Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Hope Saddle Lookout, Tasman District: 2 August 2022

Historic lookout between Murchison and Nelson...

On the way to the Abel Tasman NP I stopped off at a lookout point I have long wanted to explore. The Hope Saddle Lookout is approximately half way between Murchison and Nelson and is the highest point between the two places.

Looking north-east from the Hope Saddle Lookout

I must have passed by here 20+ times now but have never taken the time to stop and have a look around but I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do so....

A view from the Hope Saddle Lookout:

Hope Saddle Lookout is located on the top of one of the north-south facing ridges between Murchison and Nelson. It sits at an altitude of 637 meters which means it is the high point between the two places and one of the highest spots along the route of SH 6. 

Map: Hope Saddle Lookout

Start of the Hope Saddle Lookout Track

From SH6 you turn off onto the marked sideroad to the Hope Saddle is a short road to a picnic area, toilets, track to the high point and car park. The high point is the location of the lookout with a flat hill located at the end of a 300 meter long track. 

The track is 300 meters to the Hope Saddle Lookout

The track is well marked and in excellent condition and though it climbs up to the hill top is is not very steep. The track is lined on both sides with regenerating Manuka forest so it is mostly shady and protected from the wind. 

Nice track to the Hope Saddle Lookout

On the top of the hill there is a trig point, information panels and a small viewing platform with a brass map of the surrounding peaks. There is a small clearing around these items and the tree line is far enough away that you have a near 360 view of the surrounding area. 

Clearing at the Hope Saddle Lookout

The two information panels at the Lookout have information about the Tasman Accords of the 1980's (which halted harvesting of native trees) and the hardship faced finding and building a route from Nelson to the West Coast through these hills. 

Information panel at the Hope Saddle Lookout

SH6 follows a historic route to Westport

It is worth while making your way around the clearing at the Lookout to gain the best views of the surrounding area. I found that standing near the trig marker gives you the best views to the east and south while the platform was better for the west and north. 

Platform and brass map at Hope Saddle Lookout

This whole area of the Tasman District is heavily forested with only a small corridor of farmland along the bottom of the various valleys. To the west lie the Owen and Maring Ranges which rise to over 1800 meters. To the north is the Arthur Range with some peaks reaching 1700 meters including Mt Arthur and The Patriarch. 

Maring Range from Hope Saddle Lookout

Mt Owen from the Hope Saddle Lookout

To the south lie the massive ranges around Nelson Lakes NP and right down the Buller Gap which is the area of flat land on either side of the Buller River. It was cloudy on the day but on a perfectly clear day you would be able to see right along the spine of the Southern alps from the Saddle. 

Hope Saddle Lookout trig point (637 meters a.s.l)

Looking down the Buller Gap from Hope Saddle Lookout

To the north east you can see along and over the various ridgelines leading to Richmond and Nelson. The Richmond Ranges were clearly visible as were the exotic forest plantations stretching over the Golden Downs. 

Cloud covers the mountains around Nelson Lakes NP

I took the obligatory photo of me standing by the trig point....I have the mountains around Nelson Lakes NP behind me!

After about 10 minutes I headed back down to the car-park along the same track you take to reach the top. 

Descending the Hope Saddle Lookout Track

Road to the carpark at the Hope Saddle Lookout

It takes about 5-7 minutes to walk along the track so it is not an arduous tramp by any means.

Near the end of the Hope Saddle Lookout Track

The car park at the Hope Saddle Lookout is large enough for 10-15 vehicles and is sealed so you don't need to worry about getting stuck. There was a big group of what sounded like Dutch tourists at the Lookout with me...they had two campervans and a car so there were about 10 of them. 

Hope Saddle Carpark with many Dutch tourists!!!

You can see out to the area around Mt Owen with a great view of the was covered with snow after the recent series of storms we have had. This whole area is in the eastern part of Kahurangi National Park which runs along the roadside from near Murchison to the Motueka Valley. 

Mt Owen from the Hope Saddle Lookout carpark

There is a very basic picnic area next to the carpark with a small covered shelter, some picnic tables and a large grass covered clearing. There is a vault toilet located here but there is no potable water source so you must bring it with you. It would be a nice place to stop and break your journey if you were travelling from Nelson to the West Coast. 

Hope Saddle Lookout picnic area

Hope Saddle Lookout...picnic tables and toilet

From the carpark it is possible to look down on to SH 6 between Murchison and Nelson. You can see several stretches of the road climbing over the surrounding ridge lines. They are surrounded by a mix of native and exotic forest as forestry is a huge part of the economy up around Nelson. 

Hope and Maring Ranges from the Hope Saddle Lookout carpark

Most of the local ridges run north to south...Hope Saddle Lookout carpark

If you happen to find yourself driving this way you should really stop and have a look at the Hope Saddle Lookout. Walk up to the trig point and look around or simply stop and sit in the sun while you have a bite to eat. This is an attractive and most over looked spot...

Access:There is a short sideroad off SH6 at the top of the Hope Saddle. It is clearly marked with road signs on both sides about 400 meters from the turn off. Take care when driving back onto SH6 as it is winding and very busy. 
Track Times:The track is only 300 meters long so 5-7 minutes walking time.
Miscellaneous:There is space for 10-15 cars, a toilet, picnic tables and a small covered shelter. No potable water at this location. This is a no camping area with hefty fines for Freedom Camping. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

A visit to Maruia Falls in Buller District...

A short side trip to the Maruia Falls...

Hi folks...its been a while since I posted anything on the blog...near four weeks to be more exact. I have been stuck inside for much of that time due to a number of factors...bad weather, working a couple of weekends and getting stinking Covid. 

Yerp...Jon got the Coves...!!!

