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This shorter walk is rewarded with fine views of the Otaki Forks confluence.
Otaki Forks is 19 km from Otaki township. Turn into Otaki Gorge Road from SH1 just south of the Otaki River. The narrow road becomes unsealed and gives a good impression of the early settlement’s inaccessibility.
Four parking areas lead to the tracks. Boielle’s Flat carpark (with toilets) is on the left 500 metres before the caretakers residence and accesses the Waiotauru Swingbridge at the beginning of the Otaki Forks Walk, Arcus Loop Walk and Waitawaewae Track.
From the caretaker’s residence and Gibbons Flat Carpark, follow signs through the gullies to the Waiotauru Swingbridge (10 minutes).
Follow signs to the Waitawaewae Track/Penn Creek Track and the start of the track is signposted after 2 minutes on the right.
After a steep climb, zigzagging the eroded flanks of a river terrace, the track gently climbs the foot of a hill, arriving at a bench after 25 minutes. In slumped areas alongside the tributary streams, glimpses of the rock strata show a loose selection of rounded boulders in a matrix of silt. Layers of larger boulders indicate a storm event, as the force of the water hurled larger debris down its course. Views up the Waiotauru Valley and Schoolhouse Flat Campground stretch to the distance.
On a mostly grassy surface the track then sidles the border of a river terrace and hillside, arriving at a junction with Fields Track. It’s 5 minutes to another junction, where you head left.
To complete the loop, follow marker poles over the top of the grassy river terrace for 5 minutes and descend to the start of the track. It’s a further 5 minutes back to Waiotauru Swingbridge and Boielle’s Flat Picnic Area.
Otaki Forks is the main western entrance to the Tararua Forest Park and offers a good network of day walks that give a taste of the Tararua’s majesty. The Otaki Forks gain their name from the confluence of the Otaki and Waitauru Rivers, both of which drain the western flanks of the Tararua Range.
Periods of high rainfall in the geological past have fuelled the river’s excavations and left a series of raised terraces that subdue the contours of the valley floor. The forested foothills rise from these even plateau.
The first European settlers to own the land faced tremendous hardships clearing the forest and maintaining the infrastructure needed for embryonic farming operations. Generally cattle were grazed on the flat river terraces near the farmhouses. Families diversified their efforts to include timber milling, the relics of which can be discovered on the Waitawaewae Track and Waiotaurau Track.
The walk is named after the Arcus Family, who farmed the area from 1931. Their arrival at Otaki Forks took place in torrential rain. Neighbouring farmfolk had to aid their passage over the slips along the gorge. So unenthusiastic were the family on arrival at the forks, they didn’t unpack their belongings for 2 weeks until the skies brightened.
North Island ▷ Wellington Region ▷ Otaki
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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 😍