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Tararua Footprints Otaki River System

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14 Otaki River System

Access to Otaki Forks: Trampers planning to use the Otaki Gorge Road are advised to consult the Kapiti Coast District Council road status page. This is also accessible as a quick link at the bottom of their homepage.

Turn into the Otaki Gorge Road, just S of the Otaki River bridge on SH1 and follow it to Otaki Forks. You soon pass the Waiohanga suspension bridge, crossing the Otaki River, which gives access to Tangata and Mick, etc.; with permission of the landowner.

The gravel road soon narrows to climb round the first of the gorge sidles. Remember that your stopping distance on a gravel road is thrice that on a sealed road! The concrete ford is passed, 0 km, (dry your brakes); the Pukehinau at 1.4 km, the Blue Slip 4.0 km, and the Otaki Forks itself at 6.0 km, marked by the pioneer memorial. About 7.0 km the picnic area of Boielle Flat is obvious 300 metres down a branch road; the ranger’s house with the overnight carpark at 7.3 km; and the road-end and camping grounds of Schoolhouse Flat at 9.0 km.

There are several access points from the road to the river: But children near water require continuous adult supervision. This is a big river!

«» A good canoe/raft exit is just below the Tararua Outdoor Recreation Centre site, itself just downstream of the Waiohanga Bridge.

«» A track just upstream of the Waiohanga (aka Kaitawa Rd) suspension bridge gives a good exit from the river for rafts, kayaks, etc.

«» Seventy metres before the pioneer monument (where parking is available) at Otaki Forks proper, and opposite the old Post Office site, an old track, somewhat bouldery, leads to an extensive beach and the sometimes deep ford across the Otaki River. NOTE: The river has in the past cut away the bottom of this track; there is now (December 2017) a 2 metre climb down a rock bank to the shingle beach.

«» Two hundred metres beyond the high point of the road between the forks and Boielle Flat, a track drops L to the Waiotauru River and across it to Otaki Forks – a convenience for those coming down the Waitatapia. The roadside end of this is quite obscured and but any believer should be able to find it.

Overview: The Otaki River system is by far the largest of the catchments within the Tararuas. The region known as Otaki Forks (aka the forks) has as its focus the forks themselves: the junction of two large rivers (Otaki and Waiotauru) and, almost contiguously, the smaller Waitatapia Stream. This cross-shaped junction is seen from a small grassy flat beside the road, about 650 m beyond the Roaring Meg. It was to this flat that the timber and passengers from the mill on Sawmill Flat opposite were swung over on a wire cable. This site now displays a memorial cairn to the pioneers of the district.

The Otaki River rises under Pukematawai in the northern ranges and, as its valley lies along a fault line, for much of its length it is a delightful series of open flats and forest terraces – and the occasional slip. About Waitewaewae Hut, the extensive Waitewaewae River system joins, and below this vicinity the river flows through the curve of a major gorge system to emerge at Otaki Forks. Here the Waiotauru River joins and the combined system now flows through a lesser gorge to arrive on the coastal plains. All three river systems, Waiotauru, Otaki and the Waitewaewae are well forested, though there has been some logging in the Waiotauru, and in the vicinity of Otaki Forks.

Otaki Gorge Road

14.1 From Otaki at Waiohanga Bridge to Tangata Maunga and Mick QOT

Adkin tells us in Horowhenua that Puketoi, the original Hawaiki name, was changed to Taungata for surveyor’s convenience. This is now styled as Tangata Maunga.

This access road is over private property. Specific permission to cross the property must be obtained beforehand. Phone 06 364 2406. Dogs are not permitted.

Cross the Kaitawa Rd suspension bridge, head to the R and pick up the farm road formation soon heading uphill past the old quarry. Beyond the buildings, the old logging road continues SE, crossing high paddocks, to enter the bush for the remainder of the climb.

These high paddocks are peneplain/downland remnants from era of the last ice age. Since then then, local mountain uplift has been a few hundred metres, with the river still continuing to downcut in its gorge.

The spur provides good going, if somewhat steep, and the logging road from the Waitohu is met on the ridge just above the private Waitohu Lodge, about 2 hours from the bridge. The extraction road continues uphill a few minutes towards Tangata and a fair trail continues beyond through good bush almost to the top of the ridge. Note that this ridge junction is about halfway between Tangata and 874, and the formed trail continues to Tangata. If heading towards Mick, break off the trail and head through the leatherwood clearing to 874, a good 45 minutes from Waitohu Lodge junction.

From here the ridge-line may be followed N with occasional old blazes, to Mick etc, and the Waitewaewae system beyond.

If heading from 874 towards Waitohu Lodge junction, traverse the leatherwood basin for 150 metres, then head up leads N of W to pick up the Tangata trail.

Otaki Forks vicinity

From Otaki Forks tracks lead to Waitewaewae; the Otaki River (and Penn Creek??); Field Hut and the Southern Crossing, etc; and the Waiotauru River. Within 30 minutes of Boielle Flat there are also several short local walks that are not described here.

