Archives For Tararua Forest Park

By Don Herron, Wellington Visitor Centre Ranger

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful rivers in New Zealand so, if you’re looking for a different way to see New Zealand’s magnificent backcountry, why not spend the day swimming down one?

Floating on the Ohau River. Photo: Don Herron.

Enjoying the view from the Ohau River

The Ohau river system on the western side of Tararua Forest Park makes for a perfect summer trip—walk up the track (above the Ohau Gorge), visit a cool hut for lunch, then swim down the river back to the road end.

Walking in the Ohau River with pack on. Water almost up to shoulders.

Time for a swim

The track starts at Poads Road end (via Gladstone Road) behind Levin.

It follows the Ohau Gorge until the start of the track on Gable End Ridge. Here you can either head up the hill to Waiopehu Hut, or down to the Ohau River (a much better option on a hot summer’s day).

Map of the region.

Map of the region

A short walk up the river (no compulsory swims, only wet boots) takes you to the North and South Ohau rivers.

Northern Ohau River junction.

Northern Ohau River junction

Here, you head up the North Ohau River for a couple of hours—through some tight spots over some big boulders—to find North Ohau Hut.

North Ohau Hut.

North Ohau Hut

This small 4 bunk hut is situated on some lovely grassy flats above the river. It’s a great place for an overnighter and is popular with hunters. However, for us, it was our lunch spot.

Heading home is the best part of this trip, because you can find all the deep spots in the river and have a swim.

Wading in.

Wading in

The North Ohau River is a bit too small for really big swims, but it’s still deep enough to get really nice and wet.

Ohau River.

Ohau River

Once we floated down to the North and South Ohau rivers we continued down the Ohau River until we came to the head of the Gorge.

Instead of heading back up onto the track we continued down the river. This is where the real swimming begins—with beautiful deep swimming holes, which are too deep to touch the bottom, and water so clear you could see all the individual rocks of the river floor.

Get your feet wet!

Get your feet wet!

Whenever you do a gorge trip there is one thing that is compulsory: bombs! Unless you jump off the rocks and try and make the biggest splash you are not a true gorger!

After numerous long swims, lots of bombs and splashing about we were back at the road end, very happy and very wet after spending a great summer’s day in one of New Zealand’s beautiful backcountry rivers.

This trip is recommended for experienced trampers and confident swimmers only. 

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans. You can use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the Adventure Smart website to do this. It is endorsed by New Zealand’s search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

Today’s photo of the week highlights the lush, green native forest of the Tararua Forest Park.


Project Kaka is a restoration project that is working to restore the diverse native forest bird, insect and plant communities in Tararua Forest Park through an intensive 10 year pest control and monitoring programme.

DOC and other organisations/volunteers are working together to target the species that are the biggest threat to native bird life and forest systems.

This photo was taken by Brenda Anderson  | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pest numbers are down and native birds are beginning to bounce back in the Tararua Forest Park north of Wellington following an aerial 1080 pest control operation in late 2010.

The operation, coordinated by DOC and Animal Health Board (AHB), aimed to restore forest health and boost native bird populations, as well as protect Wairarapa cattle and deer herds from bovine TB.

Intensive monitoring undertaken by DOC, the AHB, Landcare Research and Greater Wellington Regional Council before and after the operation has shown significant drops in pest numbers and increasing populations of some native bird species.

New Zealand parakeet/kākāriki

Although still early days, Dr James Griffiths of DOC said that signs for some bird species were promising. “Counts have shown that rifleman, whitehead and kakariki have all increased following the operation, compared to the non-treatment area where no 1080 was applied,” he says.

These species are all able to breed quickly but are also very vulnerable to predation. “In this respect they are like canaries in the coalmine and can give us an early indication if pest control is working.”

A decrease in possum and rat numbers, which have stayed at low levels for the two years following the operation, is also encouraging says Dr Griffiths. “We are making a major investment in monitoring to assess the long term results of this aerial 1080 operation on a range of predators. If we can keep predator numbers down it gives native bird populations an opportunity to breed successfully.”

Rifleman and mistletoe

Stoat numbers are also tracking at low levels, but we haven’t detected a significant change as they were at low levels prior to the operation. If stoat numbers had been high prior to the operation we would have expected to see a significant drop now.”

The operation was part of Project Kākā, a 10 year DOC programme aimed at restoring the health of a 22,000 hectare belt of the Tararua Forest Park stretching from Otaki Forks to Holdsworth in the Wairarapa.


“As we collect more data over the 10 year term of the project the effect of 1080 on forest birds and pest animals in the Tararua Forest Park will become clearer. We may also start to see positive changes in the bird counts for slower breeding species such as kākā.”

Rat, possum and stoat numbers will be controlled every three years in the Project Kākā zone through the aerial application of 1080, with the next operation scheduled for spring 2013.

Project Kākā aerial pest control efforts are also being supported by community volunteer trapping at Donnelly Flats. It is hoped that over time sustained pest control in the Tararua ranges will allow for rare species re-introductions such as whio, robin and kiwi.