Tonashibetsu River

トナシベツ川 | Tunas-pet

Posted on Jun 27, 2023

Posted on Jun 27, 2023

0 0


1 day(s)


9.1 mpk



Water clarity

Class III



Best season





Tonashibetsu-gawa トナシベツ川 is a beautiful, unspoiled mountain river nestled deep in the southern Yubari Range, south of Furano City in central Hokkaido. It runs into the Sorachi-gawa 空知川, a major tributary to the mighty Ishikari-gawa 石狩川. For open-deck canoeists, it's an enjoyably challenging river with tight bends, rock gardens, and fast-moving rapids. It's also a blast in a packraft, suitable for a pleasant 1.5hr walk along quiet roads through the forest for those seeking a shuttle on foot. There's one easily scoutable crux on the route, consisting of a 1.5m drop.

We visited this route on May 29, 2022

Paddlers: Haidee, Chris, Timbah, Ben


Route Map

Need to know details

Grade: III
Engagement: E2
Remoteness: 4/5

River Details

This route is on Tonashibetsu-gawa (トナシベツ川), or Tunas-pet in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Other river, km in total length. This section of the river is between 5m and 20m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 9.1 mpk (48.05 FPM).

Weather: weather forecast for Tonashibetsu-gawa

Water level notes: There’s no water gauge on the Tonashibetsu-gawa. The closest gauge that will give paddlers an idea of rainfall and river level trends in the general vicinity is the Ikutora Gauge on the Sorachi River, above Lake Kanayama. Note however that this gauge is 14km east of the Tonashibetsu, and affected by rain in a different catchment than the Tonashibetsu River (i.e., not the Yubari Range. We would also take a look at the Shimukappu Gauge on the Mukawa River also (although once again, different catchment).

Tonashibetsu-gawa flows east-northeast from the eastern flanks of Yubari-dake 夕張岳 (1668m) in the southern Yubari Range 夕張山地, about 20km south of central Furano City in central Hokkaido.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

The upper-most put-in for paddling the Tonashibetsu is usually river right under the Ryusei-bashi bridge 流星橋 on the Kanayama-rindo forestry road 金山林道. It’s also possible to put in about 2km downstream on the river right just downstream of Hazawa-bashi Bridge 羽沢橋.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The furthest downstream takeout that is practical is on river left under Satsuki-bashi Bridge 五月橋 on Route 237, about 1.5km downstream of the confluence of the Tonashibetsu River and Sorachi River. That is, you’ll actually be taking out on the Sorachi River. The take-out under the Satsuki-bashi bridge is a bit awkward, but doable – the Sorachi River at this point is more akin to a lake, due to the weir a few kms downstream. For a shorter run, take out on the Tonashibetsu River at the 8km point, here. At that point, there’s a nice gravel beach on the inside of a bend.

General notes

The Tonashibetsu-gawa is the only easily paddleable river in the Yubari Range, and as such is a nice waterway to tick off the list. The forest is dense, the water clear, and the valley is deep. The approach to the put in is part of the adventure too. To access the Kanayama-rindo forestry road, you’ll pass through a high deer fence gate that demarcates the front country from the back country. The gravel road crosses the river a couple of times, giving glimpses at the wild river below. In between bridges is a remote-feeling gravel road flanked on both sides by forest and a tight valley.

For the entirety of this section of river, from Ryusei-bashi bridge all the way to the confluence with the Sorachi-gawa river, it’s best to assume it’s one continuous CII rapid with only fleeting reprises here and there, plus the odd CII+, CIII- and CIII problems to solve. Some of the rapids are difficult to scout in their entirety, so paddlers will need to be confident in pulling into eddies along the way to stop and scout.

Route description

Clamber down to the river from Ryusei-bashi bridge via a rough trail just to the left of the bridge. The trail is relatively well-defined, as it’s also used by fishers. Right off the bat, paddlers will be enjoying a CII-CII+ fast-moving river with some blind corners here and there. It’s not a river that is run commercially, so do be on the look out for strainers, particularly in the first two to three kilometers.

At the 2km point, just before the Kazawa-bashi Bridge is a pushy CII+ rapid on a right-hand bend that pushes hard into a granite bluff on the river left. The small rapids continue for another 2km until another pushy rapid culminating in a sharp left-hand bend. In an open-deck canoe we’d class this as a CIII-, and it’s best to eddy out on the river right just before the bend in order to ferry out again to get a good line for the rather rowdy bend.

Another 600m downstream from the bend is arguably the crux of the route – a must-scout boulder problem with a drop and often topped with lodged logs. In higher water, the optimal line is often on extreme river left, but it’s best to take a look beforehand. It’s possible to eddy out on river right about 100m upstream of the boulders and clamber along the riverside to take a look. The double packraft in our party, as well as us in our tandem canoe, both capsized after getting our lines wrong on this. The aftermath is relatively easy to manage, however, as the river takes a break from the rapids just below the boulders – in our tandem canoe, we were able to self-rescue with the aid of our long painter ropes.

From the crux, it’s another 2.8km of enjoyable fast-moving, relatively non-technical paddling until the early take-out option. We’d recommend paddling all the way beyond the confluence of the Sorachi River to Satsuki-bashi Bridge, however, as it’s a nice relaxing end to a fun and fast-paced paddle.

Route Timing
Trip time: 5hrs 30min


Public transport:

There’s no public transport to this route.

By car: 

There is parking at all put-ins and take-outs, but it’s very limited – a couple of vehicles at best. Access to the put-in is via a sometimes potholed forestry road, but it’s perfectly navigable, even for two-wheel drive sedans. On the way, there’s a large deer-control gate – it’s not locked, but make sure to close it once you’ve passed through.