Pamphlets giving information on the short walks in the Otaki Forks vicinity are available at the caretaker's house. Please fill in the intentions book at the caretaker's before and after your trip. The phone is 06 364 3111. The phone here is not available for toll calls, but is available for local calls, collect calls, and for 'pin-number' phone cards such as e-phone, yabba etc. [Ed. Check current conditions.]

14.2 Otaki Forks to Waitewaewae Hut via the Plateau QOT

A trip of 5 hours or so nowadays. About 2 hours from the Forks to Saddle Creek, 90 minutes up the creek, and 70 minutes from the Plateau Saddle to the hut. In the 50s this trip used to be only 3 hours for a medium fitness party. Since then track and stream degradation, including the large slips, have made this trip much longer. Current plans should improve the definition of this popular track.

Inwards: From Boielle Flat, cross the Waiotauru swing-bridge and 5 minutes of steep climb brings the lip of the higher terrace. (Parawai Hut, sleeps 25, will be seen on the L nestled out of direct sight of the bridge.) Painted poles lead 300 metres diagonally across this terrace to a gate where the track for Waitewaewae turns L, and the track for Field Hut and Southern Tararuas turns R. The Waitewaewae route immediately heads NE to the terrace-edge above the TL of the Otaki River.

Sawmill Flat is the high terrace seen to the NE across the Otaki River and the remains of the sawmill's steam boiler may be found at the NE corner. This mill (Corrigan's) was destroyed in the immense 1936 storm. Seen up the valley beyond is Plateau Saddle, with Shoulder Knob presenting as a high spur in the farther distance.

A few hundred metres along the terrace-edge, the Waitewaewae Track descends, crosses the Otaki River footbridge, then climbs to regain the matching high terrace on the TR opposite.

Ten metres along from the TR of the bridge you will see the anchorage of the 1950s cullers cable whose cage used to land on the prominent rock. About 20 minutes from the bridge, at the top of the sidle, you'll pass through a small band of manuka. This tree is usually absent from the wetter western ranges and, as here its presence indicates settler associations.

From the lip of Sawmill Flat the track turns R for a few metres before swinging sharply L to climb the gentle sidle track clearly seen to the NE. Thirty minutes from the bridge the trail drops slightly to cross the first significant sidestream. Much of the tramline formation from here back to Sawmill Flat has been destroyed by erosion and slump. From the stream the trail follows the old bush tram-line alignment, though bridges over the streams are decayed now, and it is hard to credit that the tramline had a fairly uniform grade. The major Hutt-Otaki-Mangahao Fault runs close to this track alignment and just before Papa Creek, a good 400 metres of the country is slipping down to the Waitatapia Stream, with a rough sidle bypassing the worst washout. This slippage can be expected to increase. Beyond Papa Creek the old log-hauler boiler is passed, marking the end of the tram-line, and just beyond this the trail drops sharply to Saddle Creek – perhaps 2 hours from Boielle Flat. Note carefully the exit from Saddle Creek for the return journey, though better marked now with large orange triangles. [Ed. Currently this section of track to the saddle is being re-routed.??]

Up Saddle Creek are intermittent tracks about half the time; otherwise the route is in the creekbed. Soon after crossing a rough and recently washed-out sidestream from the R, a smaller trickle is crossed and the track, recently on the TL, swings away from the main headwater and up the trickle towards Plateau Saddle. This turn-off is not conspicuously marked. This area is the crush zone of the local fault and the eroding rock porridge is rather unstable. The saddle is reached 10 minutes after the washout stream – 90 minutes from the traction engine.

A few metres beyond the saddle, and surprisingly close to it, Plateau Stream crosses from L to R. In the foreseeable future this headwater of Plateau Stream may be captured by Saddle Creek, an event that will lead to massive and long-lasting erosion in this vicinity. A second crossing of Plateau Stream and one of its branches follows quickly, and the track beyond meanders NE over the Plateau’s deep loam for 20 minutes or so before commencing the descent to Arapito Creek. The track now generally sidles the TR faces above this creek, but has the odd false pad leading off. Forty minutes from the saddle, it reaches the stream bank where a crossing can be found to the wet-weather track and Waitewaewae Hut. Arapito is another European-generated Māori name and means 'the end of the track'.

Two routes offer to Waitewaewae Hut from here:

«» The wet weather sidle crosses the creek and travels the hillsides above the big slips on the Otaki River, then drops to the head of the bush flats higher in altitude and downstream of the new Waitewaewae Hut. This fine hut, sleeps 30, is located on the TR of the Otaki River on the flats S of 380. (At the head of the bush flats the route to the old hut site continues to the N over a small saddle.)

«» In normal weather one may decline the stream crossing and continue down intermittent trails alongside Arapito Creek to its junction with the Otaki River. Follow alongside the river until past the slips, then splash up the river itself until the first beaches develop on the TR. By a small stream, a track will be found leading near the terrace-edge and up-river a few minutes to the hut. If this final wade is not practical, a trail runs along the higher terrace-edge above the TR of the Otaki. About 70 minutes from Plateau Saddle to the hut by either route.

