Ahuriri Conservation Park
Located in the Canterbury region
IntroductionYou can explore the mountains, rivers, tussocklands, forests and valuable wetlands of the park by foot, mountain bike and on horseback.
Report illegal vehicle activity within this conservation park to 0800 4258 8427.
Find things to do and places to stay Ahuriri Conservation Park
Most peaks bordering the Ahuriri Valley offer interesting climbs.
Mt Stafford, Peterson and Maitland are all a straightforward scramble in summer.
A more serious objective is Mt Barth which is reached via Canyon Creek. Mts Heim and Rigel can also be climbed from around Canyon Creek.
The highest mountain, Mt Huxley (2505 m) offers several moderate and technical routes for the experienced mountaineer.
The Ahuriri River is internationally renowned for fishing. Rainbow and brown trout are both present in the river. The bag limit is two fish.
The season for the upper Ahuriri River runs from the first Saturday in December until the 30 April.
From the upper Ahuriri to Longslip Station, the river is fly and spin fishing only. Ben Avon Wetlands is fly fishing only.
There are several places you can take your 4WD vehicle on public conservation land around Twizel township. In Ahuriri Conservation Park, 4WD access ends at the road-end car park.
Ahuriri River valley
SH8 to road end
Ahuriri Base Hut
The upper Ahuriri Valley is all public conservation land. In dry conditions, there is two wheel drive vehicle access available up to the Ahuriri Conservation Park boundary. However, a four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary to drive from the boundary to a car park at the road end. DOC is maintaining the four-wheel drive access and will close this road to vehicle use if conditions could create road-base damage. This could occur under very wet conditions or during freeze/thaw cycles in late winter and early spring.
The four-wheel-drive road passes Ahuriri Base Hut (standard, six bunks.)
Camping and toilet facilities are located at the road-end. Beyond this point, there is foot, mountain bike and horse access. There are more camping opportunities in Canyon Creek and the upper valley as well as three more huts to visit.
It is fairly easy to circumnavigate the Upper Ahuriri valley on horseback, a great way to enjoy the spectacular mountain views.
To ensure weeds are not spread within this sensitive environment, please:
- Over-night your horses on local grass (not lucerne or meadow hay) before entering the park;
- Check their hooves for foreign matter before entering the park;
- Do not bring hay or feed grain into the park.
Visit the Quailburn historic site. Quailburn Station was once part of the the largest properties in Otago during the 1870s. Today, you'll find a woolshed, sheep-dip, homestead and some hut ruins dating from 1866.
You can also visit Ohau Moraines Wetland Complex.
Access to the park is via Birchwood Road which leaves SH 8 about 17 km west of Omarama township.
Birchwood Road runs for 21 km up to the park boundary, however Waitaki District Council only maintain it as far as Ben Avon ponds. From there a high clearance 4WD vehicle is required 16 km up to the road end.
Upper Ahuriri Valley 4WD road
This road is subject to frequent washouts and slips during and after periods of heavy rainfall. Heavy snowfall in winter and freeze/thaw cycles in the late winter/early spring can make the road impassable. The road could be closed to vehicle use at these times.
Cell phone coverage cannot be relied on in this region. The use of satellite phones, mountain radios or personal locator beacons can all provide increased personal safety. An emergency phone is signposted off Birchwood Road near Birchwood homestead.
Be aware of weather conditions in catchment headwaters. Do not attempt to cross swollen rivers or streams.
Check the flow of the Ahuriri River if you intend to cross before you go. It is safe to cross when the river flow is 18 cubic metres per second (cumecs) or less.
Crossing rivers: If you plan to cross an unbridged river, you must know how to identify an unsafe river, and where and how to cross safely. You should also be prepared for being unable to cross.
If the river is flooded, you cannot find safe entry and exit points or are unsure it’s safe, do not try to cross. Turn back or wait for the river to drop - this often takes a few hours after rain, so be ready and pack emergency shelter and extra food.
A river is unsafe if there is:
- discoloured water
- debris in the water (such as branches)
- water flowing faster than walking pace
- movement of rocks in the water you can hear
Learn more about river safety on the NZ Mountain Safety Council website.
River care code
- River birds nest on the ground. Their eggs and chicks are almost impossible to spot from a vehicle. Please refrain from driving in riverbeds from August to December.
- Birds swooping, circling or calling loudly probably have nests nearby. Move away so they can return to them, or their eggs and chicks could die.
- A dog running loose can wreak havoc. Leave your dog at home or keep it under strict control.
- Jet boats disturb birds and can wash away nests near the water’s edge. The speed limit for boats is 5 knots within 200 m of the bank.
Because of the danger of falling branches, do not camp under beech trees.
Avalanche run-out zones can impact on the valley floor from May to November. We recommend carrying transceivers 457 khz, probes and shovels in avalanche terrain.
Fire restrictions apply to all DOC land. Check with the Twizel Information Centre or DOC for the current fire status.
River valleys and wetlands in the park are outstanding habitat for many species including the endangered black stilt/kakī, black-fronted tern/tarapirohe, and wrybill/ngutu-pare. The beech/tawhai forests are home to the main forest birds, including the threatened kākāriki/yellow-crowned parakeet, kea and NZ falcon/kārearea.
Native fish recorded in the upper Ahuriri River, include alpine galaxias (Galaxias paucipondylus), koaro (Galaxias brevipinnis), common river galaxias (Galaxias vulgaris), and upland bully (Gobiomorphus breviceps).
The Ahuriri Valley has some diverse wetlands, with large shallow pools, oxbow ponds and river backwaters to fertile swamps and infertile bogs. Oxbow ponds were formed from horseshoe bends left behind when the Ahuriri River changed course.
The variety and number of habitats make the Ahuriri Valley wetlands extremely valuable to wildlife for feeding and reeding - both native fish and birds.
The easiest wetland to visit is Ben Avon, which is right beside Birchwood Road. You can get a good overview of the wetland and wildlife just from your car. A further 4 km up the road are information panels and seating with a stunning vie wo fthe river valley and mountains beyond.