Autumn brings the Arrowtown Autumn Festival. In November there are the Otago Goldfields Heritage Celebrations. Both week-long events highlight the gold days, with activities for both locals and visitors to join in. The Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust
The Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust aims to develop, represent, and promote the historical sites, trails and events of Otago. Its membership comprises communities from within the Otago Goldfields Park, with ex-officio representation from the Department of Conservation.
Otago Goldfields Heritage Celebrations have been held annually since 1987. For several years a horse-drawn gold coach travelled to all of the Otago communities whose heritage is built on gold, with the individual towns holding celebrations to bring the gold days back to life.
In 1991 the celebrations format changed, when the Trust staged its first cavalcade of horses, riders and wagons crossing the old Dunstan Trail. More than 200 riders joined the cavalcade. Now cavalcades of horse-drawn vehicles, horses and riders, and walkers, travelling the early coach roads and tracks to goldfields towns have become a popular focus to the annual Goldfields Celebrations, while national goldpanning championships staged at the host town have become an integral feature.
The Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail is promoted to provide a year-round attraction for people to appreciate the golden heritage of the Otago region. The Trust erects signposting to inform travellers of the goldfields Heritage Trail and the interesting sites en route. Goldfields Organisations narrowing again where it was confined to cuttings.
Annual Cavalcades are usually held during the week that contains November 22. This was the day when the first Cobb & Co. coach left the Provincial Hotel in Dunedin Town in 1862 to head over the Dunstan Trail to the lucrative Dunstan Goldfields. The first re-enactment Cavalcade was held in 1991 and followed the Dunstan Trail from Rocklands Station near Middlemarch to Cromwell. There were 220 people and 240 horses, a gold coach, wagons, carts, gigs, buggies and packhorses. The demand for another Cavalcade saw the "Hell Bent for Dunstan" Cavalcade in 1992 where three trails followed old gold routes to Alexandra. One from Palmerston which encompassed horses, wagons and a trail from Arrowtown over the Pisa Range. Horses and light wagons came from Lawrence and a gold coach with mounted police brought gold from Cardrona down the main highway to Alexandra. Altogether 290 took part. 1993 saw four trails head to Arrowtown on the "No Roads to Arrow" Cavalcade from Roxburgh, Moa Creek, and two from Omakau. Over 300 people took part this time. "Gather at Gabriels" Cavalcade in 1994 ended in Gabriels Gully near Lawrence with five trails taking part and 390 people. This was the first time a walking trail, the "Shanks's Pony" was introduced which proved extremely popular with 90 people walking from Outram. The other trails left from Sawyers Bay, Nokomai, Kurow and Waikouaiti. Almost 500 people from all over New Zealand, one from Galiano Island (British Colombia) and one from Scotland joined in. 1995 "Naseby or Bust" saw 9 trails head to Naseby - 650 people, and in 1996 numbers had to be limited to 460 people for the 7 trails following routes "To the Dry Cardrona." Both years the two walking trails were extremely popular.
In March 1998 was held the biggest cavalcade in conjunction with the Otago/Southland 150th Celebrations - with 14 trails starting from Dunedin and surrounding districts and ending at Cromwell.
Accommodation is usually body space in a woolshed unless a trail happens to be in a township overnight where you may be housed in a hall or even a real bed! When all the trails come together at the host town accommodation is usually provided in a "tent city." There is provision for you to bring your own back-up driver in the registration to cart your tent, gear etc. but otherwise your gear will be carried in trail back-up trucks. Trail fees include accommodation and meals but please state if you have a special food requirement e.g. vegetarian. The people on the heavy wagon trail are the only ones who are self-catering in terms of food, accommodation and horse agistment. Participants are entirely responsible for themselves and their horses. The trail boss and wranglers are there to guide and help but are not baby sitters. Therefor fitness for yourself and your horse is of supreme importance with plenty of hill work in your preparations.
Days of up to 11 hours are not uncommon, especially on the longer trails and most trails strike some pretty bad weather along the way so it must be stressed that the Cavalcades are not a Sunday jaunt. You will be riding/walking through amazing country and experiencing things that only dreams are made of and your general fitness level will only enhance all of this. Those who bring horses a great distance to the start of their trails please consider allowing for a couple of days rest before you start your trail. Participants are also entirely responsible for getting themselves and their horses to the starts of their trails and arranging for pickup at the finish.
WALKERS The distances you will cover each day will be between 15-20km and those of you who are trampers will understand the need for general fitness and good solid footwear that has been well broken in. Like the riders your gear, food and accommodation arrangements will be the same. Most gold seekers walked to the goldfields to win their fortune. Some found it but most simply made a living. Most suffered from either cold or hunger, even scurvy but so far we've managed to avoid this happening on the Cavalcades!
The Otago Goldfields Cavalcade now has its own web site at www.cavalcade.co.nz
Arrowtown will host the New Zealand National Goldpanning Championships on the 3rd and 4th of November 2001, which is one week after the World Championships in Australia. This will be an ideal opportunity for those overseas competitors and prospectors to combine a trip to New Zealand along with competing in our Panning Competition and prosecting some of our creeks and rivers.
Arrowtown came into existence in 1862 when a Californian miner William Fox discovered gold in the Arrow River just a few hundred metres from where the town stands today.
Once the news got out the rush was on and the Arrow River became famed as one of the richest gold bearing rivers for its size in the world. William Fox and his party of miners panned out over 42lbs (19kg) of gold in just two weeks.
Today gold panning is still a major drawcard for visitos to this living historical mining town, the river below the village is set aside for recreational gold panning, and results are almost guaranteed. Other gold bearing rivers including the world famous Shotover River (said to be the richest in the world), are accessible for gold panning most within an hour's drive of Arrowtown.
As many of these rivers are in mountainous locations certain safety precautions are necessary as conditions can change quickly, local guides can arrange tours or panning expeditions.
The Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust is the parent body of the New Zealand Gold Panning events, and have producedd a free brochure on the Otago Goldfields and Heritage trails; these are available upon request and point out hte recreational gold panning sites around Otago.
For further information please contact any of the following: