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This short loop track provides an opportunity for people of all fitness levels to enjoy native bush and birdlife only a short distance from Palmerston North. Along the way are some small signs describing how students from College Street Normal School in Palmerston North view the bush and various trees. Also accessible from here is the massive Totara Tree, thought to be over 1000 years old.
The start of the track is indicated after 5 minutes of following the Manawatu Gorge Track from the Ballance Carpark.
Note: SH3 through the Manawatu Gorge is currently closed. Although the walk is open, check with DoC on access.
Follow the Manawatu Gorge Track for 5 minutes to the signpost on the left. This wide metalled track loops through the forest, exiting on Gorge Road 100 metres further up from the carpark.
On the return leg, a signpost on the right indicates the Totara Track. Although this has currently fallen out of maintenance, it is worth heading up the track to view the impressive totara tree on the left.
The Manawatu Gorge marks the northern limit of the Tararuas. The Manawatu River is the only river which flows from Hawke’s Bay to the west coast, flowing 105 km west rather than 40 km east from its headwaters in southern Hawke’s Bay. The reason for this curious flow is that the river existed before the mountain range did. As the Tararuas have increased in height, the build up has been slow enough for the river to cut down at an equivalent rate. The river has also captured the courses of many other nearby catchments which were defeated by the barrier. These have since channelled into one flow, giving the river increased erosive powers.
Winds from the west or north-west channel through the gorge and whistle through the tree-tops and greywacke outcrops. The frequent occurrence of strong winds did not escape the notice of the windfarm developers.
The large totara trees in the forest around the track are characterised by thick, stringy and deeply furrowed bark. Their massive bulk hints at their great ages, which may be up to 1000 years old. The trees are slow growing, contributing to a dense and hardy wood, often used by early settlers for fence posts.
The vegetation in the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve is mainly composed of tawa forest with tarata, mahoe, rewarewa and kawakawa the main associated species. The reserve is unusual in that it supports ngaio, a species commonly found on the coast, and alpine tussocks, usually representatives of higher altitudes. A giant maidenhair fern (Adiantum formosum) is a rare inhabitant.
Ngati Mamoe, Ngati Tara and Rangitane were the main iwi to inhabit the area.
North Island ▷ Manawatu - Wanganui ▷ Woodville
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