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Travers River


Lake Rotoiti and the Travers Valley at its head is surely one of the most scenic places in the upper South Island. Mixed beech and podocarp forest extends down to the lake shore, and in winter, there are glimpses of rugged snowclad peaks.


Well formed tracks and day walks lead from St Arnaud village to the tussock and scree tops of the St Arnaud Range, and also along the Robert Ridge, thence by a high route to Lake Rotoroa and Lake Angelus. A water taxi operating on Lake Rotoiti saves the three hour walk around the lake (Contact Bill Butters, Rotoiti Water Taxis, St Arnaud, phone 03 521 1894). It takes 5-8 hours to walk from the lakehead to Upper Travers Hut (24 bunks, serviced), via John Tait Hut (3-5 hrs from the lake, 30 bunks, serviced).
Lake Rotoiti was first seen by Pakeha in January 1843, when surveyor John S Cotterell, farm worker Richard Peanter, and a Maori guide negotiated the trackless forested terrain from Nelson through Big Bush. They pushed on to the lake head and up the Travers River, and climbed onto the Divide, probably near Cotterell Peak (the name was given by Charles Heaphy and J S Spooner, who came there in December 1843). Within a few years, sheep and cattle were grazing on flat land near the lake and upper Buller River. The legacy of pastoral clearing can still be seen in burnt stumps on the face of Mt Robert, the Travers River flats, and areas of manuka and second growth.

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