The Whataroa, Perth and Butler catchments offer challenging routes in magnificent environments but are suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers only. There are 5 huts in the area. Routes are 3 – 6 days long. Hazards are rock-fall, avalanche and flooded rivers. For maps, guides and up-to-date information on routes and conditions, phone the Department of Conservation Franz Josef Area Office – phone 03 752 0796, or visit the DOC website.
The Waitangitaona Wetland Walk is a short walk opposite the White Heron Sanctuary Tours jetty.
The 15minute walk takes you along a level path through
Kaihikatea Forest to a boardwalk and viewing platform which overlook a huge pakihi swamp with a wonderful view of the great sweep of the Main Divide – particularly spectacular at sunset.
Apart from SH6, all roads in the Whataroa Valley are usually very quiet, except between 6 and 8pm when the milk tankers arrive. The roads are flat for easy walking and in clear weather there are magnificent vistas of bush and mountains in every direction.
The Whataroa Circuit is an ongoing project to provide set walking tracks around Whataroa.
ADVENTURES IN THE UPPER WHATAROA CATCHMENT
The Whataroa, Butler and Perth river valleys offer hunters, trampers, kayakers and mountaineers wonderful opportunities for adventure.
The catchment area of these rivers totals over 50,000 hectares of wild and rugged West Coast country. The rivers originate from the Main Divide and most tributaries are glacier fed, leading to high river levels during periods of snowmelt and difficult conditions at times.
The rough terrain meant that large areas of these catchments remained unexplored until relatively recent years. Deep gorges and turbulent rivers thwarted the intentions of many early mountaineering parties wishing to explore the alpine routes in to the catchments of the West Coast and neighbouring Canterbury valleys. The bulk of the exploration did not occur until the 1930s-50s.
During the 1970s, huts, swing bridges and more tracks were constructed to enable easier foot access to the heads of the major tributaries, mostly for wild animal management by the NZ Forest Service. Access is still difficult, if not impossible, during periods of heavy rain, when many unbridged side creeks become uncrossable.
THE PAKIHI WALK
This track leaves from a car park on the highest point of the Okarito Road and winds up a small hill to a viewing platform which looks out over the Okarito Lagoon.
THE OKARITO TRIG WALK
The Trig Walk and the Pack Track share a start from the car park beside the old Okarito School. The route crosses an arm of the Okarito Lagoon via a sinuous boardwalk before entering the bush and winding up to follow the line of the cliff. The Trig Walk branches to the left off the Pack Track and climbs a new, well-formed track to the Okarito Trig. On a clear day, the mountain ramparts and the full sweep of the coastline are magnificent.
THE THREE MILE PACK TRACK FROM OKARITO
This track was cut to create a safe route for pack horses and bullocks carryingsupplies to the gold mining townships of Three Mile and Five Mile further south, of which nothing remains. If the tide is low, a return journey around the base of the cliffs is possible.