14.3 Otaki Forks to Penn Creek via the Gorge Track QBN

This track is no longer described nor recommended, for it is overgrown in places, and has suffered major slip damage above the Otaki Gorge, and again in Penn Ck itself. The slips above the Otaki are quite exposed. Creative route-finding and BN skills will be examined on this challenge. The attempt on this route by the insufficiently experienced has caused several SAR callouts.

If you wish a vigorous day round trip in the Forks area, I'd suggest 14.23, 8+ hours; or 14.24, 12+ hours. Both traverse worthwhile high viewpoints. Take your storm gear for trips above the bushline.

14.4 Otaki Forks to Penn Creek via the River Route QOT

This route, in the gorge proper between Otaki Forks and Penn Creek, is pleasant journey on a summer day. The long slow pool above the Sawmill Flat bridge is easily bypassed, and there is only one small rock scramble. About 3 hours between the Forks and the Penn Creek junction in either direction, and another 30 minutes to the hut.

Up: The long slow pool can be bypassed either:- «» By a track on the TR for the first kilometre. Cross the bridge as for Waitewaewae and gain Sawmill Flat. Keep to the Otaki terrace-edge after the Waitewaewae track has swung L and, in 100 metres or so, the benched bypass track will be found at the bush-edge. A few hundred metres along, the track enters an open terrace-clearing high up and leaves it near the toe of the hill. Three hundred metres beyond the clearing, the benched track reaches small stream. Scramble down this to the river. or «» travel along the old TL gorge sidle track till past the terrace-clearing opposite, then drop to the river through the bush as convenient – no more than 20 minutes beyond the stone walls. At normal water, travel up the river is a simple series of crossings with a single rock scramble on the TR about 20 minutes below Penn Creek. The travel up the bed of Penn Creek is straightforward.

14.5 Otaki Forks to Field Hut QFG

From the high terrace across the Waiotauru River from Boielle Flat, the Waitewaewae Track heads L and the track to Fields, Kime and beyond heads R. Field Hut is 2½ – 3 hours from the Forks. Tirotiro Knob and the spur leading to it are visible from the pioneer cairn at The Forks.

Up: Follow from Boielle Flat bridge to the trail forks as in 14.2. Swing R and pick up the graded track towards Field Hut, that climbs steeply for 20 minutes then more gently along a grassy spur, to enter the bush about 45 minutes from the Boielle Flat bridge. The trail now drops slightly but soon rises again to eventually level out at a pronounced L bend, an hour from the Forks. Most of the tall trees on the forest spurs here were destroyed in the great 1936 storm, and their fallen trunks and root discs may still be seen. The trail beyond the bend undulates upwards, sidling L or R of the ridge to reach the knobs leading to Tirotiro Knob, and soon Field Hut is reached about 2½ – 3 hours from the Forks.

W. H. Field was a founding members of the Tararua Tramping Club and was MP for Otaki for several years. The hut was constructed about 1925, from timber pit-sawn at the site, and much of the original materials remain. Field sleeps 25 and has water tanks and a toilet. A good selection of interpretation panels tell of this historic hut. Fields has recently been renovated, and it may be complemented some time by a new hut above Table Top. Beyond Field Hut, Table Top, (30 minutes) and Dennan (60 minutes) both provide excellent views of the central ranges – well worth the visit.

14.6 Field Hut to Kime Hut QOT

>>note< This route may quickly become BN grade in snow, storm or fog. Between Bridge Peak and Kime Hut the alpine meadows can be very exposed and the trail become indistinct. Storm gear must always be carried on any trip above the bushline. Field's to Kime, 2½ – 3 hours.

From Field Hut the trail soon climbs out of the bush and sidles Table Top to gain the main ridge about 20 minutes above the hut. The track here has been reconstructed, and the easy going underfoot masks the often alpine nature of the climate. The track crosses alpine wetland and by-passes a deeply eroded section before climbing a zig-zag towards the sidle of Dennan, an hour from Field Hut. Beyond Dennan an undulating saddle gives way to a steeper zig-zag, then the exposed alpine meadows near Bridge Peak. The trail from here is marked by intermittent standards and cairns, but in snow or fog these may be difficult to follow. It first heads S then veers L over a mound, through a slight dip and up Hut Mound. At this top, swing gently R to descend the rutted slopes towards the always welcome sight of Kime Hut, about 2½ hours from Fields.

The original Kime Hut was also partly built from timber pit-sawn at the Field Hut site and carried by pack horse to Kime, hence the sidle tracks and the zig-zags somewhat atypical of trampers’ trails. The hut sleeps 25 or so has water tanks and toilets. Water collected from tarns below the hut should be boiled before use. Do not pollute the upper tarns or use them for washing. This high hut may be cold – ensure you have sufficient clothing.

