This little gem of a river starts in the Kaimai Mamaku forest park, west of Tauranga Habour. Access is off state hwy 29 and turn off onto Mclaren falls road it is only a short drive from the main road to the Mclaren falls bridge, this area is poular with white water kayaks. Every year in February the upper section of the river is home to a kayak extreme whitewater race. The first day is a sprint down to bottom of The Waterfall. The second day is head to head racing down the Grade V Waterfall and Rollercoaster. The whitewater starts at McLaren Falls, a seven-metre Grade VI waterfall.
The first one-metre drop is called "Humpty Dumpty", often used as a warm-up. The first major rapid is "Mother's Nightmare" - a long Grade IV rapid finishing with a 2-metre drop. Then follow the few grade III rapids (Helicopter, Double Trouble & Devils Elbow/Washing Machine). Then comes the two Grade V sections, "Top Waterfall" (a small drop into a hole followed by a three-metre drop) and Roller Coaster. After that there is a Grade III rock garden, a Whitewater Slalom gorge and few short grade III rapids leading up to the grade III "Bottom Waterfall. The water is only released from the dam above 26 times through out the year and during these times parking at the falls is at a premium as the road is narrow around the bridge area.
A little further up the road is the man made, Lake Mclaren the outlet for the ruahihi power station canal runs beneath the road here feeding the power station located several kms down the valley. there was a major disaster here in 1981 when the canal collapsed the collapse took a huge part of the landscape on a trip down the valley. You can walk the full length of the canal down to where the collapse happened, the walk is fairly easy and level all the way.
Further up the Mclaren falls road you can gain access to the top end of the lake there are various dams and canals up here that feed the old power station further up the valley, this whole area is interesting to walk around as there are little tracks all over the place.