Tokachi River Rafting Course

十勝川 | Tokap-chi

Posted on Oct 13, 2021
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Posted on Oct 13, 2021

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Reading time: 4 min
2.1km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

10 mpk

Gradient

3/5

Water clarity

Class III

Difficulty

Apr-Oct

Best season

The Tokachi River rafting course 十勝川ラフティングコース is a short but sharp whitewater haven sandwiched between two large dams on the upper Tokachi River. Surrounded by deep forest, it's short enough for multiple runs in a single day, and perfect for honing the big-river paddling skills. It's a popular river rafting course, with a number of operators running daily whitewater rafting tours. Expect large boulders to dodge, large standing waves in places, and plenty of waves to surf. It's known for having reliable water levels throughout the year - a blessing when mid-summer water levels are scant elsewhere in Hokkaido. For a short two-week period in summer, it's also accessible by public transport.

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Advanced (8/10)

Remoteness: 2/5

River Details

This route is on Tokachi River (十勝川), or Tokap-chi in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class A (一級河川) river, 156km in total length. This section of the river is between 30m and 48m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 10 mpk (52.80 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Tokachi River

Water level notes: The Tokachi-gawa Rafting Course water level is dependent on outflow from the Iwamatsu Dam about 2km upstream from the put in (dam location). There’s no public outflow data for the dam, so there is some degree of guess-work involved in water levels. Suffice it to say that there will always be water sufficient for paddling, and plenty of waves to surf regardless of water levels.
Location

This upper rafting course section of the Tokachi River is about 15km northeast of Shintoku Town 新得町, just east of the Hidaka mountain range. It’s very close to the southern border of the Daisetszuan National Park.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

The put-in is about 100m upstream of the outlet from the Shin-iwamatsu Hydro Power Station, on the river left. There’s a narrow one-lane gravel access road running along the river south from Route 593, just after the bridge.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The take-out is about 2km downstream on the river right, just before the river flows into Lake Kuttari 屈足湖. There’s a large gravel area where rafting operators park their mini-buses. The take-out point is accessed via a 500m gravel road running southeast from Route 718.

General notes

As mentioned above, this is a popular rafting course on the upper Tokachi River. It’s short, and will leave you wishing for more action before having to take out. But the action it does provide is fun and challenging, particularly in high water. Expect plenty of large boulder dodging, and some larger standing waves when conditions are prime (video of high water here).

Difficulty: Like most paddling routes on HokkaidoWilds.org, we assume paddlers will be in an open-deck canoe. Hence the Advanced rating. For kayakers who can roll and packrafters in normal water levels, this section would be more like upper-intermediate. An advantage of this being a rafting course is that there’s little concern about strainers – just large boulders that would pin a canoe if unlucky.

Scouting rapids: The river is quite wide, rapids rather long, and the riversides quite rocky, so scouting rapids can be tricky. There is, however, one spot on the river that is accessible from the main road, around here. There’s space to park a few cars and a short walking trail down to the riverside. We’d recommend at least taking a look at the river here before setting off.

Route description

Put in on the river-left upstream of the hydro station outlet. Any further upstream is usually just a trickle unless the Iwamatsu Dam has overflow (in which case, strap in – it’ll be wild, video here). The first rapids is the Futamata-no-se rapids, just after the right-hand bend. Take the corner outside branch. There are a couple of massive boulders, and a couple of feasible lines. Big waves where the smaller right-hand branch re-joins the main outside corner flow. The next set of rapids is the so-called Slalom Rapids, with a number of large boulders to dodge. Lines are generally clean. There’s convenient river-side trail access to the river-right side of the river here from the road, with room to park a few cars. The entrance is around here. It’s worth taking a look at the river from here before you get onto the river. The next rapids of note are the Chute Rapids, here. Keeping center should do the job. The last rapid of note is the Old Weir Rapid – there’s a relatively uniform line across the river-left half of the river, with some good surfing potential. Easily avoided by going river right, but overall the river-left is much less concerning than the weir moniker might suggest. Scattered between these notable rapids are plenty of other boulders, eddies, and features to enjoy. Take out on the large gravel parking area just after Penkenikoro-gawa river flows into the Tokachi River on river-right.

Route Timing
Trip time: 0hrs 30min

This is a blink-and-you-miss-it section that will be over before you realise it. Many paddlers will shoot for running it at least twice, grabbing eddies and surfing waves along the way. The walk from the take-out back to the put-in is about 20 minutes.

Transport

Public transport:

The Shin-Iwamatsu Power Station 新岩松発電所 (location) is accessible by a very time-limited summer-season (two weeks between end of July and mid-August) public bus running from Shintoku JR train station 新得駅 to Tomuraushi Onsen トムラウシ温泉. Buses run twice daily, leaving Shintoku station at 6:50 and 14:15, arriving at Iwamatsu Bus Stop 岩松バス停 (location) at 7:15 and 14:40.  Timetable here. From Iwamatsu bus stop, it’s a 750m walk to the put-in. There’s no public transport nearby the take-out, but it’s a relatively painless 1.7km walk back up Route 718 to Iwamatsu bus stop. Returning to Shintoku station, buses leave Iwamatsu bus stop at 9:39 and 17:14. The bus costs 770yen one-way for the 25km from Shintoku station to Iwamatsu bus stop. A taxi would cost around 7,000 to 8,000yen one-way (call Shintoku Hire 新得ハイヤー on 0156-64-5155 – expect to speak Japanese).

