Shiribetsu River Packrafting (Rankoshi Central)

尻別川 | Shir-pet

Posted on Jul 5, 2019
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Posted on Jul 5, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min
5.1km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

1.96 mpk

Gradient

2/5

Water clarity

Class I

Difficulty

May-Nov

Best season

The Shiribetsu River (尻別川) wends almost 130km from the Bifue Pass just west of Lake Shikotsu, around Yotei-zan and on to the Japan Sea. Choose your section, and it can be a playground for both hardcore paddlers and families alike. This section at the lower end of the river is arguably one of the most laid back sections of the river. At the start of this section is a hydro power station outlet, but this relatively exciting start is the sum total of the rapids you'll see, beyond some swifts further down. From this section downstream, paddlers can paddle all the way to ocean, 25km away. This 5km section, however, is a pleasant ~2hr paddle.

Thanks to Chris Auld for scoping out the hydro station outlet!

Last updated Jul 30, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Beginner (3/10)

Remoteness: 2/5
0

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 23m and 120m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 1.96 mpk (10.35 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Shiribetsu River

Water level: 9.28m and rising. No river level warnings issued. Last updated 2019/12/6 13:50 (Source).

Location

This section of the river starts just upstream of central Rankoshi Town, in southwestern Hokkaido, west of Niseko. The put in location is about 2km upstream of the Toyokuni Bridge (豊国橋), just above the hydro electric power station outlet, here. There is parking for about four cars another 100m or so upstream, with a trail cut through the undergrowth to the river. This area seems to be popular with anglers – one we spoke to told us he’d already caught two rainbow trout. The take out location is at the Sakae-bashi (栄橋), 5km downstream, here. It may be possible to drive a car down a 4WD track along the stopbanks, but this will depend on grass length. Otherwise, it is a short scramble up the stopbanks to the paved road. Make sure to park well to the side of the road.

General notes

This section of the Shiribetsu River doesn’t feature largely in Japanese guidebooks I’ve read, but it was just down the road from Chris’s place, and we were keen to try out the new packraft on a relatively mellow section of water. Chris had scoped out the hydro electric station’s output as a possible put in location, and it turned out it was, at least at the water levels we had that day, a nice spot to practice ferry glides and eddy-ins and eddy-outs. The sum total of anything more than fast-flowing flatwater were a few swifts along the way.

Route description

Park up just before the road gates upstream from the put in location, around here. From a small parking area, large enough for about four cars, there’ll be a cleared path through the undergrowth to the river. Depending on the water level, you’ll likely need to walk along the shore for about 100m to the hydro electric station outlet – they take a whole lot of water out of the Shiribetsu upstream, and dump it back here. From there, it is simply a matter of following your nose downstream. There’s nothing terribly challenging of note. On one occasion we needed to paddle back upstream for a few meters to avoid getting stuck in the shallows where a fork in the river sent us into an ever-narrowing channel, with water being slowly filtered across a widening gravel bank. But even if we’d kept going, it would have simply meant we’d had to portage across a the gravel bank to the main flow again.

Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 0min

If you were in a hurry, this section of the Shiribetsu River could be knocked out in under an hour. If the conditions are right, however, some fun can be had surfing the hydro station outlet at the start of the route. The river banks and islands offer some bird watching opportunities too, so allow up to two hours to get the most out of it.

Transport

Public transport:

There’s no public transport to the put in location, but a taxi from Rankoshi Station would be around 1,500yen.

By car: 

There is parking for about 4-5 cars near the put in location, here. At the take out location, you’ll need to park well to the side of the road (around here) and make sure not to block the dyke-top road.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Rankoshi (蘭越) – map no. NK-54-20-8-3

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

As with all man-made water features on rivers, the hydro electric station outlet requires extreme caution. If in doubt, don’t approach the outlet, and just scoot past on the right-hand side of the river.

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

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

It was all Chris’s idea. While I’d had my attention on sections of the Shiribetsu River much further upstream (because that’s what the guidebook said), Chris had been quietly scoping out possible put in locations much further downstream. “There’s a fun looking hydro station outlet that will be worth check out,” he said to me. So we made the time to go check it out early on a Sunday morning, before the rest of the family was even up out of bed.

This would also be the maiden voyage for the mighty MRS Barracuda R2 Pro – a heavy-duty, canoe-style two-person packraft made by Micro Raft Systems (MRS) in China’s adventure capital of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. We’d approached MRS, asking them if they’d like to support our new Hokkaido paddling section of the site by providing us with this two person packraft, and we were thrilled when they jumped on board.

It was a quick process to get the packraft inflated, using the large inflation bag, topped off with a few puffs of lung-power. For this trip, we were going full spray-skirt, so we also installed the spray-skirt frames. We were ready to go.

We put in just a few meters upstream of the hydro station outlet, and did a few eddy-ins, eddy-outs and ferry-glides across the lower Class II flow. This was the maiden voyage of the mighty MRS packraft, and it performed excellently. Very quick on the flat, and very maneuverable even with two heavy guys in it. After playing around in the outlet flow, we started on downstream. To say it was benign would be an understatement – a very chilled out downstream flow.

We had two cars on this trip, so we took out at the Sakae-bashi (栄橋) bridge where we’d parked the second car. In between, there’d hardly been any rapids to speak of, just a few swifts. Overall a nice easy section of river to get accustomed to using a packraft.

Packing up the packraft was straightforward – remove the spray-skirt frames, pull the T-zip and roll it up. This particular packraft has the air-tight t-zip so that gear can be stored inside the pontoons.

With our early-morning packrafting mission done, it was time to get back to Chris’s cabin, and get on the road back to Chitose for some canoeing on the Bibi River.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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