1 current alert for the Rees-Dart Track Read details...

10 March 2015: Rees-Dart Track alerts

Dart Valley Track - due to severe track damage the track between Bedford Bridge and Sandy Bluff is now impassable and is closed until further notice. The Rees/Dart circuit option is currently unavailable - people wanting to walk to/from the Dart Hut can still do so via the Rees Valley Track.

Whitbourn Track - the bridge crossing the Dart River to this track has been destroyed - river crossing skills are currently required. Caution required on track due to slip damage.

Introduction

The Rees-Dart Track is a 4-5 day tramping circuit which follows the Rees River and the Dart River, through leasehold farmland and the southern part of Mount Aspiring National Park.

Highlights

It is a moderately demanding tramp, and most days average 6-8 hours of walking. Spectacular mountain scenery, forest and alpine vegetation, rivers and the Dart Glacier are all significant features of the walk.

Track overview

Loop

Walking and tramping

4-5 days Advanced: Tramping track

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Description

Warning: Throughout this circuit, there are river and stream crossings that become hazardous in heavy rain or snowmelt. Make sensible decisions about river crossings, and have alternative plans.

Pay particular attention to: Muddy, Arthurs and Twenty Five Mile creeks in the Rees, unbridged creeks between Dart Hut and Daleys Flat Hut, and Surveyors Creek in the lower Dart.

Places to stay

Huts

There are three DOC huts on the track, serviced with solid fuel fires for heating, mattresses and running water. Trampers should carry their own cookers.

Hut wardens are present on the tracks from late October until mid April.

Backcountry Hut Tickets or an Annual Hut Pass must be purchased in advance fromDOC offices or approved outlets.

Trampers are expected to leave the huts clean and tidy, and to pack out what they pack in, as there are no rubbish disposal facilities on the track. 

Camping

Camping is permitted, except in the fragile alpine and sub-alpine areas between Shelter Rock Hut and Dart Hut. Camping is not permitted on Cascade Saddle but is permitted on the glacial bench above the Dart Glacier.

To camp by any of the three huts there is a fee of $5 per night for adults and $2.50 per night for children – if camping here use the hut toilet. If camping elsewhere bury all human waste carefully.

Muddy Creek to park boundary

Time: 4 - 5 hr, 12 km

Take the vehicle track from Muddy Creek and follow the marker poles across the boggy section beyond Arthurs Creek.

A side trip to the Kea Basin begins on the other side of the Rees River north of the picturesque Lennox Falls. Continue up the grassy flats to the swing bridge on the national park boundary.

This track crosses private land. Please respect the landowner’s property and leave all gates as you find them.

Park boundary to Shelter Rock Hut

Time: 2 - 3 hr, 7 km

Warning: Avalanche paths between the upper bushline and Shelter Rock Hut can make travel hazardous from winter to early summer.

There is a marked track through the bush and a swing bridge crossing to the west bank of Rees River. The track continues through beech forest past Clarke Slip to the bush edge.

Above the bush, the track crosses several gullies that are avalanche paths. Take care crossing these gullies in spring and early summer when late snow may still pose a risk. Half an hour up from the bush edge, cross a bridge to the river’s east bank to reach the 22-bunk Shelter Rock Hut.

Shelter Rock Hut.

Shelter Rock Hut

Category: Serviced
Facilities: 22 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served

Shelter Rock Hut to Dart Hut

Time: 4 - 6 hr, 10 km

Warning: The upper Snowy Creek swing bridge is removed each winter and is returned when the snow clears, which can be as late as December. This creek can be hazardous so extreme care must be taken if crossing it. Avalanche paths between the bushline and Dart Hut can make travel hazardous from winter to early summer.

The track between Shelter Rock Hut and Dart Hut is narrow with a number of steep drop-offs, particularly in the upper Snowy Creek. Follow the true left of Rees River as the track goes through scrub then rises about 100 m above the river.

The track sidles into the tussock-filled upper basin and follows the river’s bed. On the final steep climb to the 1471 m Rees Saddle, there is a lightly marked track close to the bluff on the left.

