Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park spans mid and south Canterbury and the Mackenzie Country and Waitaki areas. It encompasses spectacular landscapes of ice-shaped mountains and broad glaciated valleys in the Two Thumb Range.

Place overview


  • Climbing
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Mountain biking
  • Skiing and ski touring
  • Walking and tramping
  • Check clean dry
    Stop the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.

    Remember to Check, Clean, Dry all items before entering, and when moving between, waterways.

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park

About track difficulties
About track difficulties
About hut categories

Fishing, skiing and climbing

The park caters for a wide range of other recreational activities including fishing, skiing (two ski areas in the park), ski touring and mountaineering.

Heritage sightseeing

A historic cemetery on Mesopotamia Station in the headwaters of the Rangitata River holds the last resting place of Dr Andrew Sinclair, Colonial Secretary to the New Zealand Goverment.

Four wheel driving

Horse riding

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    A wide range of flora and fauna can be found in the park, spread throughout the mosaic of habitat types.

    Dobson's speargrass/taramea. Photo: Gottlieb Braun-Elwert.
    Dobson's speargrass/taramea

    Native plants

    The pre-human vegetation was likely to have been mountain tōtara and mountain beech forest/tawhairauriki at the lower altitudes, with tall tussock grasslands and boulder field species at the higher altitudes. Burning has reduced most of the forest cover and the park is now largely covered in spectacular tall snow-tussock grasslands, which create its distinctive golden landscape.

    Forest remnants of mountain beech and occasionally red and yellow mistletoe/pikirangi occur in the steeper valleys on the eastern side of Sinclair Range. Other remnants, particularly in the upper catchments of the Rangitata, seem more typical of West Coast forest, with mountain tōtara, celery pine/mountain toatoa and cedar/pāhautea.

    Rock wren. Photo: J Van Hal.
    Rock wren

    The park provides habitat for the locally endemic Dobson’s speargrass/taramea (Aciphylla dobsonii) and is close to the distributional limit of Hebe buchananii.

    Native animals

    Blue duck/whio. Photo: A Reith.
    Blue duck/whio

    Numerous native birds once lived in this area including Haast’s eagle/pouakai, moa, takahē, South Island goose, kākāpō and adzebill. Many are now extinct. A mix of exotic and native birds remains, spread throughout the mosaic of habitat types ranging from alpine peaks, to the braided rivers bordering the park.

    Notable birds include black stilt/kakī, blue duck/whio (in the tributaries of the upper Rangitata River), New Zealand falcon/kārearea, rock wren/pīwauwau, wrybill/ngutu pare and kea.

    Three species of lizard/ngārara known in the park are the common skink, McCann’s skink and the Southern Alps gecko. There are eight species of grasshoppers/kauwhitiwhiti in Two Thumb Range, including the rare Sigaus villosus. Two species of wētā occur, the large mountain stone wētā (Hemideina maori) and the alpine scree wētā (Deinacrida sp.).

    History and culture

    Tangata Whenua - first people of the land

    Rākaihautū migrated with his people from Hawaiki, landing waka in Whakatū/Nelson. From here the Waitaha people explored, inhabited and named the land.

    Te Kahui Kaupeka takes its name from the ‘gathering place of the waters’ - from the mountain the rivers flow in all directions. Two of the rivers, the Rangitata and Waitaki, form the boundary of Aoraki. The lakes, mountains and rivers are under the guardianship of Kāti Huirapa.

    Macaulay River. Photo: Gilbert van Reenen
    Macaulay River

    On Takapo/Lake Tekapo the island Motuariki is important for Kāti Huirapa as the site of a kaika/village built in the times of Rākaihautū.

    European history

    Pastoral farming dominates the more recent land history and a number of ‘retired’ high country runs have helped form the park.

    One of the runs, ‘Mesopotamia’, was first occupied by Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon. Spending the winter of 1860 in the upper Rangitata before stocking his run he wrote, “We fear it may be snowy . . . but shall have to see it though next winter before we can safely put sheep upon it.” Butler built his original hut at the confluence of Forest and Butler creeks before moving to the site of the present Mesopotamia Station.

    Drowning was so common in early colonial times it was known as ‘the New Zealand death’. One victim was Dr. Andrew Sinclair who was exploring with Dr Julius von Haast. Sinclair drowned crossing the Rangitata and is buried on the Rangitata Flats.

    Getting there

    Eastern - Mesopotamia

    Access to the eastern side of the park is via Rangitata Gorge Road. Four-wheel drive access is possible beyond Mesopotamia Station, up the Rangitata and Havelock rivers.

    Note: Drivers must take great care on these demanding rivers as the track is not marked or defined. River-crossing and four-wheel driving skills are essential.

    Southern Alps gecko. Photo: Marieke Lettink.
    Southern Alps gecko

    Western - Two Thumb Range and Sibbald Range

    Lilybank Road from Lake Tekapo township provides access to Boundary Stream, Roundhill Ski Area road and Coal River. From the Lilybank Road end, four-wheel drive is needed to access the Macaulay and Godley riverbeds.

    Southern - North Opuha

    From Fairlie follow Clayton Road towards Fox Peak Ski Area for easy access into the tops.

    Public access easements

    Make sure you:

    • stay on the marked track
    • leave gates as you find them
    • do not disturb stock.

    Know before you go

    Ayres Shelter/Hut has been removed

    Ayres Shelter/Hut, which is shown on the map in the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park brochure, has been removed due to safety concerns and the next shelter is at Dog Kennel Biv 6 km up the valley.

    Fire restrictions

    Fire restrictions apply to all conservation land. Check with local information centres or DOC offices for the current fire status.

    View information about DOC and fire management

    River crossings – particularly braided rivers

    • Always treat the rivers with respect
    • Never cross a dirty or flooded river
    • River currents are often stronger than they appear
    • Water levels can rise rapidly due to rain in the headwaters; it does not need to be raining at the crossing place
    • Braids of the river can shift and there may be soft sinking sand
    • If in doubt, stay put until conditions improve or turn back.

    Be avalanche aware

    Be aware of avalanche run-out zones from June to November. We recommend carrying avalanche transceivers 457khz, probes and shovels in avalanche terrain.


    Cell phone coverage is patchy and cannot be relied on in the park. The use of satellite phones, mountain radios or personal locator beacons can all provide increased personal safety.

    Further information

    For more information or to report any incidents, issues or sightings of conservation interest, contact the DOC office at either Twizel or Geraldine.


    Raukapuka / Geraldine Office
    Phone:   +64 3 693 1010
    Address:   13 – 15 North Terrace
    Geraldine 7930
    Full office details
    Te Manahuna / Twizel Office
    Phone:   +64 3 435 0802
    Address:   15 Wairepo Road
    Twizel 7901
    Full office details
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