The Roxburgh Gorge Walk to Doctors Point
Graveyard Gully Alexandra
Confined within a narrow rocky gorge with limited road access, Lake
Roxburgh is a forgotten lake. Few are aware of the substantial historical
legacy that has survived the hydro inundation. The gorge contains the larges
number and best preserved examples of Chinese rock shelters in Otago. Doctors
Point is an outstanding and intact example of alluvial gold mining. The
walkway along the edge of Lake Roxburgh is managed by DOC and provides
a return trip via the same easy track. An alternative round trip can be
made from Doctors Point via Shanty Creek and the old Knobby Range road
from Roxburgh to Alexandra. No special equipment is needed beyond sensible
footwear, a day pack with food and drink and a wind breaker or parka. The
walk is unsuitable for young children and the not-so-able beyond Butchers
Point/Leaky Lodge. Please respect all historic features. Leave only footprints,
take only photographs!
These are a guide only. They are for adults of average fitness who are
used to walking. No allowance is made for exploring historic sites.
- * Graveyard Gully to Leaky Lodge (1.5 - 2 hours)
- * Leaky Lodge to the Bluff (1.5 - 2 hours)
- * The Bluff to Doctor's Point (.5 hour)
- * Doctor's Point to Shanty Creek Hut (2 - 3 hours)
- * Shanty Creek Hut to Graveyard Gully (2 - 3 hours)
- "Lake Roxburgh Archeologic Survey" by A.P. Harrison. NZHPT.
- "Gold in the River" by F.W.G. Millar.
- "Early Days in Central Otago" by R. Gilkison.
Legal Access Public access is freely available down the
Roxburgh Gorge without any special permission required. The Knobbie Range
track is a legal public road for most of its length. However, over the
last 2 - 3 kilometres at the Alexandra end the formed track deviates away
from the legal road line (which is known as Graveyard Gully). For permission
to cross this section and travel up Shanty Creek, contact Mr P.B. Sanders
of Riverside Station (Alexandra 448-7724) or call at the homestead at Shaky
Guided canoe trips and jetboat excursions are also available down the
gorge. See into Centre for details.
Alexandra topographical map, sheet G42 1:50,000, is available from DOC
and local booksellers.
Route Guide Graveyard Gully to Leaky Lodge:
The walk starts at the old Graveyard Gully pioneer monument. See map
for road access. Traverse around the top outside fence of Sanders' Orchard
to gain an old bridle path which the track follows for the first few kilometres.
Notice a similar bridle track with its revetted rock walls on the opposite
bank. These paths were constructed in the 1890s to supply coal to gold
dredges working the river. The last dredge to work this stretch was the
big "Clutha" dredge in the 1940s. This dredge worked above the
bridge. The Department of Conservation is constructing a formed walkway
down the gorge which is partly completed at present. It is eventually intended
to extend this right to Doctor's Point. In the first four kilometres down
to Butcher's Point there are only a few rock shelters and huts, mostly
in a ruined state. A feature of the vegetation in the gorge is the almost
total mono-culture of thyme covering the rocky slopes. Although it imparts
a pleasant aroma of roast duck to one's footwear, thyme is something of
a week in the Alexandra district being totally unpalatable to stock. Apart
from the ubiquitous sweet briar and matagouri the other prominent vegetation
is the poplar, frequently indicating the location of early habitation sites.
Opposite the mouth of Butcher's Creek the track climbs over a large rock
outcrop and drops down to a cluster of stone huts at Coleman's Creek. The
best preserved and largest hut is known as "Leaky Lodge". "Mary
Ann's", a three roomed hut is just upstream of Leaky Lodge and uses
a schist boulder as a wall. Mary Ann was the last Chinese miner in the
Alexandra area. Downstream of Coleman's Creek is a complex of tailings,
water races and a 15m x 10m rammed earth and stone dam. Water was conveyed
to this site from Butcher's Creek via suspended pipeline over the Clutha.
Leaky Lodge to the Bluff: Beyond Leaky Lodge the track
becomes a lot rougher and is ill-defined in places. For those with limited
time or energy the Coleman's Creek workings make a good turning back point.
