Kopuwai Conservation Area
Image: Gilbert van Reenen | ©
Located in the Otago region
Kopuwai’s 20,000 ha stretch from 800 m above sea level to 1,682 m at the Obelisk/Kopuwai on the Old Man Range. The ranges are dotted with distinctive schist rock tors and bisected by fields of freeze-thaw hummocks and mounds, creating a wave-like effect across the slopes and basins.
The area is rich in Maori and European history. You can find native flora typical for the windy, mountainous region, and observe a variety of birdlife. The Old Man Range is a sub-alpine island for lizards and invertebrates.
The area offers a range of recreation opportunities including:mountain biking, horse riding, 4WD access on formed tracks, discovering gold diggings, cross-country skiing and hunting.
Nestled in the ranges are the headwaters and alpine basins of Campbell Creek and the Pomahaka and Fraser rivers. The ranges are also bisected by steep gullies that add to the area’s remarkable diversity. Hyde Rock is a short walk over a stile offers spectacular views.
The area has several entry points, the Prospect Hill, Omeo Gully Tracks and Symes Road are good examples. Access to the conservation area is on dry-weather, largely un-maintained legal roads. In winter, because of snow and ground conditions they become impassable and are closed.
Kopuwai has several vehicle entry points:
The Duffers Saddle entrance is reached via Bannockburn and the road to the Nevis Valley. Just over the brow, the Old Woman Track goes off to the left and climbs to the Kopuwai entrance about four kilometres away. The Old Woman Hut is just inside Kopuwai’s boundary and vehicles can continue through to Symes Road, Waikaia Road or Piano Flat.
Several access routes cross private land. Respect livestock and property and follow the instructions on DOC signs. Leave gates as you find them and use stiles where they’re provided.
This area is subject to weather extremes at any time of year and roads can become very wet and swampy. DOC’s office in Alexandra can advise on current conditions.
In winter the ranges are blanketed in snow. In summer, warm, pleasant conditions can reverse within minutes with freezing temperatures, high winds and severe, disorientating white-outs. Sensible clothing and footwear is essential.