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Tatare Tunnels Walk Franz Josef

The track takes you to the tunnels that were blasted through bedrock and used to supply water to Waiho River sluice face during the historic gold rush. The walk takes about 1 hour 20 minutes return. It is worth taking a flashlight so you can explore the old tunnel and see the glow worms.

You can also look at the start of a seventy meter penstock near the tunnel entrance that once led to a hydroelectric power station. Wear warm socks and sturdy footwear as ankle deep water runs through the tunnel all year round. Mind your head in some places; the tunnel ceiling is low.

Location
The trailhead in Franz Josef Glacier Village is at the cul-de-sac at the end of Cowan Street where you can also access the Callery Walk.

The Track
The walk follows an old road that once led to the “Tatare Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station.” Walk past the junction with the Callery Walk and continue climbing until you drop down into the Tatare Gorge. You can look straight up the Tatare Gorge from here into the untouched wilderness.

The track narrows and begins to climb steeply. It follows a series of zigzags before traversing along the Gorge to the start of the tunnel system. Once you have explored the tunnels go back the way you came to Cowan Street. You will have officially earned a coffee or a cold beer at one of the village's many eating and drinking establishments.

Track History
“The Waiho Sluicing Company” was the first commercial gold mining enterprise in the area. They achieved a massive engineering feat by transporting water from the Tatare Gorge to the sluice face at the Waiho River through a network of tunnels and 350 metres of water race.

The tunnel was blasted through bedrock high up the Tatare Gorge, "level at first then taking on a slight gradient to allow gravity to feed the pipeline and fluming". In 1907 three teams of workers were engaged around the clock. Without the aid of modern measuring equipment they took over a year to dig their way through the bedrock. When they met the tunnels were within a few centimetres of exact alignment! Unfortunately, the gold recovered from the site did not cover the mining costs and the company closed down in 1908.
Near the tunnel entrance you can see the start of a seventy-metre penstock that once led to a hydroelectric power station. The Tatare Gorge was a vital life link for the Franz Josef village. From 1911, the pipes that sent water to the sluice site were adapted to supply water to the Graham Hotel. Water was fed into pipes under high pressure, to drive a Pelton wheel that supplied a sawmill by day and the Graham Hotel and township by night. From 1938 till 1982 a small hydroelectric power station continued this job. The operation ended when the power station was washed away in a massive flood in 1982.
In the late 1800s, the West Coast Main Road finished at McDonalds Creek. This is the site of today’s campground, some 24 kilometres north of Franz Josef village.
Booking and more information:

www.doc.govt.nz

For more info including detailed guides, personal locator beacons, weather updates etc, visit the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre in the Franz Josef Glacier township.

Check out the DOC web site for more info on all things outdoor

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