Shisorapuchi River Raft Course Canoeing

シーソラプチ川 | Si-sorapci

Posted on Jul 7, 2020
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Posted on Jul 7, 2020

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Reading time: 6 min
5.7km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

7.37 mpk

Gradient

5/5

Water clarity

Class III

Difficulty

Apr-Jun

Best season

This lower section of the Shisorapuchi River (シーソラプチ川) is one of the most well-rounded intermediate to advanced whitewater runs in Hokkaido. It's got technical but relatively safe drops, plenty of named and un-named rapids, crystal clear water, and the river is lined by moss-covered bedrock. Where the river officially becomes the Sorachi River (空知川) there's the option to run the famous Kokutai Course (国体コース), a Class III- run through a low gorge. This section of river, flowing straight from the depths of the Daisetsuzan National Park, is one that will beg you to return to test your skills.

Shigeo Kobayashi from the Minami Furano Tourism Association contributed photos to this post.

Last updated Jul 29, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Advanced (8/10)

Remoteness: 2/5

River Details

This route is on Shisorapuchi River (シーソラプチ川), or Si-sorapci in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class A (一級河川) river, 194.5km in total length. This section of the river is between 10m and 40m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 7.37 mpk (38.91 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Shisorapuchi River

Current water level: 354.08m and stable. No river level warnings issued. Last updated 2020/10/26 20:10 (Source).

Ideal water level: 354.10m
Water level paddled 354.09m
Water level notes: Water levels reported here are from the Ikutora Water Station. This is the highest water measurement station on the Sorachi River, but it’s still 20km downstream from the Shisorapuchi River. Take these water levels with a very large grain of salt – they’re not a very reliable indication of actual Shisorapuchi River levels.
Location

The Shisorapuchi River is an upper feeder river to the Sorachi River, in Minami-furano Town in central Hokkaido, about 30km southeast of Furano City.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

The start of this route is at the public put-in location about 5km north of the Ochiai settlement in Minami-furano. Note that there’s also another put-in about 600m south (downstream) of this put-in, but it’s private land, owned by a rafting company. The public should only use the upper put-in.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

There are a couple of options for taking out on this route. One is here, at the end of the Kokutai Course – an advanced 400m section of river running through a shallow gorge at the head of the Sorachi River. This is the traditional take-out for rafting companies – there’s a large set of stairs for easy access to the upper carpark. If you’d rather not throw yourself down the Kokutai Course, there’s another take-out just before the last bridge on the Shisorapuchi River, here.

General notes

The name Shisorapuchi is a Japanese transliteration of the indigenous Ainu language name for the river, si-sorapci. In Ainu, this means ‘the real Sorachi River’. As such, the Shisorapuchi River is the Sorachi River, albeit the upper section that flows from its source on the southern slopes of Mt. Kamihorometokku (上ホロメトック山, 1920m) high up in the Daisetsuzan Range. At the confluence of the Shisorapuchi River and the Ruomansorapuchi River (ルーオマンソラプチ川, ru-oman-sorapci; ‘Sorachi River the trail’), the river becomes the Sorachi River proper.

The Shisorapuchi is one of Hokkaido’s most well-known rafting rivers, with over ten companies running tours on this very section of river. The upper part of the section drives hard and fast through drop-dead gorgeous native forest, and moss-lined rocky riversides. There are at least a few named drops along the way. The last 400m of the route is on the Kokutai Course – a 400m section of river used for the 1989 National Sports Festival of Japan (国民体育大会, kokumin-taiku-taikai) canoe slalom competition.

  • Water level: The closest water level measurement station is about 20km downstream (Ikutora Water Station). We ran the Shisorapuchi River when this station was showing 354.09m. Anything below this may indicate water levels too low to run the Shisorapuchi River.
  • Campground: If you’re looking for somewhere cheap to base yourself in the area for a few days, look no further than the Kanayama Lake campground. Details below.
Route description

Put in at the public access point, about 5km north of the Ochiai settlement. You’ll be putting in just above a straight-forward, often boney swift. For the next 500m or so, you’ll encounter multiple straight-forward Class I+ rapids, until you arrive at the first named drop of the route – the Goryu-no-se Rapid (五流の瀬, location, Class II drop, photo). This rapid is also referred to as Bucho-no-se (部長の瀬), because an NHK executive (部長, bu-cho) fell out of a raft during filming and had to be rescued. In decent flows, this drop should be run well to the river left. Scouting is very highly recommended, however, as it is a sharp drop, with blocks of sharp, canoe-busting bedrock exposed when the water level is low. When we were there, the water was infuriatingly only-just too low, so lined around it to the river right. See Hidenori Takahashi’s video here.

