Waipara Gorges

13 January 2019

It was approaching 8am, and there were only four of us, but suddenly we had three more people arrived so could take the necessary two cars needed for this trip. We drove to Karetu Downs Bridge, and then we placed a car just east of the Laidmore Road turn-off.

The bridge crosses the South Branch of the Waipara River so we didn’t reach the main river till we’d walked more than 1km. Where the river narrows for the first gorge we had to pick our way over slippery algae-covered rocks. Encroaching willows blocked our way in several places. People with walking poles were happy for the help they give to stay upright, though the rogainers in the group seemed to cope well without them. The rogainers were testing their surefootedness in preparation for an event a few weeks hence.

Emerging from the first gorge we reached the area with the best concretions.

Concretions upstream from Laidmore Rd

Some were emerging from the soft strata well above us, waiting to crash down into the river. Pines had been planted 20 years ago to stabilise the land. Now they were right on the rim and one or two trees had been undermined and tumbled down the steep slope. Where the Laidmore Road reaches the river we stopped for lunch. The only signs remaining of the old road bridge over the river is a concrete abutment and half a pile.

On our way, to White Gorge we chose to go via the long loop rather than take the shortcut over the bentonite mound. We were rewarded with a view of more excellent700mm diameter concretions. A beautiful limestone scarp loomed high above us, and quite awe inspiring, for those of us that hadn’t been there before. Limestone on both sides of the river confined the flow into a four metre wide gorge. This is where we were wading through deep water in one place. Anne said she couldn’t touch the bottom but her pack provided buoyancy—a good reason not to collect rock samples!!

Below the first gorge

Bruce conjured up a clever exit via an old track that led us past a deer farm and to Ram Paddock Road where Grant’s car awaited us. While the other car was being retrieved from Okuku Downs Bridge the non- drivers chatted to local farmers, who’d happened along. The old traditional ice-cream stop at Amberley made for a brief stop on the way home. Many thanks to Bruce for another well-planned, interesting trip.

We were: Bruce Cameron (leader), Grant and Anne Hunter, Kathrin Mueller, Doug Woods, Judith Barnsley and Kerry Moore. (KM)