Ōtaki Gorge Road – Arcus Dam – Fence Line Walk
Wednesday April 26 2023
The weather in Wellington in the early daylight hours was not promising, but by the time we were leaving the cars at the road closure site, there was no precipitation, and that condition remained during the complete trip.
We followed the track that DoC identifies as the 'emergency access track to Ōtaki Forks'. It leads steeply up through mature exotic forest and then down through native bush to meet up with the Arcus Dam Track. The track marked on the New Zealand topo map was the 'emergency access track' around the initial slip that closed the Ōtaki Gorge Road. The current route is not marked on the official map.
The first view of the Arcus dam from the graded track was impressive, as there was substantial water flowing over the spillway – the result of recent substantial rain. Care was required to cross, with water well above boot height in places. Once across the spillway we stopped for morning tea in the cutting between the spillway and the dam itself.
We began our ascent by sidling west up to the crest of the prominent spur which rises comfortably to point 470 in a southeast direction. The top of the spur is very broad and we 'wandered' the final section to the spot height, with our location confirmed by multiple GPS determinations.
Then we were off in a southwest direction along the ridge top, following sections of animal trails and sporadic coloured ribbons. We stopped for lunch in a sunny, grassy glade that gave protection from a cool breeze. Shortly after lunch we came to the Pukeatua Track, just as it starts its descent southeast to the Fence Line Walk.
As can be seen from the accompanying trace, the Fence Line Walk is not located as indicated on the New Zealand topo map. However, it remains a comfortable graded track traversing into numerous watercourses. Occasional fallen trees and accumulating natural litter informed us that the walkway has not been getting much use since the initial road closure several years ago. At its northeast extremity we left the walkway and descended in a southeast direction, following 'the line of least resistance' to the campground road. At one point we encountered remnant fence wires, indicating the boundary of the forest park.
On our return to the cars we had a brief stop at the Waiotauru River bridge picnic site. Then it was a comfortable plod to complete a seven and a half hour trip in ideal tramping weather.
- Party members
- Bill Allcock (leader and scribe), Karen Baker, John Dement, Jenny Mason, Sieny Pollard, Janette Roberts