21 January 2018

Poolburn Reservoir - Central Otago

Isolated, barren, and no place like it, were words that sprung to mind when we visited Poolburn Dam in Central Otago.

To get to Poolburn Dam we drove down Ida Valley. And typical of Central Otago the landscape was dry, sun-baked, spacious and stunning. So appealing and distinctive to the area.

Just south of an area known as Poolburn we turned left opposite the old Poolburn Hotel, then headed towards the Rough Ridge Range.

The turnoff to the dam was at Moa Creek Hotel which at one time was bursting with miners. Moa Creek Hotel was one of five hotels in Moa Creek, which was named because of the amount of Moa bones found in the area.

Across the road from the hotel, which is no longer open, is the Moa Creek Cemetery  It's an unusual cemetery because the graves are on a mound. The most likely reason for this is because the nearby Poolburn River would often flood. The earlier graves in the cemetery are those of European or Chinese miners. Many of the Chinese remains have been exhumed and returned to China.

Turning right onto the Old Dunstan Road we figured we were almost there as the map indicated 12kms from Moa Creek Hotel to Poolburn Dam. But the 12 kms were on a corrugated unsealed road which jiggled and shook the poor ute and its passengers to bits. So we crawled along, making the 12kms feel like 112 kms!

The scenery however was worth it. As far as the eye could see, lay a rocky, barren, tussock swept landscape that stretched for miles. Not a blade of grass in sight! The impressive rock formations, scattered over the dusty, desolate countryside had a certain beauty of its own.

When we finally arrived at the reservoir we were greeted by a rustic sign with words of advice. I think it's fair to say, it's seen better days.

Poolburn Dam or as it's also known, Poolburn Reservoir, is a popular recreational area for anglers, boaties, picnickers and others who just want to enjoy the solitude of the water and unusual rock tors in Central Otago. 

There were several fishing baches (or cribs as they're called this far south) tucked amongst craggy rock formations - most with outhouses close by.

This reservoir was built during the Great Depression and completed in 1931 as a storage area for irrigation water to feed the fertile land in the floor of the Ida Valley. It covers over 300 hectares when full and is administered by the Ida Valley Irrigation Company. 

Poolburn Reservoir's recent claim to fame is due to the area being used for the movie Lord of the Rings. The dam became the mythical city of Rohan. Fishing huts at the dam were disguised as rocks and village houses when filming took place.

The dam has had both brown and rainbow trout introduced into its water, but has evolved as a brown trout fishery. 

The dogs enjoyed a swim and wandered around sniffing and checking out the unusual  terrain. I enjoyed searching along the shoreline among the jagged, gold coloured rocks for skinks. But I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of one! 

And then it was time to head for home ... we shuddered our way slowly down the gravel road, enjoying the birds eye view.

An interesting place to find a roller!

Some clever, arctic and possibly super-strong person made this tall rock sculpture.

While driving along the floor of Ida Valley, we had a welcome hold up, as sheep were moved to another paddock.

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