Lake Kaurapataka is a small lake tucked in behind a hill to the south of the wide, grey Taramakau River at the northern limit of Arthur's Pass National Park. It's an easy track in, with a slightly rougher route on to the popular Otehake Hot Springs.
The track along the Taramakau River starts at a car park at Aickens Corner, where the SH73 bends westward from the Otira River to follow the course of the Taramakau. There is an intentions book here. The Otira River is commonly over waist deep, and will block access to the Taramakau Valley in wet weather. A swingbridge is located south along the Otira, although the flood track along the east bank is reported to be difficult and overgrown. In short: don't set out on this trip if the forecast is bad.
Aickens Corner - Lake Kaurapataka: 2-2½ hr, easy + river crossing
Follow the fenceline down to the Otira River and cross to the wide flats opposite. Pick your way through the gorse to a vehicle track and marker opposite. A shelter is nearby. From here the track meanders across cattle flats, often losing its way, but generally keeping to the top of the flats. The Otira flood-route turn-off is near the shelter.
The Taramakau valley is indescribably dull, but at least you leave it behind soon enough. Pfeifer Creek is the first small valley entering the Taramakau, generally a dry shingle bed. Up the creek a couple of minutes, a smooth, cool track starts in the ferny beech forest on the true right bank. About 40 minutes on, the track bends alongside and crosses Lake Creek, the lake outlet. Lake Creek arcs around the base of a massive slip from the northern flanks of Mt Pfeifer that blocked the valley and formed Lake Kaurapataka.
Eventually, you sidle around the lake, which remains hidden in the trees. You become aware of its presence before you can see it, glimpsing first the distant hillside over the lake, then spots of water through the foliage. Finally, a distinct side-trail drops to a delightful grassy area midway along the lake. Currently, it is marked by a large arrow of stones in the middle of the track! There's lots of room for camping at the lakeside.
Lake Kaurapataka - Otehake Hot Springs: 1 hr, easy-medium + Unmarked route + river crossing
The track from here becomes noticeably rougher and more rootbound as the shoreline gets steeper. Beyond the end of the lake, the track climbs to a very low saddle, where a steep descent drops directly to the Otehake River, coming out under a swingbridge. An alternative route from the saddle heads off to the right and cuts out some river crossings. A brief gorge here offers a few deep swimming holes between the rocky banks, and about four deep fords.
Out of the gorge, a prominent (but unnamed) spine of rock rises to the right and above the river in the distance. Follow the hints of sulphur in the breeze to their source at a decent set of hot springs.
These springs are some of the best around, second only to the Welcome Flat springs on the Coast. They are set in a dry channel to the true right of a small, distinctive island, with good camping under the trees on the island, and in the bush on the river bank. The site is well used, but in good condition.
The bush around here is rich with variety. On the island alone, you can count off the trees overhead: red beech, rata, lancewood, kamahi, broadleaf, tarata. Rocks around the campsites are bearded with stems of Earina autumnalis, the Easter orchid, and in Autumn decorated with their scented spikes of tiny flowers. On the riverbank, the tall beeches shelter a green forest floor of thick mosses, and a variety of ferns.
Honora Just a wee update: Intentions book, gone. Taramakau (bus) shelter, gone - swept away in a flood, Otehake Swingbridge, gone. Thanks, DoC! The Otehake gorge condition varies according to floods. For a time, there were big wades required then it developed nice fords for pleasant travel.
The flood track from the saddle between L. Kaurapataka to where it comes down to the Otehake River just upstream of the gorge no doubt needs some track work since Jonathan Carr and some CTC people did it. AFAIK DoC don't maintain this track, so can some kind souls bring saws and loppers if they plan on using this track. CUTC would be an obvious contender to adopt maintenance and marking of this track as they used to use the pools as a destination for their freshers.
18 June 2012
Honora The flood track has recently had work done on it. The arrow has recently been reduced to a pile of rocks and needs to be recreated. I used to tidy it up but of late have been in a hurry!
