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Tararua Footprints Hutt River System

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11 Hutt River system

The Hutt River catchment lies outside the Tararua Forest Park and provides about one-half of the water supply for the Wellington region. Overnight trips in the watershed are not allowed. [??]

Access: There are two entrances to the Kaitoke Regional Park. Note that the gates at both entrances close at dusk. Changes to the alignment of SH2 in this area will someday change access and distances.

  • The northern entrance, the main one, is towards the Kaitoke basin. On SH2, 7 km beyond Te Marua, the well signposted main access road to the Kaitoke Regional Park branches off L, half a kilometre before the Pakuratahi River. One kilometre along this access road is the ranger’s house.
  • The Southern entrance is in the Te Marua vicinity and swings L at the end of the Te Marua straight on SH2. It is signposted here as Kaitoke Regional Park, Te Marua Entrance, and is sometimes known as Twin Lakes, after the two water reservoirs. Up this sealed road 1½ km a gravel road swings L, just before the first of the treatment plant buildings, and 200 metres up this is a parking knoll, (Topo50 BP32 800 500, NZMS260 S26 900 117). This gravel road continues on down to the river to grassy picnic areas, but offers no other facilities.

Overview: The main public facilities are at the northern end of this Regional Park and start near Farm Creek. There is a second group of facilities a few km further on at Pakuratahi Forks. See sketch map on p. ZZZ.

The Water Board ranger’s house is at the N entrance to the Kaitoke Regional Park. Phone 04 526 7322. On the hilltop 200 metres beyond is an information display on the L. Within the next 300 metres the principal picnic and camping areas lie to the L before Farm Creek. There are toilets, coin-slot barbecues and easy access to the Pakuratahi River. Beyond the Farm Creek bridge there are more picnic and parking facilities, and occasional access to the gorge below, but no camping areas.

Inside the ranges proper, the Hutt River has two principal headwaters which join at Hutt Forks. The Eastern Hutt headwater has a few grass flats among the forest terraces, but the Western Hutt lacks any significant open flats. Below Hutt Forks the river flows through a deep gorge which has the Wellngton water intake at its exit. Public access is banned from the river over the stretch from Hutt Forks to the intake weir, and a distance of one km on each side.

One kilometre down-valley from the weir is Pakuratahi Forks, its facilities and access points, below which the river enters another gorge to eventually emerge near the southern entrance of the Kaitoke Regional Park at Te Marua.

Pakuratahi Forks Vicinity

This is the area around the junction of the Hutt and Pakuratahi Rivers, and facilities here include sealed parking and toilets. This vicinity includes the original water intake and treatment plant for the Wellington water supply. This was the earlier focus of what is now the Kaitoke Regional Park. There are several easy walks in the vicinity. A few that lead further afield are described. From here, and suitably equipped, you can travel down the Hutt Gorge by kayak, tube, or raft to Twin Lakes area as described in 21.7.

South over the concrete bridge, on the left is the site of the Rivendell film scenes from the shooting of Lord of the Rings. It is easy to see how this unspoilt scenery appealed to the film makers. There are other easy walks defined in this vicinity – some accessible to wheelchair.

11.1 Pakuratahi Forks to Twin Lakes, Walkway Ridge Track QFG

The signpost time of 3 hours allows plenty of time for taking in the view. The southern end of this route may be altered by new highway alignment.

Southwards: Cross the concrete bridge at Pakuratahi Forks car-park and, 300 metres S along the road, turn L at the ‘Walkway’ signpost. The well-marked and -padded track climbs the hill steeply for the first 20 minutes, to become an easier grade beyond this. The going is generally through second-growth bush with and gives great views from several lookout points.

Eventually the trail descends a pleasant manuka-clad spur to emerge at the head of grass slopes overlooking Te Marua's Twin Lakes area. Swing L down these slopes and past the base of the power pylon on the flats. The trail soon drops to cross the wooden bridge over Benge Creek, then regains the opposite terrace. Make sure you cross the bridge, and not follow the rough ford on the L. At the high terrace, bear L over the grass track to the car-parking. Don't scare the Pukekos for they have trouble crossing fences at speed.

