uMkomaas River (Umko)
The Umko is characterized by natural water flows. Paddling this river in terms of river levels is luck - you never know what you will get as there are no dams to govern the water releases. The valley is wild, beautiful and one of the last of our rivers to remain unspoiled by dams, weirs and causeways.
The level of this river is referred to in metres on a marker on the Hela Hela bridge. Below 1.0m is considered boney and above 2m is considered high with open channels and big waves.
The most challenging section of the Umko where races are held, is from Hela Hela to No.8, however there are many other exciting and challenging rapids on the rest of the river.
The remoteness of this valley can mean a very long walk out to the nearest road. If you break before No 4 head back upstream and look for the track that goes down to No 3 on the left bank. After No 4 head downstream and pick up the road that accesses the river on the left bank below No 7 rapid.
Always remember safety first, second and third. If its your first time, stop and look at the big names like No 5&6 before shooting them. Don't be in too much of a hurry and portage if you have to. Paddling the Umko is an adventure more than a race. Pack as much buoyancy into your boat as you can fit, take a spare paddle and also a basic repair kit.
Access to the Umkomaas is through Richmond. To get to the Hela Hela, go through Richmond on the main road and turn left just out of town to Hela Hela. The tar road gives way to a reasonable dirt road which crosses the Umkomaas at Hela Hela bridge.
The bottom section of the river is accessed by bypassing Richmond and continuing down the tar road to the Josephines bridge. There is road access to number 8 rapid on a dirt road before bridge, but you have got to know how to get there.