the put in location (route here). To get away from the take-out location, paddlers would walk 1.1km to the Nakoma Bus Stop (名駒, location), and catch the 12:31 Ranran-go bus back to the Rankoshi Cho-min center. As you can see, however, the timing doesn’t match up for transport plus paddling – you’ll have transport one way, but not the other.

By car: 

If parking at the the put in location, cars should be parked as far as practically possible to the side of the stopbanks. Preferably, park down on the river side of the stopbanks, here, accessed via a double-track gravel road. The take-out location will probably not be accessible during the height of summer, as the road is quite overgrown. Park further up near the stopbanks around here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Mena (目名) – map no. NK-54-20-12-1

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).

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shiribetsu River

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to the end of the route would be the nice local Rankoshi Yusenkaku Onsen, here (幽泉閣, 500yen).

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

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

It was that difficult in-between season in the Niseko area. Late November, where the snow had started to fall, but still not enough to guarantee a good base for backcountry skiing. I’d invited myself over to Chris’s cabin for the weekend, and we’d kicked around ideas of skiing some not-yet-open ski areas, or going for a mountain bike ride…but the ski areas were still thin on the ground in terms of snow, but the gravel roads around the place were already too deep with snow for cycling.

Canoeing it was then. For us, it’d be the maiden voyage for a canoe we’d purchased second hand in early summer. It’s an old fiberglass 16-foot lake boat with a prominent keel – perfect for this lower section of the Shiribetsu River.

The original plan had been to paddle all the way to the ocean. But we were starting late in the day – almost at noon. Plus, when I drove the car to the sea to drop it at the planned take-out spot, it was blowing a gale. Plans changed quick, and I drove till the wind stopped blowing – only about 6km downstream from where I’d left Chris with the boat. It would have to do though – it would be dark by 4:30pm, and the day was getting on. I cycled the 6km back to the put-in location, and we got on our way.

The only great excitement for us on the water was sending my drone up for some photos. It’s always exciting flying a drone from a canoe, especially the DJI ones with a ‘return to home’ function. The drone records the GPS coordinates where it was launched from, and as a safety feature will fly back and land at that location if the battery gets too low. The issue with this lovely feature – when launching from a canoe – is that of course the launch location is a watery grave for a returning drone, unless the canoeist is back at that location. More challenging for the downriver canoeist is that there’s no chance of returning to the launch location, because you’re always heading downstream.

Suffice it to say, we got our shots, and were happy to get the drone back into the canoe before any automated drowning happened – mainly thanks to Chris’s careful upstream paddling and keeping the canoe straight while I reached out to grab the drone.

Despite the gale that was blowing 15km away at the coast, this section was mirror-calm for the most part for us. The hour or so of gentle paddling went by quick, and we were at the take-out point with the car before we knew it.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, hiking, and canoe touring route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Paddle sports can be very dangerous and physically demanding – wear a personal flotation device, get paddlesports instruction, and do not exceed your paddling ability. Prior to setting out check current local water levels, weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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