Northwards: This start point has changed from Footprints first edition, but is well signposted. [Ed. Needs checking again!!] The access road to the Walkway follows R immediately by the first of the Treatment Plant buildings, to a car-park at the end. From here, the track drops to a bridge across Benge Creek and, on the high terrace beyond, passes by the base of the power pylon on the flats. The trail then climbs to the head of the grassy slopes seen to the NNW. The trail is well padded, and Pakuratahi Forks is reached in an easy 3 hours. The climb at the Te Marua end is a little longer than at the Pakuratahi end, but neither is daunting.

11.2 Pakuratahi Forks to Cloustonville QOT

This is a route, not a track. It traverses some of the ‘Maymorn territory’, see 11.5. After crossing the swing-bridge at the Pakuratahi Forks carpark, the hill-face is climbed to gain a good spur that leads, in 2½ hours or so, to the farther reaches of overgrown logging roads of the old Baigent Mill area, down-valley of Cloustonville. Keeping to the N ridge beyond, the southernmost Clouston logging road may be picked up near 572 and this sidles down the Frances Stream faces to join the principal logging road above the big bend in the pines, 5 minutes up from Frances Stream. However due to changes in land ownership, egress via Frances Stream to the Akatarawa is now (2003) forbidden. [Ed. Check now!!] About 5 hours so far.

From just beyond point 572 a ridge-crest extraction track runs towards 646 and the Maymorn logging road just before the hilltop. From here you may travel N to Maymorn Junction a little over 2 hours distant. Both the Baigent and Clouston extraction tracks are regenerating well nowadays, and a good eye is needed for unnatural ground formation. Total time will vary considerably according to bushcraft ability, but 7 hours would be a good time from Pakuratahi Forks to Maymorn junction.

11.3 Pakuratahi Forks to Hutt Forks QFG/QOT

Two routes run from the Pakuratahi Forks area to the Hutt watershed. The common one is up the Clay Road from the head of the grassed area opposite the ranger’s house.

The second route, the Totara Stump route, leads from the picnic area 400 metres up-road from Pakuratahi Forks, and joins the clay road at the hill-crest. Both routes take the same time and are equally steep, but the latter offers some bush cover on a hot day.

11.3.1 Clay Road route QFG

In: Just above the ranger’s house is a grass area on the R of the hilltop. From the R head of this, a 4WD track (locked gate) leads over the meadows to drop across Farm Creek. From here the clay road climbs steeply and reaches the ridge-crest in about 45 minutes. Worthy of note at the top of the hill are the roadside river gravels; glacial outwash material from the Hutt River system at the close of the last ice-age. From the ridge-crest, the clay road drops steeply into the Hutt watershed, with an occasional glimpse of Quoin and Maymorn Ridges, and reaches the road-end in 20 minutes. A notice board here gives travel estimates to distant parts. Sharply on the left of this is a large rimu. The trail passes on the R of this tree, following down terraces on the TL of Phillips Stream to meet the Eastern Hutt River in 5 minutes. The building marked on older maps near the confluence of Phillips Stream is an hydrology tower, which offers no shelter.

Hutt Forks, the junction of the Eastern and Western branches of the river is 10 minutes downstream of this point. The pools and gorge 3 minutes up the Western Hutt from the forks are quite photogenic. Because of water extraction do not travel downstream of Hutt Forks. Less than 5 minutes up the Eastern Hutt a footbridge crosses the river.

Out: This route starts a few metres down-valley from Phillips Stream, and quite soon becomes better-padded.

