Looking up the Henry River by Anne Hut
Image: DOC



Located on three mountain ranges, the area has exceptional recreation opportunities and natural features including glaciated valleys, glacial moraine deposits, streams, wetlands, lakes and high altitude tarns.
  • The western side, from Lewis Pass to the Waiau River is characterised more by mixed beech forests, open river flats, tussock tops rising to rocky snow mountain tops. 
  • In contrast, the eastern side is drier, open country with magagouri, exotic grasses, regenerating shrublands and mountain lakes. 
  • The Waiau River runs north to south through the St James Conservation Area.

Find things to do and places to stay St James Conservation Area

Fishing for trout on the Waiau, Henry and Ada rivers and lakes Guyon and Tennyson is available to all fishing licence holders. Licences are available from fishing / outdoor sports shops, Fish & Game Council offices and information / visitor centres.

Further information, including sports fishing regulations, is available from Fish & Game

This includes all motorised vehicles.

Vehicles are restricted to the Edwards Valley and Maling Pass 4WD tracks from Tophouse Road as far as the signs by the Waiau River.

Access is only permitted during the drier summer months and is closed for the winter season usually from June to the end of September. Vehicle access is controlled by gates with different combination locks at the two track entrances:

  • Edwards Valley, and
  • Maling Pass carparks. 

Off-road vehicle users need to register before taking their motorised vehicles into the St James Conservation Area. 

Where you can drive and access gate codes.

You can take your horses through most of St James Conservation Area, with the exception of the St James Walkway and the privately fenced land around Ada homestead.

The St James horse herd can be seen around the Henry, Waiau and Ada river valleys. These horses are mustered and the off-spring removed and sold every two years. A stallion and up to 30 brood mares are contained within the Henry River catchment (which includes the Henry Track and access to Anne Hut). Leave the gates closed at all times.

The horses are technically wild as they cannot be handled and will generally move away from visitors, but do not chase them and avoid contact with the stallion and mares with foals at foot. For more information, contact the DOC office during office hours.

Horses can follow most of the mountain-biking tracks – except the 5 km of mountain-biking track from the Maling Pass-Waiau River junction to the turn-off to Lake Guyon. This section of track is too narrow to accommodate horses, walkers and mountain bikes. Horse riders will need cross to the true right of the Waiau River for this particular section if wanting to access Lake Guyon from Maling Pass.

In normal flows the Waiau River is more easily crossed in the upper reaches. Note: Saddle Spur and McArthur bridges further down the Waiau River are not suitable for horses.

Horse rider’s care code

Get more information on horse riding and riding times in the St James

The upper Waiau River from Maling Pass to the Hope River confluence is reputed to be one of the best rivers for rafting and kayaking in the eastern South Island. Experience is essential for those not in a guided party.

There are four gorges graded 3–4 depending on river flow. The first gorge between Maling Pass and the Edwards River is the most challenging. The three gorges after the Edwards River confluence include the notorious ‘Narrows’.

The Edwards River confluence is the last exit point until the Waiau River runs alongside SH 7. There are limited access points for vehicles and some boat carrying will be necessary.

For more information refer to the Whitewater NZ website.

Hanmer Springs Ski Area (formerly the Amuri Ski Field) falls within the conservation area. It is a club-run facility that operates under a concession to use public conservation land.

The ski area is open to the public during the winter season and provides ski-hire, poma and rope tows, a day lodge and accommodation as well as a shuttle service to and from Hanmer Springs. The ski-field road is closed to vehicles in summer, but can still be used by cyclists and walkers.

There are also opportunities for heli-skiing and ski-touring in the St James Conservation Area.

Check, Clean, Dry

Clean all gear when moving between waterways to prevent the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.

How to check, clean, dry your gear.


Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre
Phone +64 3 318 9211
Email arthurspassvc@doc.govt.nz
Address 104 West Coast Road
Arthur's Pass 7654
Hours See visitor centre hours
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