Oct 03 1991

Walk down Lake Roxburgh

A walk containing the largest number and best preserved examples of Chinese rock shelters in Otago
runs between Alexandra and Roxburgh.
Depending on how far you want to travel along the walk and how much time you want to spend exploring the gold workings, the route can take anything from half a day to an overnight trip.
The walk is a round trip down Lake Roxburgh and returns via Shanty Creek and the original Knobbie Range road from Roxburgh to Alexandra.
No special equipment is needed apart from good walking shoes, a day pack with food and drink and a parka. The walk is unsuitable for young children and the not-so-able.
To get to the start of the walk, cross the road-rail bridge from Alexandra and walk south to Sanders’ Orchard. Walk around the orchard’s top outside fence to the old Graveyard Gully pioneer cemetery where you will see the walk.
The track follows an old bridle track for the first few kilometres, and there is a similar bridle track with reveted rock walls on the opposite bank. These paths were constructed in the 1880s to supply coal to gold dredges working the river.
In the first 4km to Butcher’s Point there are only a few rock shelters and huts, most in a ruined state.
The vegetation is mainly thyme covering the rocky slopes, and also some sweet brier and matagouri. Poplars mark the locations of early habitation sites.
Just before Coleman’s Creek, the track comes to two huts, “leaky Lodge” and “Mary Ann’s”. Downstream of the creek is a complex of tailings, water races and rammed earth and stone dam.
The Coleman’s Creek workings make a good turning-back point for walkers with limited time and energy. About 1km below Butcher’s Point is the Narrows, which used to be the site of a big rapid in the river. Beyond this the river widens out to the Island Basin.
There are numerous rock shelters and stone huts in this section of the walk. One of the more notable is “Jimmy Richardson’s” at the end of the Island Basin.
A puzzling feature in this area is the large concrete posts set at regular intervals down the gorge. These mark the location of profiles of the lake bed, used to measure the amount of silting of the lake.
Next a bluff falls into the lake, and the route traverses a series of ledges and aimal tracks through this bluff. The “Maltese Cross” cottage is the next hut, located in a grove of tall poplars. Behid this is a rock shelter known as “Blackman’s Cave”.
At least two hours are needed to explore the Doctor’s Point workings. The area was originally worked in the 1880s and again in the 1930s when the Government introduced a subsidised relief scheme to grubstake gold mining.
Many of the original huts and rock shelters were upgraded by the 80 minders who worked the gorge during the Depression.
The lower workings consist of a formation of parallel stacked tailings. Water for the sluicing was conveyed to the site by two stone races from Shanty Creek. Above the workings is a rammed earth holding dam with stone buttresses that looks like a fort viewed from the lake-shore.
Near the lake are three stone huts, still in good condition. Upstream is an eel-smoking chimney.
The upper workings consist of tunnels (now collapsed) with their spoil dumps and tip heads. A cable-way, steel ┬árails and a wooden slide remain. There is also a blacksmith’s forge site.
Past Doctor’s Point at Shanty Creek is a hut that sleeps four.
From the hut is a four-wheel-drive track that meets the old Knobbie Range wago road. This was the original road between Roxburgh and Alexandra before the present west bank route was constructed in the 1870s. It is impossible for ordinary cars.
From the Shanty Creek ford the track climbs up to a plateau of rock-strewn landscape. This is the dry heart of Central Otago, stark and barren to some, but with its own beauty. It is certainly a unique landscape.
Over the top, the track drops 400m on a gentle grade back down to the graveyard. There are extensive views of the Clyde-Alexandra basin from the track. It is easy to imagine the excitement of the “diggers” in 1862 when, after an arduous journey from the Tuapeka, they came across the same view of the Dunstan goldfield.
Lower down, the track passes through a belt of rabbit-devastated country with bare eroded ground between circular mats of scrubweed.
– Part cut-out. Page 10 – Section 4, Otago Daily Times, Friday December 1. (No year noted! – would have been after 1990.)
Alexandra – Millers Flat.
Recreate historic past.

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