By car: 

There’s plenty of parking on the northern side of Route 593 near the put-in, here. There’s no parking at the actual put-in down a narrow gravel road, here, but there’s a turn-around about 300m down the road. This put-in is used every day regularly by commercial rafting operations, so it’s important not to park along the road or in the turn-around. There’s plenty of parking at the take-out, here, but make sure to park so as to not block access by commercial rafting operations.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Iwamatsu (岩松) – map no. NK-54-8-1-2

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

The Tokachi River is a big one, with plenty of potential for big water. In high water levels, eddies can be few and far between here, so as always, make conservative decisions when water is high. Keepers and holes are an issue in places when water is high on this route.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Tokachi River

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

If you’ve got the time and inclination, we thoroughly recommend driving (or catching the bus) 45 minutes north along Route 718 deep into the Dasietsuzan National Park to Tomuraushi Onsen トムラウシ温泉 (location, 700yen). This is a very remote-feeling geothermal area, with a great onsen facility. The Tomuraushi Onsen Daisetsuso Hotel has accommodation available (expect around 9,000yen per night per person), and there’s also a campground just up the road (Tomuraushi Campground トムラウシ自然休養林野営場, 250yen per person). If seeking something a little closer to the take-out, we recommend Kuttari Onsen 屈足温泉 (location, 600yen) next to Lake Kuttari, just 10 minutes south from the take-out. They’ve got accommodation at the hotel there, as well as a campground next to the onsen.

Extra Resources

The Book of Leisurely Hokkaido Rivers by Ishimoto (2009), p. 14-17 (in Japanese).

Guide Options

There’s a number of companies that offer rafting trips on this short Tokachi River rafting course. Here’s a selection listed on HokkaidoAdventure-Com.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

HokkaiCamp.com description of the route (translated)

This is the only section on the Tokachi River that has rafting tours. Water levels are highly dependent on the outflow from the dam upstream. Thankfully, however, there’s plenty of water even during the summer months, thanks to the hydro power station outlet just after the put-in. On this section, when water levels are low you’ll find yourself slaloming between boulders, and when water levels are high, you’ll find yourself thrown about by large waves. To the extent that this is a rafting course, this is by no means a relaxing section of river! This section is only 2.3km long, so if you simply just paddle downstream it’ll be over before you know it. This is a river section that is well suited to surfing and playing. Even then, you’ll be finished in a short amount of time, so there are paddlers that will go back for seconds. For paddlers that enjoy whitewater, this is a fun river.

Haidee and I had just finished a great couple of days on the northern side of the Daisetsuzan range, paddling the Biei River and Chubetsu River. We were now on our way back to Sapporo, so decided to make a long detour back to Sapporo via the upper Tokachi River rafting course. We’d heard great things about this short course from Greg and Mari. “It’s one of our favourite places to paddle,” said Greg. “Just wish it was longer!”

We were doing all this paddling on the back of an 8-day traverse of the Daisetsuzan Range, so we didn’t have our open-deck canoe with us. It felt a bit like cheating to paddle this upper Tokachi River section in a packraft, but so be it. We dropped the packraft and gear at the put-in, next to the rafting company rafts, and drove to the take-out.

From the take-out we walked 20 minutes along the main road back up to the put in. A bit convoluted, but we had plenty of shade along the side of the road, and it wasn’t overly far. We took a shortcut across the shallow trickle of a river upstream of the hydro power station outlet, rather than walk the extra 200m or so via the bridge.

Once on the water, the nerves kicked in as the river reared back into life at the power station outlet. The entire Tokachi River essentially gets funnelled through the power station, so it’s quite remarkable how much the river grows past the outlet.

The first taste of the rapids was the Futamata-no-se Rapids, so called because of the brief forking in the river, and then rejoining at the base of the rapids. Taking the outside corner, we were happy we were on a well-maintained section of river. No strainers to speak of. Straight down the guts of the rapids. Easy. Fun in the packraft.

By the time we’d run those rapids, we were already a quarter of the way through the route. We weaved our way through the Slalom Rapids. It really did feel like cheating in the packraft.

To make things at least a little bit more challenging, we chose a surfable wave and took a few well-intending tries at catching it. The floppy tandem packraft worked against us though, we we didn’t last long on the wave.

The Chute Rapids lived up to their name, with some exciting splashes and waves to be enjoyed.

And then the grand finale before the take-out was the Old Weir Rapid – a small uniform drop which threatened to fold the packraft in two.

Beyond that, we grabbed at eddies and squirmed past rocks. This really is a nice short river section to hone the river running skills.

The paddling really was over before we felt like it had begun. Certainly too fast to really process what we’d just run. We had to do it at least one more time before making the long drive back to Sapporo. So we quickly loaded the packraft onto the roof of the car, and made the quick shuttle back to the put-in, then back to the take-out, and then the 20-minute walk back up to the put-in.

On our second run, we loosened up a bit. We were a little less nervous about what lay up ahead, and more excited to make the most of the rapids.

A bit of surfing here, a bit of catching eddies behind rocks there, and we were once again back at the take-out. 

Next time we’ll be in a canoe!

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

2 thoughts on “Tokachi River Rafting Course”

  1. That overflow video is scary – there don’t seem to be any safety protocols in place. A massive group including kayakers who can’t self-rescue and a guy on a SUP! It’s not surprising they have no idea who is missing or not at the end.

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Tokachi River Rafting Course 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.