Arthur's Pass (3,020 ft) lies on the main divide on the watershed between the Waimakariri and Taramakau Rivers, and is the lowest pass, and the only crossing for motor traffic, between the Lewis and Haast Passes. A railway tunnel over 5 miles long was completed beneath the pass in 1923, and this route still constitutes the only rail link across the South Island, carrying a large proportion of the coal and timber produced on the West Coast. Mt. Rolleston (7,453 ft), a fine peak 2 miles west of the pass, dominates the scenery in the area, and especially so from Temple Basin, a popular ski-ing field overlooking the pass. The local heavy rainfall, exceeding 200 in. a year, maintains a thick cover of beech forest on all the lower slopes.
Arthur's Pass is named after Arthur Dudley Dobson, who discovered it in March 1864, acting, it is said, on information given him by Tarapuhi, a West Coast chief. In 1929 the Arthur's Pass Park Board was constituted. The park has an area of some 242,000 acres comprising magnificent bush and mountainous country. It is a popular holiday resort and a favourite region for mountaineering and tramping clubs.
by Guyon Warren, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Christchurch.