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.
The old water race is still clearly visible and the track is in good condition, if steep in places.
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? I had brought my secateurs but really it needs a chainsaw. I think this is all left from the Easter storm.
As an indication of the lack of maintenance on this track I came across many footbridges but only about 2 were intact.
In some places the deadfall is rather useful.
The track continues in this fashion for a couple of hours.
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. A short track leads off to an old miner’s hut.
The turnoff up the hill is well signposted. It took me an hour to climb up (400m gain) with a steady slog.
It then drops to link up with an old 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.
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.
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.
The track crosses the slag heap from the mine, then shortly after you come to the old winding engine.I 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 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.
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.
Following that track will put you out in the middle of Reefton.
Back up the track there are several ruins worth looking at.
There is a short detour to Tin Town.
At the top I took the side track to the poppet head.
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.
Unfortunately the rain overnight had left a LOT of standing water on the track so the descent was not as easyAbout 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.
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.