There are no taxis in the vicinity, so for shuttling with only one car, packrafting paddlers may want to consider a hike-in shuttle along the forestry road. In this case, it’s a 6km (1.5hr) pleasant walk along quiet, forest-lined roads from the early take-out spot to the upper put-in (directions here). This will give you about 8km of the best paddling of this section of river.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Yubari-dake (夕張岳) – map no. NK-54-8-10-3
Official Topo Map 2: Ishikari-kanayama (石狩金山) – map no. NK-54-8-10-1

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

This is a fairly remote paddling route, with difficult access to the river throughout – think difficult scrambling through thick undergrowth. Paddlers should be confident of their paddling skills and have a solid backup plan in place should anything go wrong. Cellular reception is very limited, so we’d recommend carrying a satellite messenger for emergency communications.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Tonashibetsu-gawa


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 onsen to this route is the cheap and cheerful Kanayama Hoyo Center (かなやま湖保養センターlocation, 410yen) next to Lake Kanayama. It’s about a 15-minute drive (11km) from the take out at Satsuki-bashi Bridge. This basic hot-baths facility has one indoor bath for each gender, and it’s right next to the campground on the lake.

Extra Resources

See Takahashi-san’s write-up (in Japanese) here.

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Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes description of the route (translated)

The Tonashibetsu Gorge is known as a hidden beauty spot for its autumn foliage for your average tourist. The Tonashibetsu River that paddlers enjoy flows through that very Tonashibetsu Gorge. Although the river is rarely mentioned in the paddling community as suitable for canoeing, it’s not a particularly difficult river and offers beautiful seasonal scenery with fresh greenery, autumn leaves and summer greenery, making it an excellent river to enjoy canoeing on. However, one particularly high-water descent of the river, I experienced my first ever mid-river escape situation, so you will need to be well-prepared for the challenge.

At last we were making the opportunity to paddle the Tonashibetsu River – a somewhat folklorish river within the Hokkaido paddling community. Somewhat akin to the Shisorapuchi River about 20km to the east, but more remote and more wild. One thing was for sure – unlike the Shisorapuchi River, there weren’t any commercial rafting tours being run on this river.

After all the shuttling, the crew (HaideeChrisTimbahBen and I) were getting suited up for the paddle at around 9am in the morning. The weather was overcast, but it was shaping up to be a beautiful forest-bound paddle.

Chris cursed as he contorted his legs into his tiny whitewater kayak.

Timbah and Ben were in the double packraft.

Haidee and I were in our tandem open-deck canoe.

Right after putting in, we were busy at work dodging rocks. At this point, obstacles were nicely spaced, so it was a busy but fun fast paddle.

Here and there we had opportunities to stop and smell the roses a bit. The river felt nicely remote and removed from the civilized world.

Soon the real work began as the river picked up the pace. The first heart-thumper was a hard right-hand bend. The river was flowing hard into a solid rock bluff.

This was followed soon after by a hard right-hand bend, with a relatively tight gap. We glanced the rock, leaning hard towards it to avoid getting stuck.

Mercifully, the river relaxed for a bit, allowing us to catch our breath and check in with everyone.

“This is great!” beamed Timbah.

“Great to get back into the kayak,” said Chris.

The Tonashibetsu wasn’t done though. Soon after the reprise, we were treated to another tight right-hand bend, with the river again pushing hard into the outside of the bend. This time, we had more room on the river right to take an easy line.

Then came the crux of the route – a right-hand bend with a tricky duo of boulders. We knew it was coming, so we pulled over well upstream of the problem to scout it.

Chris had run it blind in his kayak, and was waiting below it for us to arrive on foot through the low sasa bamboo-grass undergrowth.

“I ended up taking the hard left,” he said. “But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.”

Indeed, the hard left looked like it might have a log lodged in it. 

The center line looked tricky because of the approach. The very center of the river was pushing hard into the second boulder – even if we did miss the first, we’d be perfectly in line to hit the second.

The hard right of the river might be a good chicken line in higher water, but today it looked very shallow.

After much deliberation, Haidee and I decided that we couldn’t get a decent look at the line from this side of the river, so we settled on eddying out on the river left just above the boulders, and see if we could figure something out from there. Of course, once we were there, we would be committed to something.

Indeed, once we’d made the eddy out above the boulders, we realized just how difficult it would be to ferry out into the center of the flow, spin around, and get into position. Our Prospector canoe isn’t the most agile boat in the world, so it was going to be tricky.

It looks easy in the photo below, but there were a number of just submerged rocks that were threatening to make the process less straight forward.

We deliberated for what felt like an eternity, and then just committed to the center line.

It didn’t go great, but at least we didn’t pin the canoe. We rode up on the center rock, and promptly capsized on the drop.

Annoyingly, I didn’t get the action on the GoPro. 

Timbah and Ben, in the packraft however, effectively repeated our capsize, so here’s the aftermath of that.

It was all fun and games though, and we were all still smiles.

The next stop was the early take out location, where Tim and Madoka had said they’d try to meet us. They’d been waiting for a while, but they were indeed there when we arrived.

We weren’t sure how long it would take us to complete the Toshibetsu, so we’d left Timbah’s car at the earlier take out. Things were going well, however, and now we had the option of getting a shuttle with Tim and Madoka, so we deiced to push on to the take out on the Sorachi River.

There were a few more rapids before the confluence. After the confluence, we were now entering the backwater of one of the many Sorachi River weirs.

Thanks to Tim and Madoka for the shuttle!

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

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Tonashibetsu River Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending













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.