From Goryu-no-se Rapid, it’s another 2.2km of busy, unrelenting Class II-ish rapids and swifts, mostly easily run with not too much drama. At the 2.7km mark, there’s a more substantial rapid followed 100m later by Kranku-no-Se Rapid (クランクの瀬, location, Class II rapid, photo). This is a short but pushy neck in the river which is run straight down the middle. “You’ll be pushed around a bit,” writes Hidenori Takahashi (see his video here), “but just keep calm and carry on, and you’ll be OK.”

The next (and last) major rapid of the Shisorapuchi River is Trauma-no-se Rapid (トラウマの瀬, location, Class II+, photo). According to Hidenori Takahashi (see his video here) “in an open-deck canoe, it’s 50/50 as to whether I go for a swim or not.”

Beyond Trauma-no-se Rapid, it’s a nice calm before the storm of one of the most famous white-water runs in Hokkaido – the Kokutai Course (国体コース) on the Sorachi River. Seeing this is only Haidee and I’s second full season of canoeing, we opted to give this a miss this time around, but here’s what I’ve gleaned from reading obsessively about the various rapids and drops in this 400m Class III section of river.

  • Sandan-no-se Rapid (三段の瀬, location) – Literally ‘three-step rapid’, this rapid is relatively straight forward – just keep to the middle of the right flow, and “watch out for the flow coming in from the left at the bottom,” writes Hidenori Takahashi (video here).
  • Pachinko-no-se Rapid (パチンコの瀬, location) – What do pachinko balls do? They bounce off things. So do canoes that mess up this rapid. The easy option in decent water flow is the hard right minor flow – not even a Class II. The option for the pros is to cut around the left of Pachinko-iwa boulder (パチンコ岩) in the middle of the river. See Hidenori Takahashi’s video here.
  • Togetsu Bridge Rapid (渡月橋の瀬, location) – This is a pushy drop that’s “easy to capsize when running the right side,” writes Hidenori Takahashi (video here). It’s best to run this drop as close as possible to the left side.
Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 30min

This section of river is one of the shortest we’ve run in Hokkaido, but it was our first time, and we were on our own. This meant we scouted every one of the trickier drops and rapids. This added up to over 2 hours on the river. Make sure to allow plenty of time.

Transport

Public transport:

Google Maps has up-to-date timetabling for the route to Ochiai Station JR train station (here). Due to typhoon damage to the tracks, this station is currently only accessibly by bus as a replacement for the train. From the train station, your best bet for getting to the put-in would be by taxi (FMT Taxi, TEL: 0120-456-256, website). A taxi fare would likely be around 3,000yen one-way.

By car: 

There is plenty of parking at the put-in as well as the various options for take-out.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Ochiai (落合) – map no. NK-54-8-6-1

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

Being a rafting course, paddlers will not have to worry too much about strainers and the like on this section of river. In places it can be bony and flanked by bedrock on the sides though, so a helmet is a must in addition to the normal personal safety gear. If running the river in a single canoe, self-rescue ability is also a must.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shisorapuchi River

CampSites

Kanayama Kohan Campground (かなやま湖畔キャンプ場)
Situated on the northern shoreline of the picturesque Lake Kanayama in Minami-furano Town, the Lake Kanayama Campground is a well-maintained campground with large, well maintained grassy areas, as well as bungalows. There’s an expansive artificial beach at the campground, perfect for launching canoes. Just across the road is a nice onsen. Location: 43.15861 N / 142.49112 E | 620 yen per person | Open: May-Sep | Staff hours: 8:30am till 6:00pm.
Closest Onsen: Kanayama-ko Hoyou Center (かなやま湖保養センター) | 410yen | 200km from campground
Onsen nearby

The closest option for a hot soak is the Lake Kanayama Hoyo Center (かなやま湖保養センター, location, 410yen). This isn’t a natural hot-spring, but it’s still a classic Japanese public bath – light, airy, and gloriously relaxing.

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

Guide Options

This section of river is home to over a dozen rafting companies. The following companies in the area can provide English-speaking guides (and booking in English): North River Adventures (info@web-nra.com);  Little Tree (info@little-tree.jp, TEL: 0167-56-7341); NPO Donkoro Outdoor School (outdoor@donkoro.com, TEL: 0167-53-2171); Kawanoko Rafting (kawagarasu@kawanoko.jp).

