Find out about the natural history of Te Urewera and the plants and animals you can see there today.

For centuries Te Urewera has been home to the Tuhoe people or the 'Children of the Mist' in reference to the tradition that they are the offspring of Hine-puhoku-rangi - the celestial mist maiden. Tuhoe traditions are strong and their links with this land run deep.

The area is formed from young mudstone, siltstone and sandstone, mostly about 10 -15 million years old. These sediments were originally part of the sea floor, but about two million years ago uplift brought them above sea level. Erosion has since created major valleys like Aniwaniwa, Whakatane, Waimana and extensive ridges like Panekire.

Major geological faults show as zones of weaker rock along which the main north flowing rivers (Whakatane and Waimana/Tauranga) have carved their valleys. The western escarpment of the Ikawhenua Range - a striking feature seen on the approach to Te Urewera from Murupara - is also a major fault where the volcanic crust of the central North Island has pulled away from the uplifted block of mountain country to the east.

In the southern part of Te Urewera lie two of its treasures, Lakes Waikaremoana and the smaller Lake Waikareiti. Waikaremoana was formed 2,200 years ago by a huge landslide, which blocked a narrow gorge along the Waikaretaheke River. Water backed up behind this landslide to form a lake up to 248 m deep. In 1946 a hydroelectric development lowered the lake level by 5 m.

The land left exposed when the lake was lowered is slowly regenerating while all around the lake misty mountains stretch off into the distance, cloaked in ancient podocarp and beech forests.

The vegetation of Te Urewera is a green cloak, mantling countless ridges. There are more than 650 species of native plant present in Te Urewera. The forest is comprised of mainly beech forest in the southern end and a mix of predominant rimu and tawa in the north. The vegetation pattern is not static; over the years volcanic activity, fire and storms have all left their mark. Introduced possums and deer cause significant change and hunting of these species is encouraged.

As much of Te Urewera is remote and not easily accessible this has helped protect much of its native wildlife. Te Urewera is unique in that it contains a full complement of North Island native forest birds (except weka) including threatened species like kiwi, kokako, kaka, falcon and the distinctive whio or blue duck. The northern part of Te Urewera has the largest remaining kokako population in New Zealand.

Te Urewera Mainland Island

Te Urewera Mainland Island is one of a number of mainland islands set up to protect and restore habitats through intensive management of introduced pests.

Find out more about Te Urewera Mainland Island.

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