Tongariro River Trail Video
by the Advocates for the Tongariro River
Tongariro River Trail (“TRT”) Update:
After four years of planning and construction the TRT (Tongariro River Trail) is now completed. Stage 1 will provide a circuit from Turangi and Tongariro River Motel up to Red Hut swingbridge and back down the other side of the Tongariro River. Several options – from 10 to 15 to 20 km – are available. This brings the Trout Centre within easy reach for tourists by hiking or biking.
For more info click on the heading for “TONGARIRO RIVER TRAIL” above. The remainder of this heading is retained for historical records only.
30 May 2012 Update:
Construction of a new biking/hiking track north from Red Hut car park has finally commmenced. When completed this will provide an easier route along side SH 1 back to the Trout Centre and beyond to link up with the access road to Admirals Pool. It will include a board-walk over a swamp and small bridges. This link will effectively “legalise” the circuit from Turangi on a trail suitable for both bikes and walkers. The route described below as the Big Day Out crosses private land and is supposed to be restricted to access for licensed anglers only. Very PC.
This new track will complete Stage 1 of the planned three day bike/hike trail – the TRT or Tongariro River Trail south up the Tongariro River to Tree Trunk Gorge. The organisers – the Advocates for the Tongariro River – advise future stages have been placed “on hold” until access issues are settled.
TRM (“Tongariro River Motel”) has purpose designed comfy trail bikes available for guests Free-of-charge for their first trip.
Auckland Jaffas rave about their so-called BDO (“Big Day Out”). It is nothing compared to the Turangi version… which is available 365 days a year.
With the trekking season starting TRM have received many enquiries about Turangi’s BIG DAY OUT (“BDO”). In the last couple of years the popularity of this three hour circuit coincided with part of the river bank above the trout centre being washed out leading to much confusion. Now that washout has been repaired and the circuit is possible again. So TRM re-write the “WALKING NOTES” directions as follows:
Starting from TRM (Where else?) follow Te Aho Road, across Taupahi Road, a short stroll to Judges Pool reserve and follow the track upriver. This leads past the Major Jones Pool emerging at the end of Kokopu Street leading again along the river bank retaining wall to the Major Jones bridge at the end of Koura Street – about 15 minutes from TRM. This stretch of the river bank is probably the most popular walk in Turangi (equivalent to Auckland’s Tamaki Drive or Wellington’s Oriental Parade – only far better!). Even at this early stage the variety of natural scenery focused on the Tongariro River sets the tone for the rest of the walk. You are in for a treat.
Have a careful squiz into the river where it shallows out at the tail of Major Jones Pool – above and below where the flying fox is located. It might take a minute for the tired eyes to adjust to the glare before you see these long stones moving around. Their movement is the giveaway. You will see many more famous rainbow trout on their spawning runs up the Tongariro River.
About 60,000-70,000 “steel-head” rainbow and big brown trout make this migration each year while the anglers try to intercept them. (We count them.) You will most likely notice several of this quite superior sub-species of fresh water fly fishing angler standing in the river waving their wand around. By now you will appreciate this just happens to be the best trout fishing river in the world – in case you did not know – and we are not even biased. These are all wild trout, born in the river, raised in Lake Taupo, and they come back in the river to spawn. They look absolutely magnificent. They taste good too…
At the bridge it is decision time – whether to continue up the west side of the river in an anti-clockwise direction (?) or cross over the Tongariro River to follow the tracks circuit in a clockwise direction. These directions follow the latter. So cross over the bridge and enjoy the views taking time to notice the number of planks replaced after the 2004 flood when floating pine trees wrecked the bridge… more on this later.
If you turn left after the bridge it will take you down river to the main road bridge on SH 1 and back to TRM in about one hour. The BDO is a three hour walking circuit up river, so turn right and proceed south up the TRB (Too many abbreviations? TRB is anglers jargon for “True Right Bank” – looking down river). After a pleasant walk under mature conifers the track splits. The right side next to the river leads to the Mangamawhitiwhiti Stream confluence with the Tongariro River below the Hydro Pool. (The original footbridge that crossed there is now somewhere out in Lake Taupo.) Often trout can be seen below the confluence sniffing the spawning scents and waiting until night before proceeding up the smaller stream.
The left fork is the main track leading to the “new” bridge over the M…. Stream. Then the track changes character following the edge of extensive farm paddocks for the next km with wide views north east towards the Kaimanawas. These usually have a mantle of snow along the ridge line in winter months.
The first side track – after another 20 minutes – has a DoC sign “Anglers Access” and leads through native bush to one of the most beautiful pools in the river known as Kamahi Pool. This is a classical long deep pool and is a destination for many on it’s own – ideal for a Sunday picnic. If you are on the BDO it will add another 30 minutes to the trip, so you are allowed to save it for next time… If you are on a bike you have no excuse.
Then the track gradually climbs – very slight incline – to the cliffs above the Cicada Pool with great views down river towards Admirals Pool and up river over Stag Pool. Then the track proceeds through a small conifer grove leading on past the farm pasture boundary towards the Cattle Rustlers Pool.
You will pass a couple more “Anglers Access” signs and side tracks leading to Stag Pool but these are not compulsory as they will not add any additional interest to the trip – unless you are an angler. However once you reach the steps leading down to Cattle Rustlers Pool these are compulsory, leading to the river edge where you will usually be entertained by anglers casting into the pool. Many anglers cross the river here. Walkers are allowed a short rest here as it marks the halfway spot on the route up the river.