But...I'm back in business now and there will be a few posts coming soon about my recent trip to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. I did my annual pilgrimage to the park last week and walked the track from Anchorage to Totaranui...the posts will follow soon. 

Anchorage Beach in Abel Tasman NP

On the way over Lewis Pass I stopped at a couple of places and did some short walks one of which was at the iconic Maruia Falls near Murchison.

At the Maruia Falls Scenic Reserve:

The Maruia Falls Scenic Reserve is on SH 65 about 20 kilometers from Murchison and is the location of the famous Maruia Falls. The Falls were a bi-product of the 1929 Murchison Earthquake (7.8 MW)...the river bed was uplifted by five meters and the water cascading over the falls continue to deepen them through erosion. 

DOC sign on SH65 for Maruia Falls

The area around the Falls is a Scenic Reserve

Prior to Covid the Maruia Falls were a very busy tourism spot but with the rainy weather and the fact it is winter few people were visiting. There was just one car at the carpark when I arrived and I saw one other person the whole time I was at the reserve. The carpark is huge and will easily hold about 30-40 cars at one time...

The carpark at Maruia Falls Scenic Reserve

There is a good vantage point over the top of the Maruia Falls from the platform next to the carpark. The sound of the falls was deafening the moment I stepped out of the car so I knew the waterfall would be spectacular. It has been raining on and off here in the South Island for nearly a month so there is always plenty of water in the rivers...

Area at the top of the Maruia Falls

There is a very confusing sign at the top of the Maruia Falls Track telling you to not go down to the falls. What they mean is do not go down to the edge of the top of the Falls as the area is unstable and it is extremely dangerous. You can follow the Maruia Falls Track down to the rivers edge at the base of the Maruia Falls. 

...from the top viewing platform as it is dangerous...

There was a huge amount of water shooting over the Maruia Falls...the most I have seen the many times I have visited the site. The water was a total maelstrom and a fall into the water would mean certain death...

View from the top of the Maruia Falls

The Maruia Falls were full due to heavy rain

From the viewing platform you can see down to a flat area near the base of the Maruia Falls. Follow the track down the hill to access the side of the Maruia River where you can get a much better view of the power of the water...

Flat area at the base of Maruia Falls

The Maruia Falls Track is about 300 meters long and descends down to the flats at the base of the Falls. The track is all weather and moderately steep but it is well maintained so most people will have no problem walking down it...

Heading down the short track to the base of Maruia Falls

...the track is about 300 meters to the Maruia Falls...

Manuka forest along the Maruia Falls track

There is a picnic table at the flat area where you can sit and have some lunch but be aware the Sandflies are murderous here in the summer...

...there is a picnic area near the Maruia Falls...

Follow the short track to the edge of the river and you can walk down onto the rocky edge of the Maruia River itself. For pity's sake stay away from the edge of the water though as this is an extremely dangerous place. There have been over a dozen fatalities here and even as recently as two weeks ago a couple of guys were killed when they went swimming here.

Jon says...stay out of the water unless you want to die!!!

Mist rising from the base of the Maruia Falls

Warning sign at the Maruia Falls is fatal to swim at the Maruia Falls...

Here I am hamming it up near the bottom of the Maruia Falls...I was the only person there obviously!

Jon at the Maruia Falls in the Shenandoah Valley

Here are some shots of the flow of water over the falls...the sound was amazing and there was a cloud of mist rising high over the falls from the force of the water. The Maruia Falls are currently about 10 meters high but they continue to carve away at the underlaying rock so they will continue to grow as time goes on. 

Interestingly this piece of the Maruia River was flat until the Murchison Earthquake. The 7.8 quake caused a massive amount of damage in the Buller area and was felt as far north as Cape Reinga and all the way down in Invercargill. The area around Murchison was the worst affected with whole mountain sides collapsing leading to 17 deaths. 

Maruia Falls, Shenandoah Valley, West Coast

The Maruia River downstream from the Falls

There is a vicious undertow at the base of the Falls and the dark swirling mass of water just looked dangerous. 

Maruia Falls are about 10 meters high and 200 meters wide

After about 10 minutes down by the river I started back up the track to the carpark. It is moderately steep climbing up the track but it is a very short track so it takes next to no time to head back up it. 

Heading back up to the carpark at Maruia Falls

The track is surrounded by a regenerating area of Podocarp forest and while the main tree species is Manuka I could also see young Rimu, Totara and Matai Trees growing there. I had a Fantail following me up the track and I also heard Tui and Bellbirds in the reserve...

Maruia Falls Track leading back to the carpark

...the Maruia Falls Track is an all weather track!..

Moderately steep climb back to the Maruia Falls carpark

FYI: there is a DOC serviced vault toilet at the top of the Maruia Falls Track and it was both clean and tidy so it would fine to use for most of the time. 

The toilet and viewing platform, Maruia Falls

An empty Maruia Falls carpark

So that is the Maruia Falls Reserve...stop by the next time you are in the area and have a look at this example of the power of nature. If you are following the Buller Gorge Road to Westport it is worth making the 20 kilometers side trip to the falls and it is on the direct route from Lewis Pass to Nelson. 

I have more posts to follow including one about the Lake Rotoroa Nature Walk, Hope Saddle Lookout and the main event my annual trip to Abel Tasman NP. 

See you soon!!!

Access: The Maruia Falls Scenic Reserve is located on SH 65about 20 kilometers from Murchison.
Track Times: Maruia Falls Track is about 300 meters long so about 5 minutes walk to the side of the Maruia River
Miscellaneous: There is a huge carpark at the reserve with a viewing platform, vault toilet and picnic table down next to the riverside. DO NOT SWIM IN THE MARUIA RIVER!!! Over a dozen people have died here...the currents and undertow make this a deadly spot. Stay out of the river at all costs!!!