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

*Many thanks again to Shigeo Kobayashi for taking photos of us on the river!

——————-

Haidee and I only took up canoeing just over a year ago, so we launched ourselves into this section of the Shisorachi River with somewhat of a large dose of ignorance. The videos made it look easy, so we were confident that with enough water in the river, we’d handle things OK.

Soon after Kobayashi-san had seen us off at the put-in, however, we promptly capsized on the boney rapid right at the put-in. It was my fault…perhaps it was the early morning start, but in my head I was telling Haidee to go left (as we’d thoroughly discussed before getting on the water), but out of my mouth came ‘go right’!

This cost us a few precious meters, and by the time we’d hit the center of the rapid, we were going under.

Rookie. Mistake.

Image by Shigeo Kobayashi

It was an easy self-rescue though, and we patted ourselves on our backs for making sure we had plenty of easily-accessible rope attached to both ends of the canoe for this very purpose. We don’t capsize very often, but I figured if we were to go for a swim, this would be a river for it, so we came prepared.

And yes, that’s bear-spray attached to the deck. “None of the rafting companies are operating so far this year, so there are lots of bears around,” said Kobayashi-san.

With the canoe cleared of water, we were on our way again, and were immediately taken aback at the full-on nature of this river. We were surrounded by beautiful forest, but hardly noticed it for the first half a kilometre, as we tried our best to dodge as many of the rocks as possible. Just a touch more water in the river would have made things easier for novices such as ourselves.

Image by Shigeo Kobayashi

It didn’t take long to get to the first much-anticipated drop of the route – the Goryu-no-se Rapid (also known as Bucho-no-se). As we approached, Kobayashi-san, who had driven ahead, waved frantically to us to pull up on the right. I still agonize over whether we could have in fact run the drop (on the left, as advised), but given this was our first time down the river, we opted to line down the right.

Image by Shigeo Kobayashi
Image by Shigeo Kobayashi

It wasn’t long before we came up on the second named rapid on the route – Kuranku-no-se Rapid. We weren’t confident of the entry (it looked shallow), and the exit didn’t look like it had enough padding on the submerged rocks on the side….or maybe we were just looking for excuses not to risk capsizing again.

In any case, this trip was quickly becoming a relatively relaxed full-river scouting trip. We lined this one too, on the river left. We noted that if the water was higher, this would be a very challenging one to line, with tall bluffs on both sides of the river (but then it’d be easier to run anyway).

Below Kuranku-no-se was a blissful few hundred meters of calm before another storm. We could hear raindrops splashing on the surface of the river, birds chirping, eddies gurgling as we wafted on by. The water was gorgeously clear, revealing the riverbed beneath.

No sooner had we collected our breaths than the descending began again in earnest, culminating in the final rapid of the Shisorapuchi River – the Trauma-no-se Rapid – before the grand finale of the Kokutai Course on the Sorachi. Kobayashi-san waved at us to pull over to the right again.

“I’ve been waiting here for you for the last 1.5 hours,” he gushed. 

He later confided to us that he was getting worried that we’d capsized again and given up.

We opted to be content with lining Trauma-no-se Rapid too, on the right.  Looking at the photos now, I wonder if we couldn’t have run it as others do, to the right of the middle of the left flow. But once again, we weren’t confident of how much watery buffer we’d have between the boat the rocks on the approach.

“Next time,” went the well-worn, broken record in my head.

Image by Shigeo Kobayashi

Beyond the Trauma-no-se Rapids, we were free as a bird. We opted to take out above the Kokutai Course, as we’d had enough rapid-analyzing for the day.

“Next time, next time, next time…” my broken record played in my head.

Image by Shigeo Kobayashi
Image by Shigeo Kobayashi

KOKUTAI COURSE RAPIDS/DROPS

Sandan-no-se (三段の瀬)

Keep to the center of the right, watch for the flow coming in from the left at the exit.

Pachinko-iwa (パチンコ岩)

With enough water, paddlers can chicken out and take the straight, hard right. Otherwise, be a hero and slalom around the pinball-boulders.

Togetsu Bridge Drop (渡月橋の瀬)

Take the hard left for a relatively easy entry, otherwise, be a hero and hit the right side.

VIDEO

See Takahashi-san‘s video of the run (with two runs of each drop) below, from the 2:24 mark.

BAGELS

After all that excitement, drop by the bagel shop – Fortune Bagels –  right next to the Togetsu Bridge. Warning – they’re usually sold out by 10am, but they’re open from 7am. So get in quick!

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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