The 80-minute walk follows an old 4WD road then the tracks climbs to the old water tunnels. You will need a torch and raincoat to explore the tunnels.
After 10 minutes walk on a four wheel drive road, the track climbs gently then drops to a view of the scenic Tatare Gorge. The track then becomes steep and narrow for the short climb to the Tatare Tunnels.
If you wish to explore the tunnels you will need a torch and a raincoat, and you may get wet feet – at worst the water will be ankle deep. The track stops at the old wooden flume at the end of the first tunnel.
The Tatare Tunnels Walk begins in the Franz Josef Waiau township at the end of Cowan Street.
History and culture
Pioneer miners drove a 500 metre tunnel system through from the Tatare Gorge to pipe water to the Waiho terrace. While the gold recovered did not cover mining costs, Franz Josef township was established on the operation site. From 1911 the sluice pipes provided water supply for the old Graham Hotel.
The high-pressure water drove a Pelton wheel in the town and generated electricity for a sawmill during the day and lights for the town at night. In 1938 water from the Tatare Tunnels powered a small hydro station in the Tatare Gorge until it was destroyed by a slip in 1982.
Know before you go
- Check the current track conditions and weather forecasts at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre before starting your trip.
- Always take warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly.
- Carry drinking water, insect repellent and sun protection at all times.