Story: National parks
Page 5 – Western North Island parks
Egmont National Park
Egmont National Park is near New Plymouth, on the west coast of the North Island. It is dominated by the volcano Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont), whose summit is sacred to local tribes. Nearby are the Kaitake and Pouākai ranges, remnants of older volcanoes. The park covers 34,170 hectares.
Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont) has long been a magnet for climbers, but the trek to the summit can be dangerous. The Ambury Monument on the Holly Hut Track commemorates a tragedy in 1918, when Arthur Ambury tried to save his companion, W. E. Gourlay, who had slipped on ice. Both men fell over a bluff and were killed.
The lower slopes of the mountain are covered in lush rainforest with tall rimu and kāmahi, and the middle slopes have ‘goblin forest’, with gnarled trees and trailing moss. Higher up are subalpine shrubs and alpine herb fields. Ahukawakawa Swamp is of special interest to botanists because its wide range of plants have adapted to acidic soils at very low temperatures.
There is a small club ski field on Mt Taranaki, and tramping and mountaineering are popular. A track around the mountain takes up to five days to complete. The climb to the summit can be very dangerous in poor weather, and is best tackled in summer.
Whanganui National Park
Whanganui National Park covers 74,231 hectares. Lying in a rugged, densely forested landscape between Taumarunui and Whanganui, the park is bisected by the Whanganui River. The river has a rich Māori history and was once overlooked by a network of pā known as ‘the plaited rope of Hinengākau’. It was the main route to the central North Island for generations of local Māori, and for 19th-century European travellers. The river banks have eroded to create spectacular gorges and bluffs, and there are over 200 named rapids between Taumarunui (north of the park) and Pipiriki (in the park’s south).
Vegetation and wildlife
Western tributaries of the river have been clouded by erosion from the mudstone banks. The clearer eastern waters are a habitat for the whio (blue duck). The river is also home to eels, lamprey, native trout, kōura (freshwater crayfish) and black flounder. Many native birds can be found in the park’s lush conifer–broadleaf forest.
The Whanganui is New Zealand’s longest navigable river, and the 145-kilometre canoe trip downstream from Taumarunui to Pipiriki is classified as a Great Journey. There are tramping tracks in the park, and fishing and hunting are allowed under some conditions.