The Pupu Hydro Walkway retraces an old gold-mining water race, which has been reused for power generation. Although the climb to the water race line is a little steep, the first section, across Te Waikoropupū River to the power station is an easy grade suitable for all ages. Beyond the power station the track crosses Campbell Creek and zigzags upwards to reach the race after about 30 minutes' climb.
From here the track levels out and follows the race 'upstream' for a short distance to a lookout point above the power station.
Warning: From here on you are strongly advised to carry small children in a backpack and watch other children carefully; a fall from the race and the water itself are potentially dangerous.
The water race, which follows the steep contours of the hillside and is part canal and part aquaduct, was an engineering masterpiece for its time. If you look carefully in the water you might see large koura (freshwater crayfish).
Follow the race for 30 minutes or so to the weir (the water intake), which marks the end of the walkway and is a beautiful picnic spot. The weir channels water from the creek into the race; a large shutter was raised or lowered to vary the amount of water taken from the stream. The Hydro Society 4WD vehicle access track from the weir makes the walkway a loop walk (50 min) back to the carpark.
Pupu Hydro Walkway begins 9 km from Takaka at the end of Pupu Valley Road. Follow the road towards Te Waikoropupu Springs, turning off to the right just before the bridge crossing Waikoropupu River.
Supervise children on the Pupu Hydro Walkway, especially around the water race. Preferably carry small children in backpacks.
ower sections of the Pupu Hydro Walkway track that climb up to the water race have deteriorated badly. Care is required when walking on these sections of the track.
Fires not permitted at any time.
Bird life is plentiful with an abundance of tui, bellbirds, weka and kereru (native pigeons). Robins and fernbirds live in the pakihi vegetation above the track.
Botanically the walkway is very interesting; the vegetation varies from mixed young beech-rimu forest to mature beech-podocarp forest. There is also a component of 'cold climate' plants: silver pine, mountain cedar and mountain toatoa, and a very rich fern component. One fern, Blechnum fraseri, looks like a miniature tree fern, while one of the mosses, Dawsonia superba, is the tallest moss in the world.
Stretching along the hillside for more than three kilometres is the water race, an amazing feat of engineering, begun in 1901 and completed by eight men six months later in 1902. Large sections of curving race were built on steep hillsides, running over several graceful aqueducts.
At the downstream end the water was piped downwards with a drop of 123 metres to give the gold sluices enough pressure to work the river gravels of the valley floor. The manager of the gold-mining company was Charles Campbell, after whom the creek and the race were named.
The company mined until about 1910 and then abandoned the workings. In terms of dividends paid for capital invested, this claim was the richest in Golden Bay. In 1929 the Golden Bay Electric Power Board built a small hydroelectric power station, which took water from the race. About half the length of the existing water race was used and the rest was left derelict.
Many Golden Bay residents were uncertain about whether to take the electricity generated; the power board had to run a promotion campaign to convince them of the advantages of this new technology. In June 1981 a fault developed, which engineers called a 'flashover'. The generating equipment was extensively damaged and the power board decided it was too expensive to repair.
At that time, Pupu power station was thought to be the smallest station linked to the national grid. The Pupu Hydro Society restored the station and built a viewing area to allow visitors to see the station operating. It began generating again in 1987.