From the saddle, follow the orange markers as the track drops and passes tarns to a tussock bench well above Snowy Creek. From here, the track traverses steep slopes that can be dangerous when wet or snow covered.

A bridge crosses upper Snowy Creek, (see above) and the track sidles across broken slopes before descending sharply. The 32-bunk Dart Hut is on Snowy Creek’s true left and can be reached via another bridge.

Dart Hut.

Dart Hut

Category: Serviced
Facilities: 32 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served

Dart Hut to Dart Glacier/Cascade Saddle

Dart Glacier. Photo: Neville Peat.
Dart Glacier

Time: 4 - 5 hr, 10 km (one way)

The Dart Glacier and Cascade Saddle make for a challenging but rewarding day trip from Dart Hut. Cross the Snowy Creek Bridge and follow the metal poles and rock cairns northward along the Dart River and the edge of Dart Glacier.

If you want to reach the Matukituki valley by this route, carry a copy of the brochure Cascade Saddle Route but be aware that the route is recommended in the reverse direction, starting from the Matukituki. This alpine crossing only suits experienced trampers with alpine skills and should not be
attempted in adverse weather. Steep snow-grass slopes on the Matukituki side become treacherous when wet or snow covered. Even in summer, snow may affect this area.

Allow 8-10 hours for the crossing from Dart Hut to Aspiring Hut.

Note: Side creeks can rise quickly through both rain, and snow melt on hot days.

Dart Hut to the Whitbourn Valley

Time: 2 - 4 hr, 7 km (one way)

Warning: The swing bridge across the Dart River has been removed due to flood damage and will be replaced in the near future. Trampers wishing to access the Whitbourn Valley must now ford the river. This could be extremely hazardous in heavy rain or snowmelt – we recommend you talk to a DOC ranger before attempting this crossing.

The Whitbourn Glacier can be visited as a day trip from Dart Hut. The Whitbourn River joins the Dart River half an hour downstream from Dart Hut. A track, currently not signposted while the bridge is under repair, leads through and above the bush, and cairns lead onto the glacier’s snout.

Dart Hut to Daleys Flat

Time: 5 - 7 hr, 18 km

From Dart Hut, it is an easy 2- to 3-hour sidle and descent through beech forest to Cattle Flat. A faint track marked by metal poles leads across the 4 kilometres of Cattle Flat, crossing terraces and gullies and is followed by a well marked track through beech forest to 20-bunk Daleys Flat Hut.

Note: Unbridged side streams can rise quickly with heavy rain making crossings dangerous.

Daleys Flat Hut. Photo: Eiji Kitai.

Daleys Flat Hut

Category: Serviced
Facilities: 20 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served

Daleys Flat to Chinamans carpark

Time: 5 hr 30 min - 7 hr 30 min, 16 km 

Landslides in 2014 created a lake over Dredge Flat and parts of the old track. A new temporary route travels above the lake; however streams that cross this rough new section make it impassable in heavy rain.

The track returns to its original course at Sandy Bluff - beware of the 60-metre drop below the track to the Dart River - before descending to another new section at Sandy Flat where the river has changed course. A benched track around Chinamans Bluff leads to grassy flats and the car park, 2-3 hours from Sandy Bluff.

Chinamans road end to Paradise

Time: 2 hr, 6 km 

A 6-kilometre fine-weather road leads to Paradise, crossing Chinamans Flat, forests and Dans Paddock before entering forests again and descending to farmland at Mill Flat.

During heavy rain, the road floods, preventing vehicle access beyond Paradise. Trampers may need to walk to Paradise to meet transport.


Related link

Lord of the Rings filming locations - Dan's Paddock was a location for Isengard

Getting there

The Rees track begins 68 km from Queenstown, via Glenorchy, and there is a car ark at Muddy Creek. It is possible to take 4WD vehicles beyond Muddy Creek, but as Muddy Creek is prone to sudden washouts which make it impassable, it is not advisable to leave vehicles for any length of time on the other side.