For the trip from Kime Hut to Alpha Hut, see 20.2.

Down: From Kime the trail first climbs Hut Mound behind the hut. Here it swings L at the top, drops through a small dip and, beyond the next rise, swings R towards Bridge Peak. The trail leaves the alpine meadows some 200 metres W of Bridge Peak and descends towards Field Hut and the Forks. Two hours or less to Field Hut. This route is not further described. Make sure the Kime Hut door is well closed when you leave.

14.7 Otaki Forks to Pukeatua QOT

This is a section of the Te Araroa Trail. 1.3 kilometres past the turn-off to Boielle Flat and the track to Field Hut, and 300 metres before the road-end and the Schoolhouse Flat camping ground, is the start of the Fenceline Walkway, beside a DOC information noticeboard. After 800 metres of gentle climb, the Pukeatua track branches off directly uphill. The top of the spur is 45 minutes from the carpark. Here turn L, and after 2 hours of undulating climb the cleared top of Pukeatua is reached. For the track beyond to the South Mangaone road-end, see 13.2. [July 2018]

Penn Creek vicinity

Penn Creek Hut is an ex-Forest Service hut and sleeps 6. The toilet has been re-located to the grass flats, a convenience for those camping there. The stream continues to nibble at the flats, and this hut may have to be moved a little. Stream-level grass flats are often a temporary feature, created as a flood-plain behind large slips. Other local examples include Mitre Flats, Avalanche Flats and Mangahao Flats.

Your best emergency exit from Penn Creek is out over the Table Top track.

14.8 Penn Creek Hut to Pakihore Ridge QOT

This major ridge leads to McIntosh on the Main Range and takes about 4 hours.

This ridge is sometimes used as an emergency route out from Maungahuka Hut. However, Penn Creek is difficult in heavy rain and the Otaki Gorge sidle track is now impracticable. From the tops the route out via Concertina Knob – Neill Forks – Totara Flats is longer but is much less exposed and has bridges across the major streams.

Up: Two minutes up-valley from Penn Creek Hut, the stream is reached and immediately crossed. The track will be picked up opposite, where it climbs river terraces then sidles upstream. This section is not well marked and can be difficult coming downhill. After 15 minutes it crosses a washout gully and now begins to climb, with an occasional zig-zag, until it reaches a spur-crest. Keep your eye out for false trails to the L, which can be misleading on the downhill. This spur provides good travel with occasional windthrown evidence of the 1936 storm, and reaches the crest of Pakihore Ridge about 2½ hours from the hut.

From the knob junction of spur and ridge, this rather enjoyable and generally broad ridge gains height gradually and the bush-edge is reached in an hour. Less than 30 minutes of further climb through tussock brings the junction just N of McIntosh, where the Main Range bends to the NE.

Down: Where the Main Range bends NE just N of McIntosh, turn sharp WNW. The Pakihore Ridge leads easily down tussock to enter the bush on the SW face of the ridge. A few minutes inside the bush, a clearing with water offers a pleasant brew spot. The ridge is generally easy travel, with occasional discs. The knob where the spur branches off to Penn Creek is minor but obvious and is marked with an arrow – about 2 hours from McIntosh. A few minutes down-spur a little confusion may occur at a swampy saddle, again at places where the spur forks, and about two thirds of the way down watch for false trails on the R. At the washout gully, stick with the track, easily picked up again on the TR of the washout, and continue carefully through the overgrown bush till Penn Creek is reached. Cross it and the track will be picked up immediately, 2 minutes up from Penn Creek Hut.

14.9 Penn Creek to Vosseler QBN


From Penn Creek Hut to the Main Range: 3 hours. An old culler route that does not make the list of 200 best-marked trails; BN fun downwards. Not a maintained track.–

Up: The forks of Penn Creek are 10 minutes upstream from the hut, and the spur between is easily mounted. After several minutes on terraces the trail starts climbing. The spur is sometimes ill-defined, and even in the up direction the intermittent markers may be mislaid in the windfall areas. A sharp change of direction 90 minutes up signals that the bush-edge is half an hour distant. From the bush-edge there is a belt of untracked scrub, though threading through is not difficult. The scrub thins and a steep tussock spur leads to the Main Range. Reward yourself!

Down: Ten minutes NE of Vosseler a cairn marks this turn-off. Below the steep tussock face, the route soon engages the scrub. There is no cut trail, but you may find marks L and R from predecessors. The bush is entered on the R in less than an hour. Fair going continues for about 30 minutes, where the spur makes a sudden swing from WNW as it drops to continue N. Thirty minutes down from here is an extended area of windthrow; only intermittent markers will be found on the spur, and overall it is less sharply defined than one might wish. Some of the better-rutted portions of the game trails address private destinations.

Once in the better bush clear of the windthrow, roughly 45 minutes should bring the stream forks. The penultimate section of track is over terraces. The hut is 10 minutes down from the forks. If the stream is high, the Table Top trail on the W may be picked up, a good 20 metres height above the stream.

