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After the two warm-up days in the Minakami area, we decided to drive to the Nakatsugawa for some runs on it and its main tributary, the Zakogawa. On our third day in country, as we left the valley and began to drive up the river, we noticed that directly below us were some interesting looking rapids in a nice looking canyon. As we got out of the car and inspected, we realized that the flows looked perfect so we changed our plans and put on for the middle section of the Nakatsugawa well below the section we had intended on running. The section ended up having several miles of mellow class II-III in a deep gorge before losing all of its gradient over a dam. Downstream lay the short few miles of class III-IV+ that we had seen from the road. Despite the ease of the upper half, we all concluded the scenery and sense of adventure of it was all still worthwhile. Near the end of the trip, with a half day to spare, we ended up in this area again and opted to put on for the lower road side section for a second lap.

The fifth day of our trip, we decided to put in at the hot-springs we enjoyed the night before and run down the section of river to where we put in the previous day. We knew little about the bottom half of the run, it had been run before… and that is all we knew. The prior year, Cody, Darin and group ran the upper half but due to high flows hiked out prior to the last canyon. This year, with significantly lower water we found fun boulder gardens in the upper canyon before it opened up into a wide shallow rapids. At the half way point, one of our group took out due to a cracked boat. Downstream, the river quickly steeped, first as wide boulder gardens but later as the walls tightened, into steep, congested, unportagable drops. The highlight and crux of the run, is the section you can only scout from 200 yards upstream. The walled out gorge and rapid, then lead into one the pettiest sections of river I have seen. In between cliffed out walls, lied a spire in the river that you could climb onto, downstream lay an easy enough class III-IV rapid that ended with a cascading waterfall tumbling down the right wall… this was certainly one of the more special places I have been… But it also signaled the end of the river and we quickly arrived at take-out.

The final section of the Nakatsugawa that we ran was a week later while passing through with a morning to spare. This was the lowest section of river that looked entertaining, putting in where the middle section took off. The river started off with a fun class III section of boulder gardens in a pretty gorge before it opened up into the valley and resulted in small dams. All of them were runnable and kept the run interesting until the take-out.