Farming in the High-country
Favorite thing: Lake Tekapo is surrounded by farming stations thousands of hectares in size. The land that makes up these farms consists of both mountainous and low land areas.
Glenmore Station on the western shores of Lake Tekapo, for example, covers nearly half the area of Christchurch City and varies in altitude from 700 to about 2500 metres above sea level, reaching from the lake’s shore high into the the valley of the Cass River.
Such high-country farms are only suitable for the hardiest of men and animals – which, referring to the animals, means: Merino sheep, famous for their fine wool. The merino/possum mix knitware has become a big hit.
In summer the Merino sheep graze in the mountain valleys of the stations. As the winters are very harsh up there the sheep are collected in autumn and taken to lower grounds. This process is called Autumn Muster. It takes about two weeks. The farmers and the musterers scan all valleys, stay in remote huts in the back country, and when they have all sheep together they herd them back to lower ground where spring lambing takes place.
Glenmore Station also offers accommodation in the Glenmore Quarters. Those are located a 15 min drive from Lake Tekapo township. Although I have not tested it personally I can imagine that such a remote place is perfect for people who want to get away from it all.
Rates: $ 80 per night for two, then $25/night each extra person. Groups of 10 and more (max. 16): $25 per person/night.
Cass River and its Braided Bed
Favorite thing: The Cass River flows through one of those fascinating braided river beds Canterbury is famous for.
The river flows into Lake Tekapo on its western shore, about half way between Lake Tekapo township and the northern tip of the lake.
The upper reaches of the river are the summer pastures of the Merino sheep from Glenmore Station.
- Road Trip
Lake Tekapo and its Neighbours
Favorite thing: -
On this photo you can see Lake Tekapo’s neighbour lakes very well. The water (including peninsula) in the foreground is Lake Tekapo, the small one above is Lake McGregor, and again above that is Lake Alexandrina. They are all great spots for trout fishing. (Plus there are many small… I would call them pools, in the area.)
Fondest memory: As I mention fishing… Once I saw something funny. No, funny is perhaps not the right word… At least not from anybody's perspective. Anyway.
An unshaved and most probably also unwashed guy sat right beside the Salmon Farm on the Hydro Canal and fished for salmon, as every now and then a salmon obviously escapes from the farm. They could not do anything against this not very friendly practice – but at least the guy was very friendly and greeted joyfully when I cycled past him.
- Water Sports
- Adventure Travel
The Hydro Canal from the Air
Favorite thing: -
There are two ways the water from Lake Tekapo can get to Lake Benmore (which is one of the storage lakes and power stations of the Waitaki River, further south-east).
(The following info is taken from the website http://www.tekapotourism.com/hydro.htm)
Either it bypasses the Lake Tekapo power station by being released through the control gates on the Tekapo River. The water follows the normally dry riverbed a short distance to a small weir at the power station called Lake George Scott.
From this weir the water can either be diverted into the canal on the output of the power station to continue its journey to the Tekapo-B power station, or the water can bypass two hydro lakes and four power stations in the Upper Waitaki by continuing down the lower Tekapo River to the man-made Lake Benmore.
Either route flows into Lake Benmore and from there the water passes through the Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki power stations before finally completing its journey to the sea.
In periods of heavy rainfall, excess water can be released from the lake through the control gates and then spilled over the slipway at Lake George Scott into the lower Tekapo River and down to Lake Benmore.
Note (from me): This obviously does not happen anymore. Since quite a long time it is reported that the lake levels are so low that a power crisis is looming. At the moment (early September 2008) the lake is only 25 per cent full, the gauges do not even touch the water but are many metres away from the shoreline in a sea of rocks. Heavy rainfall does not occur very often in the Mackenzie Country, the average annual rainfall is at about 420 millimetres. Lake levels therefore depend more on the snowmelt in the Southern Alps than on rainfall. It is ironic that those hydro lakes are located in one of the driest regions of New Zealand.
Anyway. On the photo you see the hydro canal south of Lake Tekapo. On the first kilometres it runs east of SH 8, then the road crosses the canal which then follows the Bullock Wagon Trail to Lake Pukaki, past the world’s highest salmon farm (Mt. Cook Salmon). There it passes several dams and makes its way down to Lake Benmore.
See my Off the Beaten Path tip about a bicyle or walking tour along the canal.
- Road Trip
An Aerial View
Favorite thing: An aerial view of Lake Tekapo township which is located at the southern end of the lake. It has about 315 permanent residents.
At the moment quite some development and building is taking place, mostly apartments on the southern side of State Highway 8. Not all have great lake views but already the proximity of the lake is very appealing, and at least you can see the mountains.
The Power Station and the Whitewater Kayak Course
Favorite thing: -
As beautiful as the lake is – we should not forget that it would not be there, had there not been the need to provide water to Canterbury. Lake Tekapo is a hydro lake, generating power.
The construction of the power station began in 1938, the twelve metre high dam was built in 1940 and should have been completed in 1943, but the construction process was stopped during the Second World War, as many workers had to go to war. So it took until 1951 when it was finally commissioned as the second power station of the Waitaki power scheme.
Godley River provides the water from the Southern Alps for Lake Tekapo. After the control gates of the dam Tekapo River starts, and this water flows into the Waitaki River where you find several more power stations of Lakes Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki.
The interesting thing is that the that is stored behind the dam is drawn through the intake on the shores of the lake, and delivered to the power station through a 1.6 km long tunnel running through a small hill above the village. The turbines do the rest of the job.
You see the intake when you walk or cycle along the lake from the river (bridge/control gates over SH 8) towards the motorcamp. It is outside the right edge of my photo. You can see the layout on the second photo.
Fondest memory: -
The power scheme also creates the possibility of white water kayaking at Lake Tekapo.
The course is a short distance downstream from the control gates.
Construction of the 500 metre long slalom course began in 1998.
The course can operate at variable levels of difficulty, as the water flow can be controlled easily by just pressing some buttons.
Through the combination of the control gates across the outlet of Lake Tekapo and by a smaller control gate at the beginning of the course, water can quickly be introduced or restricted from the artificial stretch of riverbed.
The course is rated as Grade II to II+ with a water flow of 10 to 15 cubic metres of water per second and Grade III (at 20 to 25).
The operating power company Meridian Energy makes up to 15 recreational or environmental releases of water down the Tekapo Whitewater Course or the Tekapo River each year between October and April.
You can check the dates of operation for spectators on the Events page of the Tekapo Tourism website.
- Adventure Travel