14.10 Penn Creek Hut to Table Top QOT

Up: Time – 2 hours. One minute above Penn Creek Hut are some extensive camping flats, and another minute brings the track to the stream-edge. Don't cross the stream. The track to Table Top climbs 20 metres R to a higher terrace and proceeds upstream. In 20 minutes a major side-stream is crossed and the spur to Table Top now climbs with resolve.

This spur, like many others in the region from Mangahao to Kapakapanui, has few mature trees – a tribute to the intensely destructive storm of 1936 – but the young forest is now flourishing. The bush-edge is reached 80 minutes from the spur-foot, and the main Southern Crossing track in another 40 minutes or so. The spur is less well defined towards the main ridge.

Down: The track turn-off is some 250 metres beyond the end of the flat section of track S of Table Top, and 30 to 40 minutes from Field Hut. It is marked by a DOC sign. It heads at right angles from the main track, to where an iron standard will be seen. The route then follows the spur for a little before dropping steeply R down a face to gain a small indistinct spur that improves as it leads to the valley. The trail is currently well padded but still needs close attention above the bush-edge in snow conditions or in heavy fog or rain. At the spur-foot the trail crosses a side-stream then traverses high TL terraces to the hut in 20 minutes.

The abandoned track down the TL of the Otaki River is dangerous and should not be attempted – see 14.3. [revised January 2018]

14.11 Penn Creek Hut to Otaki Forks via River Route QOT

Down: Follow Penn Creek to its junction with the Otaki River, either down the old trail as far as the last slip 30 minutes below the hut, or down the streambed itself. Slips damage this trail segment. Regarding the Gorge Sidle Track, see the notes in 14.3 - do not bother with it.

Travel in the Otaki is not difficult at normal water level, and there is only one rock scramble. This is on the TR around (Topo50 BP33 912 708, NZMS260 S26 012 325), just upstream of the upper of the two active slips on the former track route. The pool alongside this obstruction is simple to wade or pack float as desired.

Travel is uncomplicated until just before the Forks area. At this point there are bushed flats on the TR at riverside, and a rock bluff on the TL with an obvious fringe of shingle above it. And a long, slow pool soon in the river.

From here you have three choices: –

«» ford and float down the remainder of the river, though the last pool above the bridge is long, deep and slow (extra flotation will help);

«» scramble out on the TL through the bush to the old track some 50–60 metres above the shingle fringe;

«» or just opposite the shingle fringed terrace, look for a small stream entering on the TR. A hundred metres up this, a route leaves its TR to scramble up the hill to an old benched trail 30 metres above. This trail sidles through the bush to cross a grassy terrace clearing, which it leaves high, then continues through the remaining bush to emerge on Sawmill Flat, thus bypassing the long pool.

Waitewaewae Hut vicinity

14.12 Waitewaewae Hut to Otaki Forks via the Plateau QOT [[#sec14.12]


Thirty minutes from the hut is the crossing of Arapito Creek, and two routes offer to this point; the riverside route, and the wet weather sidle. Travel to Otaki Forks should take 4–5 hours.

«» From Waitewaewae hut the quickest route is to follow down the terrace-edge track for 100 metres or so, then wade down the river until easier travel becomes available on the TR just before the slips. (A longer terrace-edge route is a minor variantion of this section, with a steep descent to just upstream of the slips). Then cross under the slips to the Arapito, where discs on its TR mark the start of the route up the stream. The first 100 metres of this route is partly in the streambed itself before it joins the wet-weather sidle.

«» The wet-weather sidle track, the alternate track from the hut to the Arapito, follows the terrace-edge down-valley for a few minutes, then strikes up a small spur and joins the trail from the old Waitewaewae Hut site 10 minutes from the new hut. The climb continues quite high, to (almost) pass above the heads of the slip country, before turning S across several small streamlets to descend and cross the Arapito just below its major forks. A good 30 minutes from the hut.

From the Arapito crossing the track is easily followed up the TR, sidling through branch creeks to gain the Plateau and eventually the crossings of Plateau Stream near the saddle. An hour from the hut, perhaps 15 minutes more if via the wet-weather sidle.

[Ed. This para may need re-writing depending on the suggested new sidle track.] From the Plateau Saddle drop down the crush-zone porridge to the headwaters of Saddle Creek and follow this down for 70 minutes to the tram-line exit. This turn-off is marked by a cairn on the TL and iron standards with orange triangles. When found, the obvious track climbs on the TL and past the traction engine (log hauler) to the start of the bush tram-line beyond. Below Papa Creek an active slip causes an abrupt sidle, but 90 minutes should bring the bridge across the Otaki at Sawmill Flat.

An alternative to the tram-line is to travel down the Waitatapia itself. Below the tram-line exit in Saddle Creek a short gorge leads to the Waitatapia Stream. This streambed is easy travel from here down to the Otaki Forks. (There is nice camping down Papa Creek towards the Waitatapia.)

