Te Waihou Walkway
COVID-19 update: Te Waihou Walkway is currently now open under Alert Level 2. Please maintain physical distancing when encountering other users.
Other walking tracks in the South Waikato can be viewed here.
Walking Track Information
The walkway is a distance of 4.7 kilometres, with an average walking time of 1.5 hours (3 hours return). The terrain varies from easy walking to backcountry trekking with stile crossings. In some areas the track has been benched and steps constructed through the gorge area. Hazards such as waterfalls, electric fences and livestock may be encountered along the way.
Getting to Te Waihou is easy. The Whites Road carpark is on State Highway 28, which feeds off both State Highway 1 and 5.
Protect the Blue Spring
The 2015-16 summer period saw a significant increase in usage at Te Waihou and especially swimming in the Blue Spring area. This increase in use has caused a significant degradation of the environment surrounding the Blue Spring.
The Blue Spring (Te Puna) is a natural taonga (treasure) formed through the special and delicate merger of geology, ecology, freshwater biology, and geography over many hundreds of thousands of years
We ask track users to please join us as kaitiaki (guardians) to do what they can to ensure the beauty and clarity of the Blue Spring is protected for this and future generations.
The Blue Spring is very fragile, and the clarity and purity of its waters sustain not only the Putāruru community but many others in New Zealand and the world.
Let's work together to protect this treasure, we encourage all visitors take in the beauty of this area, and to enjoy its pristine waters, but to please refrain from swimming within the Blue Spring.
Please help the South Waikato District Council, Raukawa - the iwi of this region, and the local community to keep our Puna beautiful, and ensure everything that you bring with you during your visit, leaves with you.
Report any issues to 07 885 0340, or email us using this contact form.
You are encouraged to view these short videos that show the damage caused by swimming in the area.
Below are two photographs taken of the Blue Spring environment. The damage caused by swimming is clearly evident - the photo on the left was taken in November 2014 and the photo on the right in February 2016 following an immensely busy summer with a significant number of people swimming in front of the viewing platform and in the Spring area itself. Please refrain from swimming in the Blue Spring and surrounds.
Since swimming was discouraged the Blue Spring environment is slowly recovering. Let's all continue to respect the delicate environmental nature of this area and refrain from swimming there.
The Waihou Stream is totally spring fed. Water from the Mamaku Plateau takes anywhere from 50-100 years to reach the Blue Spring. Water flows from the spring at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute (9,240 gallons per minute). The water temperature of the Blue Spring is a constant 11 degrees celsius throughout the year.
The reason for the blue colour (and high visual clarity) of the Waihou River and its spring source is the high optical purity of the water. Pure water is intrinsically blue in hue because it absorbs red light leaving only blue and (some) green light to be transmitted to the observer's eye. Pure natural waters are blue to blue-green in colour because they lack light absorbing constituents and particles. Both particles and light-absorbing matter are efficiently removed during the long settlement time of spring water while in aquifers.
Experience and Enjoy Te Waihou
- Take a visit to the internationally acclaimed Blue Spring. Please refrain from swimming in the Blue Spring and immediate surrounds as swimming is damaging the environment.
- Walk through the areas of restoration and regeneration of wetland and native plantings.
- Please don't remove the vegetation.
- Learn about the history and heritage of the beautiful Te Waihou.
- Enjoy the sights and sounds of the waterfalls.
- Watch as the water flow changes from tranquil to pumping action in the gorge area.
- Be amazed at the intensity of the water colour.
- Catch or view one of the many trout (fishing requires a permit).
- Gentle easy walking through rolling pastoral land.
- Mix fitness with pleasure by walking one of New Zealand's most beautiful walking trails.
How do I get there?
Linking State Highways 1 and 5 in the South Waikato District is Whites Road. Te Waihou Walkway is situated off Whites Road. There is limited car-parking. There is no shuttle service from Putāruru township or i-SITE.
- Please refrain from swimming in the Blue Spring and surrounding environment.
- Remove all rubbish - take out what you take in!
- Dogs are not permitted on Te Waihou Walkway due to livestock, narrow tracks, other users and issues with faeces. See Dog Control Bylaw here.
- No lighting of fires and no naked flames.
- No motorbikes or pedal bikes
- No guns or shooting permitted.
The history of the Waihou River, as a multi purpose focus for the people of the region, dates back to the time of the first human visitors. The river comes from as far up as the Ngātira Marae, which significantly marks the Eastern boundary of "Raukawa Ki Te Kaokaoroa o Pātetere" and therefore the Northern boundary of the Raukawa.
