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Tararua Footprints Hutt River System

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11 Hutt River system

The Hutt River catchment, which provides about one-half of the water supply for the Wellington region, lies outside the Tararua Forest Park. Overnight camping is not allowed, but day trips may be made anywhere above the Hutt forks. A brief description of that area is given here. However, the much smaller Kaitoke Regional Park, which includes the Hutt River between the Kaitoke weir and Te Marua, is well set up for visitors.

Kaitoke Regional Park

Access: There are two entrances to the Kaitoke Regional Park. Note that the gates at both entrances close at 9pm. The roads in the Park can be confusing but are well signposted.

The Northern entrance, the main one, lies in the Kaitoke basin. On SH2, 9.6km past the junction with the Akatarawa Rd, the well signposted main access road to the Kaitoke Regional Park branches off L, half a kilometre before the Pakuratahi River. Just over a kilometre along this access road is the ranger’s office.

The Southern entrance is 3.5km past the junction of SH2 and the Akatarawa Rd. Swing L at the end of the Te Marua straight on SH2 where a sign reads Golf Club and immediately turn R into Kaitoke Regional Park along Twin Lakes Rd. The Hutt river can be reached by turning L just before the first of the treatment plant buildings, where there are toilets. To the R of the treatment plant building, a road continues to the Ridge Track walkway car park.

Overview: The main public facilities are at the northern end of this Regional Park and start at the Ranger's Office, 200m inside the Park boundary. Here on the L is a shelter and information display. Less than 300m further on, the road forks. The L branch leads to the principal picnic and camping areas, where there are toilets, coin-slot barbecues and easy access to the Pakuratahi River. The right branch crosses the Farm Creek bridge, where 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. 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. [revised December 2017]

Pakuratahi Forks Vicinity

This is the area around the junction of the Hutt and Pakuratahi Rivers. It lies 1.2km beyond the Farm Creek bridge. 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 the 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 signposted in this vicinity – some accessible to wheelchair. [revised December 2017]

11.1 Ridge Track Walkway Family Group

The signpost time of 3 hours allows plenty of time for taking in the view.

Southwards Cross the concrete bridge at Pakuratahi Forks carpark and, 100 metres S along the road, turn L at the Ridge Track signpost. The well-marked and well-padded track soon climbs the hill steeply for the first 20 minutes, to become an easier grade beyond this. The going is generally through second-growth bush and gives great views from 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 a 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; don't cross the rough ford on the L. Once on the high terrace, bear L over the grass track to the carpark. Don't scare the Pukekos for they have trouble crossing fences at speed.

Northwards From the carpark (see Access above), the track drops to a bridge across Benge Creek and, on the high terrace beyond, passes near the base of the power pylon on the flats. The trail then climbs to the head of the grassy slopes seen to the NNW. Once through the grass, 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. [revised December 2017]

11.2 Pakuratahi Forks to Maymorn Junction  Ordinary Tramper

This is a route, not a track. It traverses some of the ‘Maymorn territory’, see 11.5. After crossing the swingbridge at the Pakuratahi Forks carpark and following the path for 200 or 300 metres to avoid supplejack thickets above, 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. Keeping to the N ridge beyond, the southernmost Clouston logging road may be picked up near .572. About 5 hours so far. From just beyond .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. [revised December 2017]

11.3 Pakuratahi Forks to Hutt Forks  Family Group

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 E of the Ranger’s Office. The second route, the Norbert Creek route, leads from the picnic area 250 metres up-road from Pakuratahi Forks carpark, and joins the Clay Road near the hill-crest. Both routes take the same time, but the second offers some bush cover on a hot day.

Clay Road route  Family Group

In: To the E of the Ranger's Office is a grassed camping area. 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. Across Phillips Stream, and less than 5 minutes up the Eastern Hutt, a footbridge crosses the river. 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.

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

Norbet Creek route  Family Group

Up: Two hundred and fifty metres towards the weir from the Pakuratahi Forks carpark is a picnic area on the R. At the head of this is a great rimu. From the R of this pick up a well-marked trail which crosses Norbert Creek to its TL and climbs 25 steep metres to reach a high terrace. In a few minutes a small stream is crossed, followed by a second small stream a few minutes further on. The track turns R and soon begins to climb. Fifteen minutes of easy height brings the top of a minor knob. The trail soon trends L (in the reverse direction, watch for a L sidle of the track, so as to avoid misleading fingers of spur). The bush is pleasant second-growth, recovering from old fires. Just before the top, the track sidles R through a fringe of gorse to reach the Clay Road. This point is some 250 metres from the road summit.

Down: A few minutes down from the road summit towards Kaitoke, where the road swings L at the end of a 200 metre straight, the Norbert Creek track drops to the R. When well down, the trail swings L to keep on the ridge-crest above the stream. From Clay Road to picnic area, about 25 minutes. [revised December 2017]

11.4 Warrens Saddle  Ordinary Tramper

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 Norbert Creek route as above to the second small stream, where the route turns L to gain the headwater stream. Fifteen minutes up this stream, on a track ill-defined and little-used, the route climbs, steeply at first, then easing somewhat. The route avoids tight-going near the top of the spur by sidling R through a gully to the saddle beyond. Fifteen minutes or so along the ridge brings the summit of the Clay Road.

A round trip can be completed either down the Clay Road to the carpark, or down the Norbert Creek track to Pakuratahi Forks. [revised December 2017]

Hutt Forks and beyond

11.5 Maymorn – Pukeruru territory  Ordinary Tramper

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  Ordinary Tramper

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), 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. 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  Ordinary Tramper

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(approve sites) 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  Ordinary Tramper

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 – but sitting within the water catchment area, it is for emergency use only. It is 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). 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) 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 the Eastern Hutt Hut, about 2 hours of good travel up spur (Topo50 BP33 907 577) 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 .790 is good going up to the burnt area, followed by a sidle about the 850 metre contour.

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"It is easy for a person to find courage, when he has law and assistance at his back, but be alone and beyond assistance, near the camp of savages, you will find how fleeting courage is."

Patrick Q Caples, on being the first European to reach Martins Bay, solo, and seeing the smoke [of Tutoko's camp] across the river.

Page last modified on 2021 Oct 06 21:43

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