About one kilometre below Butcher's Point is the "Narrows". before
inundation the site of a big rapid in the river (including a four metre
high waterfall created by a slip which came down in 1880). Beyond the narrows
the river widens out to the "Island Basin". There are numerous
rock shelters and stone hut sites scattered beside the track in this section
of the walk. One of the more notable is "Jimmy Richardson's"
with its straw sleeping pad, located at the end of the Island Basin. A
feature which puzzles many is the large concrete posts set at regular intervals
down the gorge. These mark the location of profiles of the lake bed, used
to measure the amount of silting of the lake. Since 1956 there has been
a 40% loss of storage capacity due to the situation. Two kilometres beyond
the Island Basin a bluff falls vertically into the lake. The route traverses
a series of ledges and animal tracks through this bluff, about 10 metres
above the lake. The going is tricky here and some people may find it a
little daunting. For the less experienced, we would recommend the alternative
route over the bluff indicated by the sign.
The Bluff to Doctor's Point: Past the Bluff the gorge
opens out and at the start of a big bend in the river is the "Maltese
Cross" cottage, located in a grove of tall poplars. Directly behind
this cottage is a rock shelter known as "Blackman's Cave". At
least a couple of hours will be needed to fully explore the extensive Doctor's
Point workings which extend about 500m along the edge of the lake and 200m
upslope from the shoreline. The area was worked originally in the 1880s
and again in the 1930s when the Government introduced a subsidised relief
scheme to grubstake gold mining. About 80 miners worked the Roxburgh gorge
during the depression years. Many of the original huts and rock shelters
were upgraded and re-occupied in this period. The lower workings consist
of a substantial formation of parallel stacked tailings. Water for sluicing
was conveyed to the site by two high level stone rivetted races from Shanty
Creek. The races were refurbished in the 1930s using steel fluming. Above
the workings, on a prominent spur is an impressive rammed earth holding
dam with stone buttresses, looking like a fort when viewed from the lakeshore.
Near the lake is a group of three stone huts, still in good condition.
One contains the remnants of wooden bunks and flooring. Immediately upstream
of these huts is an eel smoking chimney. The upper workings, located just
north of the holding dam, consist of tunnels (now collapsed) with their
associated spoil dumps and tip heads. A cableway, some steel rails and
a wooden slide remain. There is also a blacksmith's forge site, which still
has fire charcoal, iron slag and tools scattered about.
Doctor's Point to Shanty Creek Hut: There is no formed
route up Shanty Creek and the going is rough in places. Follow up the main
water race that supplied the Doctor's Point workings on the true right
(North) bank of Shanty Creek. From the old intake site the bed of Shanty
Creek is traversed past a large rock dam and up over a waterfall (tricky
going) until a 4WD track is met on the true left (South) bank. Follow this
track to the woolshed and old Shanty Creek hut.
Shanty Creek Hut to Graveyard Gully: From the hut a 4WD
track is followed until it meets the Old Knobbie Range wagon "road".
This was the original road between Roxburgh and Alexandra before the present
west bank route was constructed in the 1870s. It is impassable for ordinary
cars. From the Shanty Creek ford the track climbs up to a plateau like
rock-strewn landscape. This is the dry heart of Central Otago, stark and
barren to some, but with its own beauty. Certainly a unique landscape.
On the higher parts large 2-3 metre high stacked rock cairns line the track.
In the early 1860s these had snow poles in the top of them to mark the
route in winter. Once over the top, the track drops 400m on a gentle grade
back down to the Graveyard. There are extensive views of the Clyde-Alexandra
basin and surrounding mountains. One can readily imagine the excitement
of the "Diggers" in 1862 when after an arduous journey from the
Tuapeka, they came across the same view of these promised lands - the Dunstan
Goldfield. Lower down the track passes through a belt of rabbit devastated
country with barren eroded ground between circular mats of scabweed. The
scabweed gives way to thyme country again over the last few kilometres.
Several other walks available. - Further information available at Alexandra Information Centre. Telephone 448-9515.