As for the description of the Taramakau. I can only say I appreciate the majestic vastness of the valley with the enticing peaks. I never find this or the route to Carrington tedious but I guess it's because I'm so familiar with the little intricacies such as Clear stream, quirky flood channel shortcuts and the changes noted each time I go up the valley.
2 November 2009
Honora Re: the usual river level of the Otira: my partner has been to the bus shelter by the Otira 35 times which means he has probably crossed the Otira at least 60 times. Probably the deepest he has ever crossed it is when it was just above the knee. Any deeper and I wouldn't be crossing it! We crossed it once a couple of days before a woman drowned - it hadn't rained in the interim. It took us an hour to cross as it took a long a while to find the series of safe crossing places required for the braids. We often utilise sandbars to enable a crossing.
2 November 2009
nzfella Pav if you are referring to my comment about not being exciting, that does not mean boring!!! It means not exciting!!! If you have been to the places I have been then you might understand what I am talking about. I have done over one thousand tramps in my life so I have plenty to measure it against, and I still say it is not an exciting tramp. It doesn't even begin to compare with tramps like Siberia/Crucible Lake, Inland Pack track, North West Circuit, the Tablelands, 1000 acre Plateau, Leslie Karamea, Nelson lakes etc etc. I mention just a few of the well known tramps. I could mention many that most people have never heard of. AND of course ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NO OTHER HOT POOLS NEW ZEALAND COME CLOSE TO WELCOME FLAT. I have been thereat least once a year for the past twenty years.
AND, of course there is the old saying "Horses for courses"!!! No tramp is ever really boring, especially if you are with good company :)))))
Take care and have a fab day - Rod - Oh and keep smiling :)))))
12 May 2008
pav How anyone could find the Taramakau valley 'dull' is beyond me. With a wide easy walking floor providing clear long views up and down the Taramakau river and snow capped alps on either side it makes a pleasant change from stumping through bush with endless trees your only view. We chose to stay out in the Taramakau until it met the Otehake, then went up the Otehake itself thru the gorge to the springs. Easy walking, only one moderately tricky crossing (in the gorge - would depend on flows). I don't want to say much about the springs (i want to go back and have them to ourselves again)...
27 August 2004
Paulio If you are a fisherman then take your rod. The Otehake River has trout and the last time we were there my wife caught one. Her sreaming idicated she had fallen in the river, but no she had hooked a brown trout. She practised catch and release.
6 February 2004
a pass Absolutely brilliant setting. We were there with 4 other parties and never felt crowded. The best place to cross between the gorge and the pools is an angled shingle fan about half way, which is easily crossed in any condition. If the river is up at all, take the track around the gorge as we had 4 very deep and cold crossings when we were there at Labour weekend. Don't tell too many people about it, don't want it to get too popular!!!
17 December 2003
jared Great place to get away from the city for a night. Nice swimming in the lake on the way up and the hot pools were great, nice 'n' deep and toasty warm. Watch out for the family of possums that call the island home, they ate all our marshmellows! (which were in a zipped up pack?)
22 February 2002
daveb Very pleasant walk, not anywhere stressful, this walk may over time become very popular. I do however have a little gripe. People visiting this wonderful place need a little education on how and where to poo in the bush. It was most disapointing to move a rock (or two) within the campsite and find toilet paper and faeces under it. So could people please go well away from the campsite and do there business.
If there was a motivated person heading into the hotpools in the near future, perhaps they could carry a small sign and direct people away from the campsite to have a dump. Cheers DB
28 January 2002
nzfella Well firstly I will say trhat from Aitkens to Lake Kaurapataka is very easy. The scenery is not exciting but very pleasant. The lake itself is very nice and tranquil, and has a very nmice camping area, but you have to be on the look out for it or you could walk right past the track down to the lake and the camping area. The walk up to the hot pools is fairly rough and involves some boulder hopping. The pools themselves are small, and one of the is very hot, but no doubt it wouldn't be too difficult to add some cold water. I can't say that I am in a hurry to go back, but with the right company I would have no objection
28 December 2001