The Eglinton River rises on the south-east side of the main divide between Lake Wakatipu and Milford Sound and flows south for 35 miles to the eastern shores of Lake Te Anau. The river flows for about 25 miles in a deep, flat-floored, glaciated valley between steep mountain walls rising to over 6,000 ft, and then follows a meandering course through scrub-covered lowlands carved out of soft Tertiary mudstones. The Earl and Livingstone mountains border the valley on the west and east sides respectively and are composed of hard granites and volcanic rocks of late Paleozoic age. The sides and much of the valley floor are covered with native beech forest. At the head are three glacial lakes, Gunn, Fergus, and Lochie.
The first Europeans to view the valley were the Southland runholders — McKellar and Gunn — who in 1861 climbed several peaks in the Livingstone mountains. For many years the valley was remote and known only to trampers, runholders, and deerstalkers. In 1935 the Eglinton Valley road was completed through to the Homer Tunnel, and in the immediate post-war years extended through to Milford Sound. The Eglinton Valley is now a popular scenic, wild-life, and recreational reserve for parties en route to and from Milford Sound. Both deer and pig are plentiful, and the trout fishing in the lakes and river is excellent. Most of the valley is part of the Fiordland National Park, although runholders lease the lower flats for grazing. The only permanent settlement is the Cascade Accommodation House, a few miles below Lake Gunn. A popular walk from the main divide is around the north slopes of the Livingstone Range to Key Summit, which commands an extensive view over the Hollyford Valley and Darran Range. The Eglinton River, Mt. Eglinton, and Earl Mountains were named by the explorersurveyor, James McKerrow after the Earl of Eglinton.
by George William Grindley, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Lower Hutt.