The Otaki River Gorge is popular for rafting and kayaking. It is a grade 2 river.
Ōtaki Forks is the main western entrance to the Tararua Forest Park.
It is 19 km inland from Ōtaki township – approx. 1½ hour drive from Wellington or Palmerston North.
Schoolhouse Flat camping area is set amongst bush and grassy terraces. Pay at caretaker’s house or on request.
Open river terraces and regenerating bush surrounding the forks reflect the farming and sawmilling history.
The steam powered sawmill at Sheridan Creek, Ōtaki Forks, operated from 1930 to 1938. It was a shoestring operation and worker safety was not a priority. But during the depression employees were pleased to have a job.
Logs were brought down a bush tramway by a rail tractor, the route included the steepest grade (1 in 5) recorded on a bush tram. There were several accidents.
The operation closed unexpectedly in 1938 when a flood washed out the bridges. Much has survived and it is a relatively complete timber industry heritage site. The site is managed as a remote experience ‘discovery’ site.
Restoration work has included the rust arrest of the log hauler and timber mill boiler. Two sections of original tramway have been excavated, placed onto new sleepers and treated with metal preservatives. The turntable has also been rebuilt.