The Dart track begins 76 km from Queenstown via Glenorchy. A 2WD road extends to Chinamans Bluff, however this is a fine weather road only and subject to washouts and flooded creeks.

Jet boats service the Dart section of the track, and buses service both tracks – contact transport operators for their schedules.

Maps

NZTopo50 - Sheets CA10 and CB10

Transport operators

Buckley Transport
Muddy Creek (Rees Valley) and Chinaman's Bluff (Dart Valley) to/from: Queenstown
Phone: +64 3 442 8215
Email: info@buckleytransport.co.nz
Website: www.buckleytransport.co.nz

Info & Track / Backpacker Express
Muddy Creek (Rees Valley) and Chinaman's Bluff (Dart Valley) to/from: Queenstown, Glenorchy
Phone: +64 3 442 9708
Email: adventure@infotrack.co.nz
Website: www.infotrack.co.nz

Glenorchy Journeys  
Muddy Creek (Rees Valley) and Chinaman's Bluff (Dart Valley) to/from: Queenstown, Glenorchy
Phone: +64 3 409 0800  
Free Phone: 0800 49 56 87 (within NZ)
Email: office@glenorchyjourneys.co.nz 
Website: www.glenorchyjourneys.co.nz

Dart River Jet Safaris
Jet Boat from Sandy Bluff to Glenorchy
Phone: 0800 327 853 (From within New Zealand) +64 3 442 9992 (From outside New Zealand)
Email: info@dartriverjetsafaris.co.nz  
Website: www.dartriverjetsafaris.co.nz

Know before you go

Swing bridge over flood waters, Snowy River. Photo: Neville Peat.
Swing bridge over flood waters,
Snowy River

Plan properly for your trip and make sure your group has a capable leader.

All trampers need to carry a sleeping bag, cooking utensils, sufficient food, a waterproof raincoat and over trousers, gloves, a hat and several layers of warm clothes. Physical fitness and good equipment will make all the difference to your enjoyment of the trip.

Keep to the track. If you become lost, find shelter, stay calm and try to assist searchers.

In winter the tracks are impassable to all but experienced mountaineers, due to heavy snow, especially in the Upper Rees and Snowy Creek area.

Avalanche paths between upper bush line and Shelter Rock Hut can make travel hazardous in late spring and early summer. Check with a Department of Conservation Visitor Centre for information on snow conditions and avalanche risk in late winter and early spring.

From May to November the Upper Snowy bridge is removed requiring a river crossing. There may also be avalanche danger in the Upper Snowy catchment in winter. 

Always cross streams and rivers with care. Side streams and rivers can rise quickly after heavy rain. Trampers should pay particular attention to: Muddy Creek, Arthurs Creek and Twenty Five Mile Creek in the Rees, unbridged creeks between Dart Hut and Daleys Flat Hut, and Surveyors and Spaniard Creeks in the Lower Dart.

The track between Shelter Rock and Dart Hut is a marked route only, is narrow with a number of steep drop offs - particularly in the Upper Snowy Creek.

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

Fires are to be only lit in recognised fireplaces. Do not cut down or use live vegetation. Make sure the fire is out before leaving the area. Keep fires small and have billies of water nearby. It is recommended that trampers use gas stoves for cooking.

Water is generally safe to drink but hut users may wish to boil or sterilise it for their own protection.

Fishing

There are limited opportunities for trout fishing in the mid Rees, and in some tributaries and parts of the Dart River.

Fishing licences can be obtained from Fish & Game NZ, there is a limited open season from 1 November to 31 May with a bag limit of one fish.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed in the Lower Dart Conservation Area – Dan’s Paddock, but must be on a lead.

History and natural history

History

The Rees (Puahere) and Dart Valleys were well known to the Kāi Tahu people of Southland and the Otago Coast. They journeyed here to collect the highly valued, pearly grey-green inanga variety of pounamu (greenstone) from the Dart and Routeburn Valleys. In their search for pounamu Kāi Tahu often undertook major journeys, across mountain passes such as Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track and the Greenstone Saddle on the Greenstone Track.