11.3.2 Totara Stump route QOT

Up: Four hundred metres towards the weir from the Pakuratahi Forks carpark is a picnic area on the R. At head of this is a great rimu and from the R of this cross Norberts Creek, the small stream, to its TL and climb 25 metres then follow terrace-edge up-valley for 6 minutes to the old Totara Stump. Only climb high enough in the bush to stay in open going. A small stream is next crossed, followed by another sidle, and a second small stream a few minutes on. Stay on the TR of this stream and take the earliest opportunity to climb. Fifteen minutes of easy height brings the top of a minor knob.

The trail soon trends L and in the reverse direction it is well to keep at the L of the spur-crest and within sight of the stream, so as to avoid misleading fingers of spur. The bush is pleasant second-growth, recovering from old fires, and just beyond the second small clearing the route sidles R to avoid tight going. It regains the ridge and sidles R again through a fringe of gorse to reach the edge of the clay road. This point is a few hundred metres from the road summit.

Down: A few minutes down from the road summit towards Kaitoke, there is a 150–200-metre straight, and just below its lower L bend this spur joins. The trail sidles (as above) on the L of the spur on the way down, and below the clearings swings L to keep on the ridge-crest above the stream. From clay road to picnic area, about 25 minutes.

11.4 Warrens Saddle QOT

This is a local name for the saddle about 400 metres NW of where the clay road crosses from the Kaitoke basin to the Hutt headwaters. Follow the route to the old totara stump as above. From the crossing of the second small stream beyond the stump, drop to the L to follow the headwater stream for 20 minutes to the foot of a spur. Climb the spur between the stream forks, steeply at first, then easing somewhat. The route avoids tight going at the spur top by sidling R through a gully to the ridge-crest beyond. A few minutes to the SE is ¿Warrens Saddle, and 20 minutes or so along the ridge brings the clay road near its summit.

The round trip can be completed either down the clay road to the carpark, or from the hillcrest to the old totara stump.

Hutt Forks and beyond

11.5 Maymorn – Pukeruru territory QOT

This block is bounded by the Maymorn and Renata Ridges, and by the Western Hutt River and Kororipo Stream. The block is substantially untracked and, it is hoped, will remain so. Please minimise campsite impact.

The ridges are broad and flat, and provide first-class navigation training. The streams are deeply incised but offer no real difficulty. There is a tricky saddle on the ridge joining Pukeruru to Maymorn, where some novice has sprayed paint marks, but the remainder of that spur to/from Hutt Forks is straightforward.

11.6 Western Hutt system QOT

The Western Hutt, unlike the Eastern, has virtually no grass flats. The river has several short gorges, but these pose no sidling difficulty.

  • The gorge downstream from Hutt Forks should not be travelled, as it is immediately upstream of the water intake.
  • Hutt Forks to Renata Forks is 2.5 - 4.5 hours, depending on the weather.
  • Maymorn and its ridge beyond are uncomplicated from Hutt Forks.
  • The spur to just E of Renata 938 is good going but very steep near the forks.
  • The peripatetic biv that was on the TR just downstream of Renata Forks has now continued its travels.
  • The large spur running NE from Pukeruru, known as ¿King Stag Spur, provides a good exit from the Renata Stream over standard Maymorn navigation territory (ill-defined broad-topped ridges).
  • Elder Forks, (Topo50 BP33 864 598, NZMS260 S26 964 215), are reached in about 90 minutes from Renata Forks: some gorges but no essential swimming. In the easterly branch, one river-crossing above Elder Forks is an exceptional camping flat. The (new) Elder Hut sits just below Elder, near the top of its good leading spur.
  • The Western Hutt headwaters have gorges and falls by the foot of the spur running SE from Elder Biv.

11.7 Hutt Forks to Quoin Ridge and Alpha QOT

Quoin is a major ridge. Access directly from Hutt Forks is steep and a better approach is from the top of the sidle track above the Eastern Hutt gorge, see HuttRiverSystem#sec11.8|11.8]]. From here, a 40-minute climb brings nearly level bush travel with a couple of wind-throw clearings better skirted. Two and a half hours from the sidle should bring the top of Quoin and the start of the large burnt area extending to Alpha. This 1947 fire is probably the most extensive within the park boundaries excepting of course, clearance fires near the settler perimeter. Beyond Quoin the ridge swings E through a couple of bush saddles then climbs to the tussock at a short flat section where it swings NE. This spot is the junction of a good spur from Eastern Hutt. Further steady climbing brings a series of hillocks leading to Alpha, about 2½ hours from Quoin.