At the Forks proper, there are the '¿deep ford' and the '¿short ford'.

«» The ¿deep ford crosses the Otaki 50 metres down from the Waitatapia to the beach opposite. From the beach a track then climbs to the road, opposite the old Post Office (japonica bush) site, 100 metres down valley from the pioneer cairn. The rough start of this track from the head of the beach, is by the last rock of the rockface on the TL of the river.

«» The ¿short ford is shallower but more bouldery and crosses the Otaki, 50 metres above The Forks, to the Waiotauru TR corner opposite. In the Waiotauru, cross to its TL 250 metres above the Forks and pick up the track; with its concealed exit; leading to the road above.

These crossings of the Otaki are only worth considering if the water is low and your party confident. Otherwise climb to Sawmill Flat and, keeping towards the Otaki edge of the terrace to avoid softer going, make your way upstream to the footbridge.

14.13 Waitewaewae Hut – Oriwa Ridge QBN

This route travels a ridge badly damaged in the 1936 storm. It is usually travelled in the Oriwa – Waitewaewae direction. Two common access routes are used from that direction: from Waiopehu through the low saddle to Oriwa; or up Makaretu Stream and the spur directly to the biv site at Lake Hollow. Essentially untracked, good bushcraft skills are needed to navigate the whole ridge. Up to 8 hours from Oriwa to Waitewaewae Hut.

Waiopehu Hut to Oriwa Lake Hollow: Climb to the track sidle of Waiopehu. (This muddy sidle may be replaced by a track closer to the ridge.) Just before the descent to the Twin Peak Saddle, there is a tarn above the track. The Oriwa Ridge starts here and drops to the immediate saddle through open storm damage, then along a flattish bush ridge to the climb towards Oriwa. About 3 hours to Oriwa. A trail cuts through the final scrub at Oriwa Lake Hollow to display the basin and the bivvy. For the route from the Makaretu see 17.1.

The Oriwa Lakelet or tarn, was present in 1905, but had 'recently drained' by 1928. The drainage sink is obvious not far behind the biv. Because of the inward drainage, ensure that toilet wastes are distant. The Upper Otaki watershed is to become a Remote Experience Area, and this biv will be removed. [??]

In the reverse direction, beware the blaze heading E to 1024 etc. from 1015. The earlier parts of the climb to Waiopehu may be easier just inside the Makaretu bush-edge than the ‘open’ of the ridge proper.

Oriwa Lake Hollow to Waitewaewae Hut: From Oriwa Lake Hollow the route S leaves the end of the clearing and regains the ridge on the W and the minor bump Oriwa. Beyond the next saddle, Notoriwa provides a fair preview of the ridge farther down. There are no significant navigation difficulties in the next section, though the going may be testing at times.

Twenty years after the storm, this section was toilsome indeed but, almost 70 years on, much of the debris has rotted and the regrowth has thinned. There used to be high aerial traverses over jumbles of logs, alternating with strenuous muddy grovelling beneath them, but these athletic exercises are now diminished.

About (Topo50 BN33 951 812, NZMS260 S25 051 429) the ridge bifurcates and your compass work will need to be good to follow the spur right to the Waitewaewae – Otaki Forks.

In the uphill direction, no great problems present. Five to seven hours to Oriwa.

14.14 Waitewaewae Hut to Junction Knob and Anderson Hut QOT

Up: Allow 3 hours to Junction Knob. Upstream of the the hut, cross the bridge and pick up the track where it leads upstream a little before swinging up the spur faces. The track is simple on the ascent apart from an unexpected jog to the R through a small gully just before the bush-edge. Above the bush the route is marked by cairns and an occasional standard until it regains the ridge towards Shoulder Knob. There is usually water near the saddle between Shoulder and Junction Knobs. Junction Knob is marked by a small cairn.

Another hour of straightforward going along the Main Range southwards will bring Anderson Hut. There are good views on the way of the seldom-visited headwaters of Kahiwiroa Stream, and a couple of ridge-top tarns to slake the thirst.

Thirty-five minutes northwards from Junction Knob will reach the flattish summit and iron tube of Crawford.

Down: From Junction Knob the track drops through the saddle towards Shoulder Knob; an excellent viewpoint of the plateau and Otaki Forks; about 30 minutes from the Main Range. From Shoulder Knob the track follows the ridge down for 3 minutes and, just past a jumble of rocks, swings L down to the basin on the S. Iron standards and cairns provide guidance over this section in fog.

A small spur on the L develops and leads to an erosion gully that is eventually crossed to the R inside the bush-edge. The track descends a little, then re-crosses the gully back to the spur on the L, where it remains. From here down, the spur is without significant landmark apart from a couple of flat sections, reaching the river terraces 2–2½ hours from Junction Knob. Cross the bridge and turn downstream to the new Waitewaewae Hut.

