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Otaki Gorge and Forks
Ōtaki Gorge survey party including Morgan Carkeek. Image courtesy of Otaki Historical Society Collection.
Location: Ōtaki Gorge Road, Ōtaki
Ōtaki Forks is the main western entrance to the Tararua Forest Park. Two tributaries, the Waiotauru River and Waitatapia Stream, meet the Ōtaki River here. The Gorge is dominated by Mount Hector. It was a well used Māori route to and from the Wairarapa and a convenient access for raiding parties. The first European to climb Mount Hector was Morgan Carkeek in 1865. He also made the first traverse of the Tararuas.
In 1878, the Crown purchased this area. It was later transferred to the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, which put it up for sale in 1889. Bush milling began and, in 1893, a track to Ōtaki Forks was completed. Settlers began clearing the land in 1906 and over the next ten years the Waihoanga and Taungata suspension bridges were built, a post office opened, the Gorge Road was completed, the Gorge telephone was installed, and a track was established through to Greytown.
The stone walls featured throughout Ōtaki Gorge were built from rocks lying in the surrounding fields. The rocks were known as ‘Hautere turnips’. Unemployed relief workers built the walls between 1930 and 1936. During this period, hillside gold mining was undertaken by the Seventh Day Adventists and an orphanage was opened.
Today, Ōtaki Gorge provides visitors with an opportunity to enjoy many outdoor activities throughout the Tararua Forest.