Big River, Reefton

There was a long weekend so I HAD to get out tramping, even with the weather not looking immediately tramp-worthy.  I zipped up to Reefton to do a little mining exploration to Big River, where there was mining activity in various forms up to WW2, and many relics are still visible.  Here is a map.

I started on the eastern side and went in along the Progress Water Race track.

View from the Inangahua swingbridge

View from the Inangahua swingbridge

The old water race is still clearly visible and the track is in good condition, if steep in places.

The water race carried water to sluice for gold.  It's the trnech

The water race carried water to sluice for gold. It’s the trench

Stairs

Stairs

After about 45 min there’s the option of walking up the riverbed or taking the flood track.  As it had been raining heavily for a fortnight I took the latter.  The sign said it was steep but really it’s no worse than any proper tramp.  The real problem is that it’s covered in deadfall.  So much deadfall.  All the time.  Want to know what it’s like to wrestle a tree?  P1080420I had brought my secateurs but really it needs a chainsaw.  I think this is all left from the Easter storm.

The track ascends up this hill to begin with - it never gets much steeper than this

The track ascends up this hill to begin with – it never gets much steeper than this

But there are some places where the track has slipped - like this

But there are some places where the track has slipped – like this

As an indication of the lack of maintenance on this track I came across many footbridges but only about 2 were intact.

Destruction!

Destruction!

In some places the deadfall is rather useful.

All the obstacles on the assault course DO have a purpose

All the obstacles on the assault course DO have a purpose

The track continues in this fashion for a couple of hours.

Possibly the worst slip

Possibly the worst slip

Don't fall!

Don’t fall!

The flood track joins back up at the site of an old batteryP1080430Then there’s about 30 min of reasonable track to the Golden Lead battery site

Track up

Track up

The battery!

The battery!

This is well worth a visit.  The battery has been somewhat restored, but there are many other relics in the area, including old tubes, gears and other metalwork.  P1080442A short track leads off to an old miner’s hut.

Cool!

Cool!

The turnoff up the hill is well signposted.  It took me an hour to climb up (400m gain) with a steady slog.

The bush thins a bit

The bush thins a bit

It then drops to link up with an old tramway

Bottom of the descent

Bottom of the descent

The restored section of the tramway

The restored section of the tramway

The tramway obviously has a very nicely graded incline.  There are some sections where it crosses side streams and the footbridges have fallen down, but generally the going is quick.  The only annoying part is that it’s actually quite difficult to walk  with all the sleepers – they’re slippery and spaced at exactly the wrong distance for good strides between them.

It didn’t take me much longer to find the old sawmill.  This is marked on the map as an unnamed building.

Engine still in place

Engine still in place

There are some reasonably detailed interpretation panels next to it.

From here the track ascends on a tram gradient to the top of the hill.

Quick going

Quick going

At the top you can turn off to visit the Big River mine head.  I wanted to make it to the hut before dark so I continued on.

Oooh there it is!

Oooh there it is!

The track crosses the slag heap from the mine, then shortly after you come to the old winding engine.P1080478I was just pushing on at this point to make it to the hut.  The weather was closing in.  The track turns in to a road and it’s all downhill.  Amazingly I’d managed to keep my boots dry all day, but at the last moment

there's an unbridged crossing

there’s an unbridged crossing

There used to be a swingbridge here, but it’s been removed – rather stupidly in my opinion since this was flowing quite quickly and I could only just cross.

There’s a short rise up to the hut, which is quite well appointed.  It took me about 6 hours in total.

View of Big River from the hut

View of Big River from the hut

Being all fancy I had brought my Goal Zero solar panel along to try it out.  I’d actually bought it several years ago in case I needed to charge my water purifier batteries while travelling, but found I always had a mains connection.  Here I thought I could use it to charge my phone.  It did work – but only just.  It needs to be in direct, strong sunlight to work.

The next morning I had a bit of a look around the Big River ruins.

The old DoC hut?

The old DoC hut?

Inside

Inside

Battery site

Battery site

P1080488P1080489

Site of the hotel

Site of the hotel

Following that track will put you out in the middle of Reefton.

Back up the track there are several ruins worth looking at.

The track

The track

Site of the school

Site of the school

There is a short detour to Tin Town.

Site of several old shacks

Site of several old shacks

Still a lot to look at

Still a lot to look at

Back up the track I investigated the winding engine.P1080501

Inside

Inside

At the top I took the side track to the poppet head.

Oooh relics

Oooh relics

The restored poppet head

The restored poppet head

View from the top

View from the top

The mineshaft has a grate over it but if you try you could throw a rock down a 2km hole.

The sun had come out so the walk back along the same track was quite nice.

Side stream

Side stream

Then there was the descent back down to Golden LeadP1080525Which opened up for a view about half way down

Not bad

Not bad

Unfortunately the rain overnight had left a LOT of standing water on the track so the descent was not as easyP1080530About 3 hours to the turnoff, and I took the flood track again – slightly faster this time as I had cut the track a bit on my way in.

Crossing at the swingbridge

Crossing at the swingbridge

After 5 hours of mad bushbashing I came back to the Progress Water Race, but somehow the heights of the stair climbs had doubled overnight.

This trip is worth doing, but see if you can do the one-way option and come out at Waiuta.  The main interest is at Big River itself so to save time you could come in from the Waiuta end, or even drive in from Reefton.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s