In earlier times, Quoin was often used as the route out from Alpha Hut for the travel is more interesting than the Marchant Ridge.

NB: Elder Hut to Hutt Forks via Quoin Ridge can take up to 12 hours.

Emergency exit. Escape from Quoin Ridge in bad weather is probably best back down the ridge to the Eastern Hutt bridge.

11.8 Eastern Hutt system QOT

Where the Eastern Hutt makes a major bend R it forms a gorge and this is bypassed by a track on the TR. Cross the Eastern Hutt on the bridge a few minutes above Phillips Stream and pick up the trail on the TR. This soon swings away from the river to cross a steep-sided gulch and gain the spur beyond, 10 minutes from Phillips Stream. This spur has an excellent display of the giant moss Dawsonia, fruiting in spring. The gut is one part of the Wellington fault trace. From this gut 20 minutes of definite climb brings the top of a small knob, the highest point of the gorge sidle and a good starting point for Quoin Ridge. The track immediately drops to regain river level in 10 minutes, and an easy 5 minutes further brings a pleasant grassy flat. The Eastern Hutt is a comfortable succession of grass flats and bush terraces and this sidle track is one of the few tracks in it. Several flats further on is the Eastern Hutt Hut on the TL, about 80 minutes from the first flats, or a good 2 hours from Phillips Stream. The hut sleeps six.

Several of the routes out of this valley are briefly indicated below. Some have been better marked in the days of intensive deer-culling, and occasional discs may be found. None of these tracks, however, should be re-marked – the whole of the Hutt and Renata headwaters should be treated as a wilderness experience area. Recent spray-painting of routes in the southern Maymorn region is deplored, but opinion is converging as to the correct shade of brown or olive needed for the overspray.

  • Quoin Stream joins the Eastern Hutt just above the hut, and its eastern boundary spur gives good travel to join Quoin Ridge at a flat stretch just at a bend, (Topo50 BP33 904 594, NZMS260 S26 004 211). The Quoin fire extended some distance down this spur, providing more open going than the companion spur on the SW of Quoin Stream.
  • A little over an hour from the hut, the stream at (Topo50 BP33 919 585, NZMS260 S26 019 202) marks the base of the spur that climbs to the Alpha bush-edge. This spur is good going but should not be followed to its bitter end. Towards the top a shallow gully develops on the E of the spur, and from this point a climbing sidle will intercept the Alpha Track inside the bush, about 2½ hours from the river.

In the reverse direction, once the ridge above Alpha Hut has been gained, the SW descending sidle should be started within a few minutes. There should be no difficulty in identifying the correct spur.

  • In older times a traditional route into the Eastern Hutt was to drop down from Hells Gate Saddle. The small falls are no trouble and the route needs no description.
  • From Eastern Hutt Hut about 2 hours of good travel up spur (Topo50 BP33 907 577, NZMS260 S26 007 194) reaches Marchant, just short of its top. This spur junction is subtly marked at its top.
  • Down-valley of the hut, the spur that leads to the Marchant outlier point 790 is good going up to the burnt area, followed by a sidle about the 850 metre contour.

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There is a hill that stands for me

beyond the sunset and the sea,
a ladder of light ascending :
when I have crossed the evening ray
and lost my comrade of white day,
it beckons me, bending
a mountain-way of wind and rain
to draw my feet from the dark plain :–

Where stars of slumber kindle on its crest,

my hill, the high hill, from wandering to rest.
Geoffrey Winthrop Young, from Beacons

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Page last modified on 2014 May 06 02:23

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