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Mokau River History and Tourism

The mighty Mokau River is attracting an increasing numbers of tourists from all around New Zealand and internationally to either cruise or kayak its mighty waterway.

The Mokau River, which forms a natural boundary between King Country and North Taranaki, was named after a local warrior who married South Taranaki chieftainess Ruapu-tahanga.

Cruising the Mokau River on the vintage vessel

The river was a major stumbling block to transportation and expansion in the 1880's. The first hand winched ferry service was operated by a Mr Reardon from 1889 and offered passengers and vehicles a return crossing of the river in just 90 minutes.

Ferries and punts continued to operate for over a quarter of a century before a bridge was constructed. The 670 feet long and 12 feet wide bridge was constructed in 1927 at a cost of $54,000 - users were charged a toll.

For over 70 years this bridge serviced the district before finally being replaced after the turn of the century with a new bridge costing $9.15 million.

The 5 ton launch "Cygnet" built in 1913, made daily trips 18 miles up the Mokau river, providing settlers with supplies and mail, taking cream to the Mokau factory and acting as an emergency ambulance service when needed.

The Cygnet operated till 1957, until sold to the Rubay family in Kawhia, where it operated till the late 1970's.

For 20 years it sat on a trailer in Kawhia, till Rex Mather, a local Mokau resident, brought her back and restored it. It now operates as a cruise vessel carrying tourists up the Mokau River once again.

Although much of the bush on both sides of the Mokau River was lost to farming, It still retains its natural splendour. In some parts, sheer high cliffs loom to over 2,000 feet and magnificient tree's tower over the river.

The scenery is breathtaking, with evidence of past Maori occupation still to be seen and hundreds of whitebait stands lining the riverbanks, making Mokau the whitebait capital of the world.

Historian James Cowan was also inspired by the natural beauty..."Of all my loves amongst the rivers of New Zealand, Mokau is the One," he wrote in 1911. "Because of its aloofness from the tracks of the tourist, for one thing; for its atmosphere of adventure and exploitation, for its almost unbroken forests, and its untamed rapids...

The Mokau, I suppose, is seventy miles in length from source to sea; it is navigable for small sea-going steamers for about twenty-five miles, and for Maori canoes for forty-five," he writes..."

I have forded it where it is but a small thread of water, cascading down from the Rangitoto Ranges. There it is out in the open fern and limestone lands. But for the greater part of its course it flows through the thick forest, deep, except where its numerous rapids break its course," he writes...

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Mokau River Cruises Tours and Kayaking


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