Waitewaewae headwaters

Overview: The main Waitewaewae branches, West and East, form a broad circle with Prout Stream bisecting. There are no huts in the system and only a couple of minor tracks. Bushcraft skills are well-enjoyed in the furthest headwaters, and you need be quite sure which headwater you are entering. The junction of the two major branches of the Waitewaewae is Waitewaewae Forks. ¿Island Forks is the junction of Prout Stream and the West Waitewaewae; so named for the conspicuous rock island at the junction.

River travel between Waitewaewae Forks and Waitewaewae Hut is straightforward, with occasional bush terraces and grass flats relieving shingle and boulder hop. Two hours between Island Forks and the Otaki – Waitewaewae Forks.

There are a number of routes to the W from the Waitewaewae basin.

Mick has two old blazed routes to it: one from the grass flats and big slip below Chaney Creek, and one from the headwater forks of Mick Stream. There are old blazes on the main Tangata – Thompson Ridge and a good route down from 860, N of Mick, to the Waitohu Stream. And there are logging roads to the W off Thompson and Tangata.

Two peaks in the Tararuas are called Thompson, both about the same latitude, but you'd be unlucky (?) to confuse them. In poor weather, there is no easy exit from the East Waitewaewae. From the West Waitewaewae there is a fair track over Mick, and a good one over Thompson.

14.15 West Waitewaewae QOT

The usual entry is from the Waikawa over the low saddle at (Topo50 BN33 925 850, NZMS260 S25 025 467), or down old blazes on the spur from 828 SE of Thompson. (This round trip makes a satisfying day trip, see 16.6.) The river presents no problems, and Island Forks is less than 3 hours from the low saddle.

14.16 Prout Stream QBN

Named after Ron Prout, seriously injured here in the 1950s, necessitating a four-day carry-out in a chilly autumn. Entered from Waitewaewae 939 or 969 (see 16.4). The several minor falls and gorge normally give no grief to the experienced. Four hours from ridge to Island Forks.

14.17 East Waitewaewae (minor and major headwaters) QBN

The minor headwater is usually entered from Makaretu Stream by the saddle W of Oriwa (see 17.2). The early part of the minor headwater is poor travel, with stream gutters and logs concealed in the high grass consequent on the storm. In this branch, one of the few campsites is NNE of 815, just up-valley of the low saddle.

The major headwater is entered from the Panatewaewae Stream over Waitewaewae, 939 or 969. The major headwater is truly delightful in the upper reaches and, including several TR-sidled falls, provides simple travel. From its lowest forks it enters the minor branch via a gloomy passage that is easily overlooked from the minor branch.

Travel from here down is dominantly gorge, with the pool below the one fall sidled on TL, or swum from TR. Camping is scarce till almost at the Waitewaewae Forks. Seven hours between 969 and Waitewaewae Forks; less for the minor branch from Makaretu Saddle.

Otaki River headwaters

Proposed removal of the Oriwa Biv will convert all the Upper Otaki to a remote experience area.

14.18 Otaki River, Butcher Saddle to Waitewaewae Hut QOT

The headwater bend in the Otaki may be reached directly down the stream from Butcher Saddle, or down a spur near 810. Butcher Saddle is 90 minutes up Butcher Creek from South Ohau Hut. About 2 hours in all by either route from South Ohau hut to Otaki River. Sidle the falls in Butcher Creek on the TR.

From the headwater bend, the river travel is simple with swimming holes and camping flats as desired. A good 4 hours and many river crossings to Waitewaewae Hut – time will vary with party size and their river travel experience. Along this major fault alignment, new slips will occur from time to time. If the river is up, travel on the TL becomes increasingly easy, with a trail developing below the old Mid-Otaki Hut site on the TL, below the Murray Creek junction. This may be followed to the bridge above the new Waitewaewae Hut.

14.19 Mid-Otaki to Kelleher and Main Range QOT

Up: Thirty minutes above Kelleher Creek at the second major group of flats, the Mid-Otaki Hut site (now vacant) is reached. From these flats head over the bush terraces to pick up the track leading up the Kelleher spur. If coming down Otaki, you can pick up the track at the spur foot opposite Murray Creek. (An old culler blaze also runs up the Murray Creek – Oriwa spur). At the bush-edge the track sometimes favours the S faces of the ridge to avoid bluffs and reaches Kelleher within 3 hours of the river. This track is neither well-padded nor well-marked.

Kelleher lies W of the Main Range. Descending to the Main Range, the trail S drops sharply R into a gully from a small cairn. The top of Kelleher was burnt off as part of the search for the pioneer aviators Hood and Moncrieff who may yet be found.

The trail N continues E for a further 50 metres or so before swinging N into the bush.

Down: From Kelleher the trail follows down the spur, burnt in the upper reaches, and once in the bush the going on the spur is good. At the bush terraces above the river the track, now less-defined, heads slightly downstream and over them to reach the river by the old Mid-Otaki Hut site.

