Posted on Nov 11, 2020
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Posted on Nov 11, 2020

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Reading time: 3 min
30km

Distance

1 day(s)

Time

3 mpk

Gradient

4/5

Water clarity

Class II

Difficulty

May-Oct

Best season

Shokotsu River (渚滑川) is a pristine waterway flowing into the Okhotsk Sea in northern Hokkaido in far-north Japan. This route starts in the stunning gorge section of the river, not far from the foothills of the northern Daisetsuzan Range. The river itself is suitable for confident intermediate open-deck canoeists. The river's name comes from the indigenous Ainu name for the river - So-kot - meaning 'many waterfalls'. While this canoeing section of the river doesn't have waterfalls, there's walking trails along the upper section of the river. well worth the walk.

We visited this route on Jul 26, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Intermediate (6/10)

Remoteness: 4/5

River Details

This route is on Shokotsu River (渚滑川), or Sho-kot in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class A (一級河川) river, 83.6km in total length. This section of the river is between 10m and 50m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 3 mpk (15.84 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Shokotsu River

Current water level: We are having trouble fetching the current water level. Take a look at the raw level data here, or the 10min trend data here.

Ideal water level: 36.10m
Water level paddled 35.83m
Water level notes: We ran the river in summer (late July 2020), and the water level (35.83m at the Kamishokotsu Gauge) was only just enough to keep us afloat on the shallow bedrock section around Nakashoktsu Town. Other than that section, the water level was fine.
Location

Shokotsu River flows in the Okhotsk Sea at Monebetsu City, in northeastern Hokkaido. The river itself flows from the Teshio mountain range, north of the Daisetsuzan Range in central Hokkaido.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

Most open-deck canoe paddlers will find Daiyu Bridge (大雄橋) the most practical spot to put in. There’s a large parking area just east of the bridge. The descent to the river is on the river right side of the bridge. It’s steep, but not nearly as steep as the drop down to the river at the Shizume-bashi Bridge (鋼橋, about 2km upstream). Regardless of where you put in, just be aware that at this upper section of the river, there is a certain level of territoriality on the part of anglers. Shokotsu River is very popular among fly-fishers, so tread carefully and respectfully.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

For a great full day out, we recommend taking out at Utsutsu Bridge (宇津々橋). Paddlers can drive down to the riverside on the river left. If you’d rather keep things short (a total of 17km on the water), it’s also possible to take out at Kinen-bashi Bridge (記念橋) at Kamishokotsu Village.

General notes

This full 30km route on the Shokotsu River really gives a paddler a sense being on a journey. The tight upper gorge eventually gives way to an unbridled, wide and free river further downstream. As mentioned above, the river is popular among river users apart from just paddlers. Strict catch-and-release bylaws here mean it’s a mecca for hardcore anglers too.

  • Difficulty: Open-deck paddlers with solid intermediate paddling skills and up will enjoy the upper gorge section stress-free. If in a packraft or similar, however, even upper beginners will enjoy this route – there’s nothing in the way of very big water in normal water levels.
Route description

Starting at the sensible (but still plenty hairy) Daiyu Bridge put in, paddle the first 10km or so through one of the most beautiful gorge paddling Hokkaido has to offer. This first gorge section offers very little in the way of escape routes, so be extra careful when the water levels are high. From downstream of Kamishokotsu Town, the main concern is navigating the long section of shallow bedrock. If you can get through this, however, it’s a breeze for the remainder of the route. Take care at the Nakashokotsu Drop at the 24km mark – if in doubt, pull up and scout your line first.

Route Timing
Trip time: 6hrs 0min

This is a solid full day route, so we recommend starting early in the day to avoid any strong headwinds on the final 10km or so of wide river.

Transport

Public transport:

There are a couple of bus lines that run between Monbetsu City (紋別市) and Takinoue Town (滝上). Drop your car at the take-out and walk 2.5km to the Shimoshokotsu Bus stop (下渚滑バス停). Catch the Kamoshokotsu-sen Line bus (上渚滑線) bound for Takinoue (滝上) and get off at the Nigorigawa bus stop (濁川) – a trip of about 35 minutes. As of November 2020, there were buses leaving Shimoshokotsu bus stop bound for Takinoue at 6:45am, 7:28am, 9:15am, 12:28pm, 2:27pm, 3:12pm, 4:27pm, 5:58pm, and 8:03pm (see the bus timetable here – times in red don’t run on Sundays). From the Nigorigawa bus stop, it’s a 1km walk to the steep put-in at Shizume-bashi Bridge.

