Karangahake Windows Walk

The Windows Walk in the Karangahake Gorge is a short walk through an area with relics from a gold mining period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The walk can be done as a loop, with the windows section in one direction and the Crown Tramway Track in the other direction, both of them running parallel to the Waitawheta River, near the junction with Ohinemuri River. Numerous information panels describe some of the history of the area, with photos of the extensive buildings which once were located here.

The walk is easily accessible from a parking area off State Highway 2 at the western end of Karangahake Gorge. Toilets are located by the parking area. Information about the walk can be found on the Department of Conservation web site. A torch is very strongly recommended for walking through the mine tunnel with the windows looking into the Waitawheta Gorge. The Crown Tramway Track may be closed during heavy rain or when there have been rockfalls, and the underground pumphouse mentioned on the DoC web site has been closed off for several years now.

The total distance walked on the loop was about 2.1km, for a total time of 45 minutes, including plenty of time for photos.

The parking area was completely full, as were the two overflow parking areas further west off SH2, so cars were parked nearby on SH2. The toilets are at the far end of the carpark. SH2 is off picture on the right, with Ohinemuri River on the left.

A plaque by the parking area commemorates 100 years of Ohinemuri County in 1985, and shows the location of some of the items which were located on the other side of the river, including water races, Woodstock Battery, Talisman Battery, Crown Tramway, and Tramway Hotel.

From the carpark there are two suspension bridges to cross to access the Windows Walk. The first suspension bridge, shown here, crosses the Ohinemuri River. The summit of Mount Karangahake is almost directly above the left hand end of the DoC sign.

The second suspension bridge, crossing the Waitawheta River, can be seen on the left. Various tracks radiate from this point just after crossing the first bridge. 

On the far side of the second bridge the track to the Windows Walk branches off to the right with a set of steps.

After a short climb there is a branch in the track. The steps continue directly on to the Woodstock Tramway and the track to the right continues to the tramway via the Talisman Battery ruins. The direct route gives easy access to the lookout, so that’s the route followed today.

A short section of steep tramway runs alongside the steps on the way to the Woodstock Tramway.

One of the many information panels which are located in the area. This one showing details, layout and photos of the Talisman Battery. There are still numerous concrete pads and steel components from the battery in the area.

At the Woodstock Tramway level the track to the left goes to the lookout, past some ore kilns, and the track to the right follows the tramway into the Windows Walk.

View from the lookout to the Ohinemuri River, the carpark, and SH2 on the right.

The round holes alongside the tramway tracks were used as ore kilns. These were filled with layers of wood and quartz rock, which would be easier to crush after the wood was burned and the rocks had been heated. The ore and ash was removed through access tunnels from the bottom of the holes.

Heading to the Windows Walk along the tramway the steps down to the Talisman Battery ruins branches off to the right.

Remains of one of the ore wagons used on the tramway.

A short tunnel for the tramway on the way to the actual windows tunnel. There is a low roof height.

Looking down from the first of the windows to the Waitawheta River and the bridge crossing over to the Crown Tramway track.

This tunnel, just across from the first window, is one of the few which is still open to the public. It’s possible to walk some distance into the tunnel, which branches off in two directions. A torch is definitely required.

One of the windows is some distance from the tramway tunnel. The ore and other rock could be run along the tramway and emptied out through the window at the far end down into the river.

View from the window down to the river and the bridge.

The last of the four windows along the length of the windows tunnel, with information about the Crown Tramway, and a congratulatory sign from the DoC Kiwi Guardians, a conservation programme for Kiwi kids.

The exit from the southern end of the Windows Walk tunnel.

From the exit a set of 72 steps leads down to the track to Dickey’s Flat and to the bridge across Waitawheta River to Crown Tramway track.

The pipeline track continuing on to Dickey’s Flat.

The track in the opposite direction to the bridge across the river to Crown Tramway track.

The bridge across Waitawheta River to Crown Tramway track.

The windows are visible on the cliff face across from the tramway track.

The track to the underground pumphouse have been closed for some time. There is no indication that it will open anytime soon.

The Crown Tramway was cut directly into a sheer rock face.

The Crown Tramway track follows alongside the Waitawheta River.

Approaching the end of the Crown Tramway track.

The end of the tramway track back at the suspension bridge across Ohinemuri River. Numerous remains from the gold mining days can be found here. 

The sheer rock faces, narrow gorge and tunnels make GPS reception somewhat hit and miss. But the GPS tracklog shows more or less the route taken, with the loop walked in a clockwise direction. Total distance about 2.1 km, with a time of 45 minutes. For a longer walk this walk could be combined with the rail tunnel loop walk or with any of the other walks in the area.

The aerial photo from Google Maps shows approximately the same area, but is of poor quality due to dark shadows in the gorge.

The topographic map excerpt also shows approximately the same area.

The tracks were walked on October 3, 2020 and on numerous previous occasions. For some reason I just forgot to make a post about this particular Karangahake Gorge walk.

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