14.20 Otaki Head Bend to Butcher Saddle QOT

From the headwater bend in the Otaki River, follow up the creek draining Butcher Saddle, sidling the falls on the TR as necessary: 25–30 minutes to the saddle.

14.21 Otaki Head Bend to Te Matawai Hut QOT

There is a culler trail from near 810 to the Otaki headwater bend, but between Te Matawai Hut and the Otaki, any of the short spurs may be followed.

14.22 Otaki Head Bend to Butcher Knob QOT

The Otaki makes a sharp bend in its headwater just by the stream draining Butcher Saddle. From terraces on this bend head up the spur towards Butcher Knob. Excellent travel right to the main ridge, where the spur-top joins the Main Range in tussock on the last clear knob SW of Butcher Knob: 2 hours.

For the route down, leave the main ridge from the knob SW of Butcher Knob; the knob close to bush-edge. Following this spur gives pleasant reward for modest navigation skills.

A pair of 'relatively recent' fault traces cross many of the spurs a few hundred metres above the main valley floor, paralleling the east of the Otaki, particularly from Kelleher Creek upvalley.

Waiotauru River system

The Waiotauru River system has many traces of logging activity but not many other tracks. The eastern side of this activity was the old State Forest boundary: a line extending through Renata and Oriwa. This territory is now included in the Park. The area logged in the 1930s extended up-valley of Sheridan Creek. The region logged in the 1960s includes much of that to the west of the old forest boundary; upstream of the 1930s halfway point, and runs well towards the Renata – Alpha Ridge.

14.23 Sheridan Creek QOT [[#sec14.23]

This stream is occasionally used as an alternative route out from Field Hut. The bush on spurs from Field Track into the stream is not difficult, but travel in the stream itself can be rough, depending on flood damage and waterflow. Allow 5 hours or more for the trip. Taken in the reverse direction, the circuit makes a full day trip.

In the lower reaches, a track was marked from the Schoolhouse Flat campsite - see DoC Otaki Forks info sheet to the best preserved boiler and log-hauler in the area. Neither track nor markers are currently in good order, and a visit cannot be recommended as a family walk. [revised November 2015]

14.24 Rae Ridge to Dennan QBN

An enjoyable trip, a good 5 hours from river to Dennan, 8+ hours overall.

Beyond the road-end camping ground at Schoolhouse Flat, cross the river to the TR and the flats beyond to the foot of the Rae Ridge, just past Sheridan Creek. After the first steep pinch, the early part of Rae Ridge is fairly open, with traces of the 1930s logging tracks gradually giving way to better bush. Despite windfalls, the ridge is good going, regenerating nicely from earlier storm and logging and, while reaching point 668 is pardonable, beware of the markers enticing beyond to the Waiotauru river. With care the saddle at (Topo50 BP33 876 687, NZMS260 S26 976 304) will be found with a small wallow beyond. The ridge is easy from here, with several storm clearings towards the bush-edge. A small scrub belt, then tussock, brings the summit of Dennan with its panoramic views, from where the N spur leads down to gain the track. [revised March 2017]

14.25 Waiotauru Forks to Kime (Tregear Spur) QBN

From just before the camping ground at Schoolhouse Flat, 2 km upstream of Boielle Flat, a good trail leads up the Waiotauru TL to Waiotauru Forks: less than 90 minutes. Cross to the TR and follow the logging road into the Eastern Waiotauru to the old bridge remains, then upstream to the Tregear – Snowy Forks: 25 minutes from Waiotauru Forks. Old bulldozed tracks leading up the spur between soon finish, but the going becomes easy and casual markers may be found to the saddle past 594. The spur steepens towards the bush-edge; then a 50-minute climb brings the main Southern Crossing route, right at the head of the Kime Hut basin. Make sure that the Kime Hut door is well closed when you leave. About 5 hours from the Tregear Forks to Kime. A good long day of 11 hours for the round trip back to the forks, (if you eat quick?).

These round-trips require a walk back to the car, at either start or the end of the day. Though the distance travelled is identical either way, a road-walk seems less attractive at the end of the day than when one is fresh.

14.26 Maymorn Junction (aka Ngatiawa - Waiotauru saddle) to Otaki Forks QOT

Because of erosion, the road down into the Waiotauru is unsuitable for ordinary vehicles just beyond the Maymorn Junction, in fact the road from Akatarawa Saddle is rather rough for ordinary cars. Less than 2 hours from the saddle should bring the old Waiotauru Hut site. The road formation continues down-valley beyond, on the TR and fairly high, heading towards the Eastern Waiotauru (Snowy). Most of the spurs on both sides of the river have logging tracks on them, now rather overgrown, some climbing quite high. These are not described but exploring them gives reward. At Waiotauru Forks the footbridge crosses to the TL and the graded foot trail stays there to the road-end near Schoolhouse Flat, a good hour down from the Waiotauru Forks and 20 minutes up from Boielle Flat. From saddle to the Otaki Forks: 4–5 hours.

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Page last modified on 2018 Aug 08 10:20

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