The Whanganui River
The Whanganui River is the third longest river in AOTEAROA (NEW ZEALAND).
It originates as an alpine stream high on Mt Tongariro, gaining strength from waters flowing from Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. It then descends through the Central Volcanic Plateau towards Taumarunui, and then sweeps to the southwest towards Whanganui and the Tasman Sea.
A watershed of 7382 square kilometres river combines to become the Whanganui River.
The land surrounding the river is around one million years old. Formed of soft sandstone and mudstone (papa), from the ocean. Evidence of this can be seen throughout the National
Before the first Europeans ventured upstream in exploration, the Maori people had travelled the Whanganui River for centuries. When early Europeans discovered the scenic beauty of the Whanganui they nicknamed it the "Rhine of the South Pacific” or “the Rhine of New Zealand".
Riverboats carried a steady stream of tourists from Whanganui to Pipiriki and Tangarakau, then on to Whakahoro and Taumarunui. Until recent times, the Whanganui River was the main route into New Zealand's North Island interior.
The river has a fascinating and exciting history of wars, steamboat navigation, floating houseboat, water-driven flour mills and abandoned homes and farms.
As soldiers returned from the First World War, the Whanganui became the only means of reaching the new farms being developed along its banks and tributaries, including the ill-fated Mangapurua Valley - home of the famous Bridge to Nowhere.
The Second World War saw the importance of the Whanganui riverboats diminish as a means of transportation and 1958 saw the last of these historic craft (the M.V.Waireka).
They were replaced by jet boats, which opened the river to a new wave of traffic. Over time traffic has dropped again and, normally, only a few commercial jet boats are now seen.
Recreational canoeists are now the main users of this unique river.
The river flows through the largest remaining areas of untouched lowland forest in the North Island of New Zealand.
Vegetation is luxurious with small trees, shrubs and ferns lining the river edge. Manuka, Flax, Raupo and Cabbage Trees are just a few of the native plants and trees you will see.
Stands of the larger native trees - Totara, Kahikatea, Matai, Miro and Rimu - also grace the banks of the river, so keep watchful eye out round the twists, winds and bends.