Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Waihao Box

Another night, another site. This place with the strange name is worth another quick blog.

We’re now parked at Waihao Box, which is on the coast not too far south of Waimate in South Canterbury. Waihao Box is a freedom camping site I had earmarked to stop at sometime during our travels. It’s about 10kms off SH1 down some very long and straight gravel roads (there's been a bridge washout so the route is longer than usual). The parking area is in a reserve beside the Waihao River which actually looks like a small lagoon.

The view looking south from on top of the shingle bank behind us goes on forever.

But it’s what’s on the inside of the shingle bank that gives this place it’s unusual name; Waihao Box.

This is the historic Waihao Box, a hardwood box culvert built in 1910, which forms the artificial mouth of the Waihao River. There is no permanent mouth to the river and with a catchment area of over 55,000 hectares the surrounding plains used to flood regularly.

The box structure prevents the shingle bank from permanently blocking the river flow.

Here’s a photo of what it looked like a few years ago after repairs & maintenance. The shingle bank now completely covers this area and would be over a couple of metres deep. I can’t quite work out if there is meant to be a channel beside the box as well as the flow through the box. I suppose if there's a major weather event then the river would break through beside the box releasing the extra water build-up.

This is the ocean side of the box (today) which is very nearly buried.

There are warning signs in the reserve and on the structure about approaching the edge of the box, especially the south side. There’s also a memorial in the reserve to a 14 year old boy who lost his life at the Box in 2000.

The shingle and sand on the south side of the box continuously slips down and under the edge into the water flow, a bit like quicksand and he was trapped in the descending shingle and drowned. And even with the box buried there’s still hollows forming as the shingle sinks. It all looks quite benign on top (except for the sinking section, and even then you might have thought some one had dug it out) and it's only if you stop and read the signs and see the memorial that you'd actually know there's a danger.

We're off to Christchurch tomorrow, I doubt there'll be anything to report on from NZMCA Weedons so hopefully I can get back to catching up on the backlog of posts. The story of my life (no pun intended), it seems I just catch up and then we go and do a whole heap of exploring and I'm back to being behind again.


  1. Its a very interesting place alright , went there for the first time about 4 years ago

    1. One day I'm going to surprise you with a place you haven't been Francis! ;) Apparently the Box stopped working about 4 years ago (you didn't have anything to do with it did you? :) ), when they did some maintenance and shortened it. Ever since then the fishing has been terrible and eels and whitebait can't get back into the river. Although a couple of seals are regular visitors to the lagoon further down and rarely leave so maybe they've eaten everything!.


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