By car: 

There is space for about four of five cars at the car park just east of the put in at Daiyu Bridge. There’s also a parking space at the upper put in near the Shizume-bashi Bridge. The take-out at Utsutsu-bashi Bridge at the 30km mark is accessible via an overgrown gravel road. You’ll drive upstream along the top of the stopbank on the river left before dropping down to a riverside road.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kitamitakinoshita (北見滝下) – map no. NL-54-6-15-2
Official Topo Map 2: Kamishokotsu (上渚滑) – map no. NL-54-6-11-4
Official Topo Map 3: Nakashokotsu (中渚滑) – map no. NL-54-6-11-3
Official Topo Map 4: Monbetsu (紋別) – map no. NL-54-6-10-4

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

Of main concern on this route is the relatively inaccessible gorge section at the upper end of the route. Escape routes are limited, so paddlers need to be self-sufficient. Take extra care when the water level is high – the river at this upper end of the route will be flanked by solid rock walls, with very few options to stop and empty out a capsized canoe.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shokotsu River

CampSites

Takinoue Keikoku Park (滝上渓谷公園)

The Takinoue Keikoku Park (滝上渓谷公園) is a large public park with a small camping area, available for overnight stays. There’s a public toilet nearby and a covered kitchen area. The public toilet car park is popular among car-campers in the summer months.

Location: 44.19979 N / 143.0965 E | Free | Open: May-Sep
Closest Onsen: Takinoue Hotel Keikoku (滝上ホテル渓谷) | 440yen | 0.5km from campground
Onsen nearby

Takinoue Hotel Keikoku (たきのうえホテル渓谷, location, 440yen) is located in the small village of Takinoue near the upper end of the route. There’s no outdoor baths, but the indoor baths have large boulders lining the baths. The hotel offers reasonably priced meals at their attached restaurant. Expect about 6,000yen to 10,000yen for a room at the hotel. At the Monbetsu City end of the route, there’s a new traditional-style super-sento (public bath) in the city called Monta-no-yu (紋太の湯, location, 650yen). It’s located next to a michi-no-eki, where there’s a restaurant and local produce for sale.

Extra Resources

In Japanese: The Book of Leisurely Hokkaido Rivers by Ishimoto (2009), pp. 48-49.

Guide Options

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

It was a pretty big commitment to drive all the way from Nemuro to Monbetsu to paddle the Shokotsu River. We were already out east in Hokkaido in Nemuro, ticking off some gorgeous wetland canoe routes. We figured since we were out this way, we’d check out Shokotsu River too, due to it’s reputation as a pristine must-paddle river. It seemed a good iead at the time of planning, and we arranged to meet Greg and Mari there too.

It wasn’t until we’d actually made the plans that we sat down and figured out how far it was from Nemuro. Google said 3.5 hours.

Oh well. It had to be done. We were fatigued from the previous five days of paddling, but when the guidebook promises some of the most picturesque paddling in Hokkaido, one must go to find out the truth!

We met Mari and Greg at the campground in Takinoue. It was getting late by the time we’d scouted all the possible put-in/take-out points, so we had dinner at the Takinoue Hotel Keikoku onsen.

The next day, we were on the water at 8:30am. Just as well too – it would end up being a long but enjoyable day on the water.

The only real crux of the route was the curvy rapids just upstream from the Kaimei-bashi Bridge. Pushing into the rock wall, we opted to pull into an eddy just before the bend, and ferry canoes to prime position before shooting to the right. Greg and Mari mistimed things a bit and ended up going down the chute backwards. Haidee and I messed up our ferry angle a bit and got pushed around a bit sooner than we’d expected, but made it down without issues.

There was one more rapid further up that we scouted too – a well-lodged tree was in the middle of the rapid, requiring some careful route choice.

Our lunch spot was next to a hopelessly gorgeous waterfall, surrounded by green. It was quite possibly the most picturesque paddling we’d done in Hokkaido.

After lunch, it was just a matter of grinding it out the rest of the way to the take-out, some 20km away downstream. Part way through we struggled a little with low water over bedrock, but some careful and quick maneuvering got us through with only a few extra scratches added to the bottom of the canoe.

Even further down the river, I felt distinct New Zealand river vibes. Gravelly, braided-river vibes. I almost felt homesick.

In fitting Hokkaido summer manner, we finished the trip off with some fresh watermelon on the riverside.

Shokotsu River – now well at the top of our list of favourite rivers to paddle in Hokkaido.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Shokotsu River Canoeing Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

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.