Archives For Tussock

By Chrissy Wickes, Partnerships Ranger, Wanaka

Sutton Salt Lake is New Zealand’s only inland salt lake. The lake is nestled in a scenic reserve near Middlemarch in Otago and offers brilliant views of the Rock and Pillar Range.

Walking the 3.5 kilometre track to Sutton Salt Lake.

Walking the 3.5 kilometre track to Sutton Salt Lake

I recently visited this unusual lake with my partner and son. We walked the 3.5 kilometre track. It is easy flat terrain—great for kids, with plenty to see along the way.

The area is full of schist rock tors, tussock grasslands, skinks, and numerous unique plants including an undescribed forget-me-not and a desert broom.

Chrissy's son Shannon climbing up the rocks along the track.

Shannon climbing up the rocks

Often there is no water in this desert dry landscape and the ‘lake’ becomes a cracked mud basin. But this trip, after much rain, created a shallow lake for us to share with a pair of pied stilts and a few local paradise duck.

Chrissy's son Shannon playing in the silky mud.

Playing in the silky mud

Our 3 year old son, Shannon, loved the silky mud and the climbing challenges of the rocks.

Check out the DOC website for more information on Sutton Salt Lake.

We’ve decided that once a week we’ll feature a recent beautiful, interesting or inspiring conservation related photo that we’ve come across. Here’s our very first ‘photo of the week’ — it comes from Mark English, author of the blog Two Hoomans and a Spaniel In NZ:

“Today, I went along to a tussock planting day with Lindis Pass conservation group. As most friends know, I love gardening and plants and such, and when I heard about this trip I just had to go, as I love tussocks!”


We love the the amazing backdrop in this photo and the volunteers from the Lindis Pass conservation group working hard to restore the snow tussock so that the area can be enjoyed in its full glory.

Send us your photos

If you have a great, conservation related photo you want to share with the world (or at least the readers of this blog) send it through to us at

Chrissy Wickes a Biodiversity Ranger based in the Te Anau Area Office tells us why she loved her recent hut break.

Why I loved my recent tramping trip to Heather Jock Hut:

1) It was easy for the family to walk, a great little overnight treat.

The view from Heather Jock Hut.

The view from Heather Jock Hut

2) We stayed in a really cool old hut in the tussock tops

An old biscuit tin at Heather Jock Hut.

A piece of history

3) We saw some amazing historic huts on the way to Heather Jock hut.

Chrissy outside Heather Jock Hut.

Outside the hut

4) There was a wee bit of shade and a small waterfall on the way to give us relief from a very hot afternoon

Chrissy relaxing inside the hut.

Inside the hut

5) Nobody else was staying there when we arrived – just as well as there were only 3 beds!

Dean Nelson is based in the Twizel Area Office, he recently took his partner Sandy and nine year old twins, Ryan and Kyle to stay at Angelus Hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park. He shares the adventure with us.

For me it was a chance to revisit a hut, albeit a new version, that I had not been to since a teenager – more than several decades ago. For partner Sandy and nine year old twins, Ryan and Kyle, it was all new country. The grind up Pinchgut track and along Robert Ridge became more challenging as the temperature climbed and the gusty wind had the boys hanging on to their hats and the ridge itself at times. However by early afternoon, we were gazing out over the beautiful Angelus basin from the ridge above.

Angelus Hut overlooking the lake.

Angelus Hut

The new hut is a stunner, well thought out in every way. The large entry vestibules are great for storing boots, parkas and packs and the gleaming stainless bench tops in the kitchen are excellent. There was an eclectic mix of people in the hut that night but it was great to see a number of kiwi families. Ian, the converted Aussie hut warden gave a great talk and everyone settled off to sleep reasonably early. Fortunately the loud snorers were conspicuously absent from our bunk room.

Tramping and overlooking Lake Angelus and the Hut.


After going to bed in fine weather, the morning was a timely reminder of how quickly it can all change in the New Zealand backcountry. A dusting of snow and blizzard like conditions greeted us. Conversation was a bit more subdued as there appeared to be a few inexperienced trampers in the group however Ian imparted good advice. Most people packed and left early but we waited for a while on the off-chance it would ease a bit. It didn’t so we rugged up in all our gear and headed out into the swirling snow. This was another new experience for our boys as although they have done quite a few tramping trips, they have always been blessed with fine weather.

Snowing at Lake Angelus.

Snowing at Lake Angelus

Fortunately by the time we climbed over the ridge and down into Speargrass Creek, the weather eased and before long the sun was shining again. An easy wander through tussock basins, alpine shrubland and finally beech forest took us down the creek to emerge onto a gorgeous, tussock filled clearing. Speargrass hut is a much smaller building than Angelus with sleeping benches for 12 people however this creates a more intimate atmosphere. We were captivated and despite having plenty of time left in the day to walk out to the car park, we decided to enjoy the experience of being in the hills. We whiled away the afternoon in the sunshine while the boys made huts in the beech forest.

Speargrass Hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

Speargrass Hut

Being on the track from Lake Rotoroa, it was inevitable that other people would turn up but the hut was far from full. The only drama for the night was getting up to investigate all the noise outside on the deck and finding the fat and healthy looking ‘hut’ possum getting into a plastic container of food that someone had left outside. It took a little bit of persuading to let go!!

Making dams at Lake Angelus.

Making dams

Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park (established in 1956) is situated in the north of New Zealand’s South Island.  This park protects 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The park offers tranquil beech forest, craggy mountains, clear streams and lakes both big and small.