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Nelson Creek is an excellent spot to go walking, camping and exploring. With historic water races, tunnels, recreational gold fossicking and a number of short walks, there is plenty to do.

Track overview

900 m - 2 km

Walking and tramping

20 min - 1 hr 30 min Easiest: Easy access short walk

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


Family on Nelson Creek suspension bridge.  Photo: Verity Forbes
Nelson Creek suspension bridge

Nelson Creek has a number of short walks to choose from, including the wheelchair accessible Colls Dam Walk.

To find the starting point for the walks, walk through an old hand picked tunnel and cross the Nelson Creek suspension bridge.

Callaghans Track

Time to the lookout: 30 min, one way
Distance: 1.3 km, one way

Time to Prices Creek Road: 45 min, one way
Distance: 2 km, one way

This easy to moderate track climbs steadily to a mossy knoll lookout point where you get a view into the bush clad valleys on either side of the ridge. On the way to the lookout point the track crosses a couple of deep tail races and a large water race as well as passing through regenerating beech.

As the track climbs the forest is mostly podocarp/hardwood with rimu, miro, rata, quintinia and kamahi being the most common species. After the lookout point, the track levels out and eventually links with Prices Creek Road- a forestry road. Return by the same route.

Tailrace Walk

Time: 20 min return
Distance: 900 m 

This short walk crosses a number of impressive tailraces. Old gold workings are also visible throughout the red and silver beech which are the dominant tree species.

Colls Dam Walk

This walk has wheelchair access

Time: 40 min loop track
Distance: 1.1 km

This high quality walk must be started from Gows Creek carpark if you wish to get wheelchair access.

The walk takes in some good examples of tailraces and tailings as well as providing a pleasant lookout point above the historic Colls Dam.

Getting there

From Greymouth follow SH 7 about 25 km North to Ngahere. Turn right at the Ngahere-Kopara Road and carry on to the Nelson Creek Settlement. The turn off to access the picnic, camping area and walks is opposite Nelson Creek Hotel.

Nature and conservation

The forest in the Nelson Creek area, which is predominantly beech, is now regenerating. It was felled in the past to provide fuel and timber for huts, fluming and other mining structures, and was used in farming to a small degree.

Red and silver beech can be seen on the lower slopes and hard beech on the higher slopes.


The Nelson Creek area is formed from layers of sandstone overlaid by glacial outwash gravels. Gold was concentrated in trough-like hollows on the surface of the sandstone.

Ground sluicing was the main method of working the gold. Sluicing needed a good supply of water which was directed over the working face, washing the gravels out.

Large rocks were lifted aside and stacked as tailings, while the smaller material was washed down tailraces containing riffle boxes to 'save' the gold. Tailraces were also essential to remove excess water from the working area.

History and culture

Nelson Creek has had a varied goldmining history of success and decline from its beginnings in 1865, when it was rushed as a shallow creek working, which yielded shotty course gold. Some areas were rich in gold but finds were patchy.

At the height of the rush over 1200 miners were scattered throughout Try Again Terrace downstream from Nelson Creek, but numbers fell almost immediately, once the productive ground was worked out.

Nelson Creek suspension bridge

The suspension bridge crossing Nelson Creek is a historic bridge.  It was originally built in 1872 and has been rebuilt a couple of times, most recently by the New Zealand Forest Service in 1982 using the original plans.

Know before you go

  • You should wear comfortable footwear and take wet weather clothes as the West Coast is known for sudden changes in weather. 
  • Wasps will be present through out this area in summer.
  • Take care off formed tracks as shafts and tunnels are scattered throughout the area.


Māwhera / Greymouth Office
Phone:      +64 3 768 0427
Full office details
Reefton Visitor Centre i-SITE Information Centre
Phone:      +64 3 732 8391
Full office details
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