The Rakaia River rises in the Southern Alps, and travels 150 kilometres before entering the Pacific Ocean south of Christchurch. For much of its journey the river runs through a wide shingle bed, but it is briefly confined to a narrow canyon near Methven known as the Rakaia Gorge. It is here, on the northern bank of the river that the Rakaia Gorge Walkways starts. The walkway offers spectacular views as it traverses the edge of the Rakaia River and features items of geological and historic interest too.
The walkway passes through several forest and shrub communities before climbing the gorse-lined ferryman’s track to the site of a cottage and the ruins of a home-guard fortification point (redoubt). Continue along one of several glacial and river-carved terraces to a good lookout point.
The walkway follows the rim of the gorge through spectacular geological areas, showing lava flows of rhyolite, pitchstone and andesite. It then descends into a gully under a canopy of montane forest and shrub, to the site of the Snowdon coal mines. The entrances to several coal mine shafts can be seen here, and the remains of equipment used for extraction.
The track then climbs out of the creek to a sign-posted junction. The walkway forms a loop from this point, with the right-hand track climbing across tussock-covered terraces directly to the lookout point. The track then passes through the bush to loop back to the junction. A side track off the loop descends to the river (boat landing track 121 m).
It is possible to walk the track one way by taking a ride up the river with Discovery Jet and then walking back.