Early explorers recorded that even West Coast Kāi Tahu crossed the Southern Alps to obtain pounamu from the Dart Valley. All pounamu in situ is legally owned by Te Runanga. Other aspects of the iwi (tribal) relationship with this area have been recognised in the settlement of its long standing land claims.

The Glenorchy and Kinloch area was a meeting and resting place for Māori parties travelling to and from the West Coast.  More than 30 Māori sites occur within 20 kilometres of Glenorchy, which was known as Kotapahau, the place of revenge killing.

At the best known camp site, beside the Dart Bridge, excavations have shown that Kāi Tahu used the area continuously from about 500 years ago. A few moa were hunted, cabbage tree stems were cooked in deep ovens, and pounamu tools were made using flaking techniques, rather than by sawing and grinding.

Among the first Europeans to explore the Rees-Dart area were Government surveyors, gold prospectors and run holders in search of new grazing lands.

James McKerrow finished the first reconnaissance survey in 1863. By this time, a large number of gold prospectors and miners were at the head of the lake, and a party of five miners led by Patrick Caples made the first record of the Dart Glacier.

The Rees Valley, Dart and Earnslaw sheep runs were all established during the 1870s. 

A gold dredge operated on the Dart River, in the area now known as Dredge Flat, from 1899 until 1902. The dredge was then sent to the Victorian goldfields in Australia, after being pulled out of the valley by 19 horses. The remains of the pontoon can still be seen at Dredge Flat.

Tōpuni sites

As part of the Deed of Settlement agreed to by the Crown and Ngāi Tahu, two areas, Pikirakatahi (Mt Earnslaw) and Te Koroka (Slip Stream), have been given the status of Tōpuni. These are areas of special significance to Ngāi Tahu. A Tōpuni does not override or alter the existing status of the land but ensures that the Ngāi Tahu values are recognised, acknowledged, and provided for.

Natural history

The rocks of the Rees and Dart Valleys are green and grey schists, which are metamorphic rocks formed about 220-270 million years ago from ancient sea floor sediments which have been altered by heat and pressure.

The present landscape of the area has been shaped by glaciation. The Dart Glacier is now a small valley glacier but at the peak of the last ice age, about 18,000 years ago, it was part of an enormous glacier system that terminated at Kingston, at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, about 135 km from its present location. Huge moraine walls in the upper Dart Valley beyond Dart Hut show the previous extent of the glacier and how much it has receded even in the last few hundred years.

Southern beech, or Nothofagus, dominates the forest. Red beech is found on the warm valley floor of the Dart Valley, while mountain and silver beech dominate the rest of the Dart Valley and the Rees Valley.

Cold air draining from the Dart Glacier has depressed the treeline in the Dart Valley to about 900 m, 200 m lower than elsewhere in the region.

Above the treeline, tussock grasslands dominate, interspersed by the dramatic flowering spikes of the aptly named speargrass, and spring and summer flowering herbs such as mountain buttercups and daisies.

The Dart Valley is notable for its sizeable populations of the endangered mōhua, or yellowhead, and kākā, and the presence of long-tailed bats. Other forest birds such as kākāriki or parakeet, robin, tomtit, fantail and brown creeper thrive in both valleys.

Kea. Photo copyright: Timothy Ensom (DOC USE ONLY).
Kea can be seen on the Rees-Dart Track

Two particularly striking inhabitants of the valleys are the cheeky kea in alpine areas, and the paradise ducks on the grassy river flats.

Rock wrens can be heard, if not seen, on Rees Saddle, and whio, or blue duck, are occasionally seen in the turbulent upper reaches of the rivers.

Invertebrates are abundant, especially the ubiquitous sandfly in the beech forest and grassy flats, and energetic grasshoppers in the alpine areas.

Alpine wetas are also present in the Rees Saddle and upper Dart areas.

Contacts

Whakatipu-wai-Māori / Queenstown Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 3 442 7935
Address:   50 Stanley Street
Queenstown
9300
Email:   queenstownvc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
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