Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Yesterday on the way home from our stay in Queenstown, we followed the Clutha River part of the way - as we always do. However, yesterday the river seemed to announce its presence more forcefully than at other times.

The Clutha is a leviathan of a river, powerful.

 "The river has the largest catchment in New Zealand (8,480 sq. miles), and is reputed to have the greatest volume of water. It is the largest river in the South Island, being 150 miles from the lakes to the sea and 210 miles from its headwaters to the sea". (Te Ara Encyclpedia of New Zealand).

Part of its raw force has been channelled and compressed into weighty lakes and hydro dams built to provide electricity.

I am lucky enough to remember the picturesque, twisting Cromwell Gorge one had to travel as the old road (pre-Clyde Dam) followed alongside the youthful, fierce river in its tumultuous rush from the mountains to the coast.

Parts of the river today are an attractive green colour - the colour of greenstone (pounamu). Nowadays the young part of the Clutha pounds and rolls and smoothly curls its way to the sea. It no longer rushes and falls, or squeezes itself through narrow, rocky gaps, frothing and spraying with the effort. It has been tamed. Managed.

However, the old parts of the Clutha still retain something of its character. Yesterday, somewhere between Ettrick and Millers Flat it said, Hey! as under the flounce of bright, spring-lime willows, it danced and swirled in its heavy green, forcing me to pay attention.

Under Beaumont Bridge's grumbling, uncertain boards that always seem to be under repair, the Clutha left us. Or we left it. I watched the river picking its way through the rocks there as it travelled on without a backward glance.


J.T. Webster said...

Great post!
I can still get hot under the collar at the damming of the Clutha and the loss of the Cromwell Gorge. Whilst the road itself terrified me, it was so picturesque and steeped in history.

Kay Cooke said...

Sue - Once lost something as special and unique as the Cromwell Gorge can never be recovered - humankind has a lot to answer for.

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