Mt Kendall, Biggs Tops
Image: Ingrid Booiman | Creative Commons
The Leslie-Karamea Track is a tramping track. It is marked but not benched, and quite rough in places. Many of the streams along the track are not bridged and flood-prone.
It is a 3–4 day link through the earthquake-torn Karamea Valley, between Flora Car Park and the Wangapeka Track; 6–9 days are needed to get from road end to road end.
Mountain biking is allowed from Flora Saddle to Barron Flat. View Flora Saddle to Barron Flat Track.
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Time: 4 hr 30 min
Distance: 13.2 km
From the car park at the road end (36 km from Motueka), the track leads over Flora Saddle, past Flora Hut and up to Salisbury Lodge on the Tablelands. Just beyond the lodge is the sign where the Leslie-Karamea track itself begins.
Time: 6 hr
Distance: 18 km
From the Leslie-Karamea Track sign, a line of poles runs to the bush edge at the top of Leslie Hill and begins descending to the Leslie River. After about one hour downhill, Splugeons Rock Shelter is reached.
Beyond the shelter the track drops steeply to the Leslie River, crossing via a swingbridge. It then follows the true left bank down to Karamea Bend Hut.
Time: 3 hr 30 min
Distance: 9.7 km
The track heads up the Karamea River on the true right bank, crossing Slippery Creek and a clearing, the Little Backwash and the Big Backwash. Just over the Crow River swingbridge is Crow Hut. When the Karamea River is low, it is possible to follow the riverbed from Karamea Bend almost to the Crow.
Time: 2 hr
Distance: 5.9 km
The track continues on the true right bank for about one hour to a bridge across the Karamea River. Across on the left bank the track sometimes scrambles around the riverside but mostly stays on forested terraces alongside the river to Venus Hut.
Time: 2 hr
Distance: 5.7 km
This section follows the river terraces, sometimes merging with the riverside and riverbed. Mercury Creek, about 30 minutes above Venus Hut, is a major side stream spanned by a swingbridge. Near Atlas Creek the track hugs the cliffs above the river and is fairly narrow. Thor Hut is just across Thor Creek, on the edge of a slip caused by the 1929 Murchison Earthquake.
Time: 3 hr 30 min
Distance: 9.5 km
Upriver from Thor Hut the track climbs and makes a long sidle, crossing several earthquake-triggered slips where care is needed. One of these slips, which came down Apollo Creek from Mt Kendall (1762m), dammed the Karamea River forming Moonstone Lake. The lake backs up for almost three kilometres and some of the trees drowned during its formation still stand as naked trunks.
At the head of the lake continue on the true left of the Karamea River to Kendall Creek, which divides into several streams near its mouth and is dangerous when in flood. The track rounds a granite spur and crosses a grassy flat to the old Trevor Carter Hut site (hut removed in 2003). Cross the swingbridge onto the true right of the Karamea River and walk downstream for 15 minutes to Trevor Carter Hut.
When the Karamea River is running low, an alternative track is signposted to Trevor Carter Hut on the main track before reaching Kendall Creek.
There are several options to get from the Leslie-Karamea Track to the Wangapeka Track, depending on the weather, river levels and fitness. The usual, and most direct, are from Trevor Carter Hut up Lost Valley Creek or the Karamea River itself.
Note: heavy rainfall in October 2012 has created large slips, a new lake and destroyed a bridge on the Wangapeka Track. For more information see Nelson/Tasman alerts.
Time: 1 hr 30 min
Follow Lost Valley Creek up to a saddle and then drop back down to the Karamea River, crossing it to Helicopter Flat Hut.
Time: 1 hr
Follows the true right of the Karamea River, crossing below Saxon Falls and climbing to the Wangapeka Track at Tabernacle Lookout.
Time: 45 min
It is possible to join the Wangapeka Track at the Taipo swingbridge by following the true left bank of the Karamea River after crossing the swinbridge 15 min from Trevor Carter Hut. In flood conditions this may be the only option.
Time: 5 hr
A marked route leads from Trevor Carter Hut over Biggs Tops, joining the Wangapeka Track at Wangapeka Saddle.
Time: 2 days
Follow the Karamea River upstream, past Helicopter Flat Hut (standard, 10 bunk) to Wangapeka Saddle (1010 m). The section between Helicopter Hut and Stone Hut (standard, 10 bunk) can become impassable after heavy rain. From Wangapeka Saddle follow the Wangapeka River all the way to the road end.
Time: 2 days
Head down the Karamea River to Tabernacle Lookout and around a ridge to the Taipo swingbridge. The track goes up the true left of the Taipo River to just above Taipo Hut, where it crosses the river and climbs steeply (past an emergency shelter) to Little Wanganui Saddle (1110 m). Over the saddle the track drops into the Little Wanganui, following it to the road end.
Time: 4 hr
From the head of the Cobb Reservoir a track climbs up to Cobb Ridge and then heads on to Lake Peel, Balloon Hut (serviced, 14 bunk) and Salisbury Lodge (serviced, 22 bunk).
Time: 8 hr
A tramping track follows the Baton River upstream for three hours to Flanagans Hut (standard, 8 bunk), from where a marked route climbs to Baton Saddle (1370 m). On the Leslie side a tramping track descends to Wilkinson Creek and follows it to the Leslie River, down to the Karamea Bend Hut (standard, 22 bunk).
Roads from Nelson and Motueka meet the Motueka River at Ngatimoti where a bridge crosses to West Bank Road. The unsealed Graham Valley Road climbs steeply to Flora car park where there is a toilet and information shelter.
From Tapawera follow the signposts west to the Wangapeka Valley. The Dart River may not be passable by vehicles after heavy rain. There is an information kiosk and public telephone at Prices Creek, just before the track entrance.
From the West Coast road, turn off at Little Wanganui and drive inland on Wangapeka Road to the car park where the track begins.
A bus service runs from Nelson to Tapawera. From Nelson, Motueka, and Tapawera, on-demand services run to the entrances of the track. Similar services run from the Karamea end, and an air service can take you back to your starting point.
A feathered treasure of this area is the rare whio/blue duck. They survive by feeding on aquatic insects found in fast-flowing, clear mountain streams and rivers. Kea, kaka and kakariki/NZ parakeet are typical birds of the beech forests of the upper Karamea River.
New Zealand Forest Service huts
Thor Hut is the last remaining NZ Forest Service hut in the Upper Karamea. Built in 1969 primarily for trampers, is also served NZ Forest Service hunters.
The NZ Forest Service also built the Crow, Venus and Trevor Carter huts around the same time, but these huts have recently been replaced. The NZ Forest Service was particularly active during the 1960s and 70s developing back country recreation.
The Karamea Valley is for experienced trampers only. Trampers should be well equipped, fit and self-sufficient. Be prepared with warm, waterproof clothing and extra food.
Rivers can rise and fall very quickly and should not be crossed when swollen. In normal flows unbridged creeks and streams (particularly Mars, Apollo and Kendall Creeks) are easily crossed. However, in flood they can become impassable: you will need to be prepared to wait until floodwaters recede.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Wasps are a known hazard in the area and are particularly common from December to April. Carry antihistamine if you are alergic to their stings.
Remember - safety is your responsibility.