New Zealand Capstone 2008

Day 4: The Drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka

March 11, 2008

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Location Map of Stops

UWEC Student Research Day

Dr. Harry Jol




We departed the Top Ten Holiday Park in Franz Josef bright and early to start our drive to Wanaka.  We made quite a few stops along the way since we would be driving past the Fox Glacier and through the Haast region of the country.  It was cloudy and rainy at the beginning of the day but it really cleared up in the afternoon to make for some spectacular sights.

The first stop we made was another feature of the Franz Josef Glacier, the Canavans Knob Hike. We arrived there around 7:50 am to start our long day of driving with many beautiful stops.  It was quite cloudy and slightly misting at this point.  The hike started by tramping along the braided channel and went up to the edge of the U-shaped valley.   It was roughly a fifteen minute hike up to the top, where we could see Waiho Loop (below), which is the end moraine of the most recent ice age advance.  The Canavans Knob is in the middle of the Loop, and the hike we took was to an outlook that looked over the entire moraine and the braided river channel running from the glacier.

Waiho Loop

Our next stop of the day was at the Fox Glacier. Since we were at the Franz Josef Glacier the entire day on the 10th we just took a short hike up to the terminus to check it out.  We were there for an hour or so to take some pictures and check out the phenomenal Fox Glacier.  In the area there were some very unique signs (below) as warnings to keep your distance from the glacier as well as the cliffs.


Like the Franz Josef glacier there were many waterfalls surrounding the area flowing out of the rainforest that the glacier cuts through.  These waterfalls all become streams which flow into the Fox River, which flows out the terminus of the glacier (below).  The trail up to the terminus was crossed by many of these streams that came out of the rainforest, making the hike there a little more interesting.

Franz Josef

After our hike we saw more kea (below) in the parking lot, wreaking havoc on the weather-stripping of some car’s sunroofs. Of course we just took a few pictures instead of trying to scare them away from their destructive tendencies.


Video of Kea on a van

Our third stop of the day was Lake Matheson, which is a typical postcard type stop to look at.  It was a nice short hike from the parking lot through some more rainforest, and across some sweet suspension bridges (below).

Suspension bridge

The water in the lake is dark and murky caused by leaching of the natural elements in the surrounding forest.  The water is usually pretty calm from the shelter of the trees and makes for beautiful reflective scenery of the Southern Alps.  Sadly for us it was overcast and rainy; we could still see a remarkable view (below) with a reflection of the foothills of the Alps but not the typical view that is seen in pictures.


We took a quick stop on top of a cliff overlooking the Tasman Sea where we could see some more sea-stacks (below). There were a few seals way off in the distance, but they were quite difficult to see.  It was raining pretty hard at this point so we all stood under a shelter and snapped a few photos and then got back on the road pretty quick.


We then proceeded to stop at Ship Creek in the Haast region to take some hikes on our own and eat some lunch.  We were right on the coast of the Tasman Sea again at this stop which plays a big part in the development of the dunes that are the dominant feature of the area.   These dunes are formed by large amounts of sediment coming down through the massive braided channels due to earthquakes in the Southern Alps.  This is one of the only places on earth that you can find dunes like this on a coastline.  The dunes create a system of forest and marshes the alternate in a pattern of forest on the tops and marshes in between the dunes (below).


The dunes act as chronologic markers of large seismic activities that have taken place the Southern Alps.  The dunes continue a long ways away from the coast and into the rainforest, some of the marshes (below) are quite large, and very old, the small dunes that are closer to the coast are attributed to seismic activity that has taken place as long ago as 1460.


Research Paper written by Todd Wermager on the Coastal Dune System in the Haast region

We took some time to just absorb the beauty of the area, we stood in the Tasman and observed the longshore drift taking place at this area by following the waves as they flowed back into the sea and placing stones on the beach and watching which direction along the shore they travelled as the waves came and went.  While doing this we could see some gulls flying over the sea most likely fishing as well as some small dolphins jumping out of the sea every now and then.

Our next stop of the day was Jackson Bay, it was around 4:00 pm when we arrived there, we went because apparently they have some delicious crawfish that we wanted to try, but when we got there they were sold out, so we turned back to keep heading to Wanaka.  On our way out we saw some spectacular rainbows since the rain was now starting to clear up a little bit.   The highlight of this little sidetrack was the penguin crossing signs (below), not something seen in many other places.


Driving through the rest of the Haast region we stopped at many various waterfalls with short hikes to get to them, with all the rain we got earlier in the day they were flowing incredibly hard.  One of the first that we stopped at was Roaring Billy Falls (below), it was the first of many and the hike to it was pretty short.


On the road we saw many more waterfalls (below) that we did not stop to see, they were everywhere, including pouring onto the road.  By this point the sky had cleared up almost entirely making for some great scenery.


We arrived at Wanaka, got settled in, then drove into town for some dinner.

Written By: Todd Wermager

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