From Cattle Rustlers the track winds through mature bush – mainly old majestic Birch trees on a carpet of leaves with glimpses of the river below leading past the Birch Pools up to Silly Pool where you will notice a couple of steep access tracks. These difficult, almost ridiculous access tracks will confirm how brave or foolish or fit or determined or potty these fly fisho types really are. That is why many practice catch & release – it is too difficult to carry the trout back up again. From here the track winds along the elevated bank on the eastern, or (in angler speak) up the “TRB” track leading under the birch tree canopy to a lookout above the Duchess Pool.
At this point readers need to be reminded of angler jargon. (These are simple abbreviations – BDO, TRM, TRB, etc. We fear you might imagine we have succumbed to text-speak cyber-jabber.) The river banks are referred to when looking down river, as either True Right Bank (TRB) or True Left Bank (TLB). This is of course so that anglers imagine they can lie in a different language to disguise where they last caught or released a ten pounder.
Standing above the TRB of the Duchess Pool are expansive views down river over Kowhai Flat and up river to Shag Pool. Check out the river for more of those moving stones with tails as you peep over, as this is one of the best places to spot trout below – often lined up in the “drop off” above the Duchess Pool – see photo above.
(Note: just to give you an idea of some of the history here – this pool was named after the Duchess of York – Queen Elizabeth , wife of George VI, who fished here in 1927. Below is Kowhai Flat where well known American author Zane Grey camped on his visits in the 1920′s and 1930′s. The camp for the oyal party was built by prisoners from the nearby prison established here in 1921. After their visit the prisoners shifted the buidings down river to create the hatchery on teh site of the Trout Centre. More on that later. Most of these names for Pools have been adopted from maps prepared in 1929 by the NZ Tourist & Publicity Department. No other trout river in New Zealand can match this rich history!)
From here a new section of track leads off to the left. This new track loop was only finished in 2009 to make it more accessible for mountain bikers as there is a steep staircase following with about 60 steps restricted to walkers. Walkers can choose either. If you do not like steep steps definitely take the bikers trail which leads through a most attractive Punga fern grotto. This then leads on across the Red Hut swing bridge – halfway! – usually about 90 minutes from the start. Excellent views available from the bridge again and a car park with a DoC loo for a half way rest and pee stop.
Both the Red Hut and the Koura Street swing bridges were built by the Army in 1955. This Red Hut bridge was destroyed by huge pine trees being swept underneath – hard to imagine from the photo – in the 1958 flood. It was replaced by a temporary flying fox until a new bridge was finished in 1971.
(This is particularly mentioned so that you can understand the mighty power of this river and appreciate the need for a long term project initiated by “the Advocates for the Tongariro River” to remove all the wilding pines along the banks. If you look up river from the bridge you might notice the remaining ghost forest of dead pines)
From Red Hut the track now returns down river on the TLB (west side) through a mixture of native bush with peep views over the Shag Hut Pool. After about 400m it emerges on a gravel road – a private access to houses on Kowhai Flat. At this road do a quick zig-zag i.e. turn right for about 15m then look for the track on the left. (This is where some walkers get lost?) This more overgrown track through private land is in fact the original main road (now a paper road still on Googled plans) and extends about 600m with level gradient to the Silly Pool.
The anglers access track you passed leading off to the right following the river leads to the Duchess Pool and may be inaccessible for walkers. Beyond the Duchess Pool some wading is necessary across a small spawning tributary.
So back on the old road, after about 600m there is a DoC Private Property sign blocking the track. Turn right here to follow the faint track over the small knoll above the Silly Pool. This will bring you down to the river edge to continue to the Trout Centre – past where the original washed out track has been replaced.
The Trout Centre – more correctly known as the “Tongariro National Trout Centre” is about to be re-branded as The National Fresh Water Aquarium. This is a compulsory stopover to view the excellent Trout Centre facilities and displays, rest and recover while watching the dvd, feed the trout, view the trout underwater, etc.
After enjoying the Trout Centre facilities (The new fresh water aquarium was developed in 2010-11) continue through the trout centre (another pee stop if required) to their main road car park through to the Anglers Access car park where the track signs point towards Cattle Rustlers Pool. Keep a look out for the side track overlooking Cattle Rustlers Pool for a photo shoot up Barlows Reach and a peep at the trout lined up below the hatchery stream. In trout terminology, the trout centre is just one big fishy fornicatorium from where the musky scents drift down into the main Tongariro and every trout has to stop and savour a sniff or two or three. Then the track continues on down the TLB beyond to link up with the Stag Pool car park.
(Special note – Above the Stag Pool car park is the best wild blackberries plantation on the entire planet.)
From Stag Pool car park you have the choice of following the gravel angler access road or the old track along the river bank – the river changed direction here to the other eastern side under the cliffs. TRM recommend the latter as it emerges at the car park directly above Admirals Pool where trout can usually easily be seen in the tail of the pool. From the Admirals Pool lookout follow the road back towards SH1 where another well signposted track leads off down river.
After a few minutes the track splits. TRM recommend you take the right track which emerges next to the river again opposite the Never Fail Pool. Another five minutes will bring you out to the village next to the Hydro Pool and a further five minutes will bring you back to the Birches swing bridge at the end of Koura Street. Then retrace your steps down the TLB track back to Te Aho Street reserve and limp back to TRM for a well earned cup of tea or perhaps something amber and much cooler with bubbles in it. The round trip usually takes about three hours plus however long you spend at the Trout Centre.
At TRM reception office are river maps and walking poles – both recommended. The DoC maps are “Collectors Items” usually taken by overseas anglers wishing to take back a momento of their visit. These are ideal for finding your way around the river on your BDO.
P.S. TRM’s friendly guide dog Boof loves going for walkies too. He even knows the way…