Celebrating 150 years of the Arthur’s Pass

Department of Conservation —  08/04/2014

Arthur’s Pass recently celebrated 150 years since the European opening of the route that linked the east coast to the gold fields in the west.

The official opening the new Arthur’s Pass Walking Track was one of the events that marked the occasion.

DOC Ranger Tom Williams, writes:

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur's Pass walking track.

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

150 years ago today (or thereabouts), in a time when an ‘epic’ was just a part of everyday life, the Dobson brothers stumbled across a pass linking the east coast to the gold fields in the west. That pass was Arthur’s Pass.

Legend has it that Arthur’s Pass isn’t named after Arthur Dudley Dobson as such, but rather that someone remarked that Arthur’s pass was the most suitable pass for direct travel to the west.

The name stuck, and Arthur’s Pass became one of only two places in New Zealand to have an apostrophe! (The other is Hawke’s Bay.)

Celebrations of this feat of discovery occurred over the weekend and resulted in the population of the pass swelling by over 400%.

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Festivities commenced on the Friday night with the unveiling of a bronze kea statue. As we unveiled the taonga, a member of the audience did a sterling haka, and a real kea flew over us.

Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see these amazing birds.

Kea.

Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see kea.

In typical Arthur’s Pass fashion, the main attraction—the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass walking track—was accompanied by clear skies and warm weather.

The creation of the new track, however, was no easy feat. DOC staff, and the contractors constructing the track, had to cope with the extremes of local weather.

So far the track has coped with many deluges of rain, gale force winds, blistering sun, a minus 17 degree frost, and a 2 metre snow dump!

Testing out the new Arthur's Pass Walking Track.

Many people took the opportunity to take a guided walk of the track and discover some of the magical flora and fauna of the pass

For those travelling to other places through the Pass, the route travelled has changed significantly from what it was 150 years ago.

Back then the journey took a long time. Once the coach road was constructed (can you believe that they managed to build the road from east to west in one year!) the journey was reduced to four days. Today it is a pleasant two hours to Christchurch, or one hour to the West Coast.

Discover the heritage and fantastic scenery of the Arthur’s Pass walking track yourself. Further information and directions can be found on the DOC website.