It was a journeying place of Kīngi Te Wherowhero Tāwhiao, the second Māori King of New Zealand, as it provided him with his main travelling route. The river gave him food and the flax was used for many purposes. Also, Kahupeka, a Tainui tūpuna, set off with her son shortly after her husband's death to wander around the Central North Island. On her travels, the Upper Waihou River was one of the main rivers that she and her son crossed while travelling from Pirongia to Te Aroha, and again from Te Aroha to Whakamaru.
Moving on to later years, the Edmeades family settled and began to farm the land along the Upper Waihou River in 1938. At this stage the river area was heavily covered with fern and ti tree, which was eventually cleared. During these early days, war trenches were dug along the Upper Waihou River as a result of the war scare, but were covered in without ever being used.
The Te Waihou Walkway was officially opened by the then Prime Minister Helen Clark on 15 April 2000.
Frequently Asked Questions
Te Waihou Walkway
How long is the walkway?
The walkway is 4.7 kilometres one way and takes about 1 hours one way or three hours return to walk.
Is it open now?
Te Waihou Walkway is open all year.
Are you allowed to picnic?
Yes, you can take a picnic as long as rubbish is taken away with you or disposed of appropriately in the few bins provided. Do not litter on Te Waihou Walkway.
Can alcohol be consumed on Te Waihou?
Alcohol consumption is discouraged, but can't currently be prohibited. In order to prohibit alcohol we would need to include Te Waihou in our Public Places Bylaw as a prohibited alcohol consumption area; and then of course there is the question of how to regulate, monitor and enforce.
Is swimming allowed on Te Waihou?
Swimming is permitted at the Whites Road end carpark and along Te Waihou at various points. People are cautioned against causing damage to the banks of the river. Swimming is discouraged at the Blue Spring and nearby environment itself as swimming has already caused significant damage to the vegetation, particularly marginal river bank plantings that is breeding and feeding habitat for fish species.
Can I take my dog?
No, dogs are not allowed on the Te Waihou Walkway because of the proximity to stock on private land, dog waste not being picked up by some users and danger to wildlife in the area.
Are there toilets in Te Waihou?
Yes, there are four toilets. One at Whites Road carpark, two along the track and one at the Blue Spring.
Are you allowed to camp there?
No camping is allowed anywhere along Te Waihou Walkway nor in the parking lots at Leslie Road and Whites Road. The Whites Road parking area is managed by the New Zealand Transport Agency and does not allow for overnight camping.
Is there a bus service from Putāruru Township to take you to Te Waihou?
Is the walkway wheelchair/pushchair friendly?
Parts of the walkway has steeper tracks and some parts are on gravel. Some of these parts are not suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Gates at both ends of the walkway mean wheelchair and pushchair access is not recommended. However, if needing access from the Leslie Road entrance please contact the Parks and Liaison Officer prior to your visit on 027 222 4125 to make arrangements to pick up the gate key from the Putāruru Council Office
How do I get to Te Waihou?
The main entrance at Whites Road (called State Highway 28) which can be accessed off State Highway 1 or State Highway 5. See map.
Can we use kayaks on the river?
Kayaking is not prohibited, but access is difficult.
What is the cultural significance of the Blue Spring?
The Blue Spring is a natural taonga (treasure) formed through the special and delicate merger of geology, ecology, freshwater biology and geography, over many hundreds of thousands of years.
Is fishing permitted?
Yes, but a fishing licence is required. These can be acquired the district i-SITEs in Tīrau and Tokoroa or from the Putāruru Information Centre.
Can I swim there?
Swimming at the Blue Spring itself and immediately upstream of the Spring is discouraged, but people are permitted to swim at the Whites Road end of the walkway.
Why is swimming discouraged at the Blue Spring?
Swimming in the Blue Spring area has damaged the environment. The lack of marginal plants along the river bank dramatically reduces the habitats for native fish.
If I saw someone swimming in the spring can I report this?
Yes, you can report it to Council on 07 885 0340 or online here. We capture all that information however at this stage Council can't ban or prohibit swimming, nor can we fine people for swimming.
Which end is the Blue Spring?
The Blue Spring is about 800 metres along Te Waihou Walkway from the Leslie Road end. The Spring is in the round alcove directly across from the viewing platform. The Spring itself is about eight metres down in the river bed.
How old is the water that flows from the Blue Spring?
The water that comes from the Blue Spring flows from the Kaimais via the Mamaku Plateau. It takes anywhere from 50 to 100 years to reach the Blue Spring from its source.
Why is the water so blue?
The beautiful clear blue-green of the Blue Spring and Te Waihou is due to its purity as particles are removed during its journey through underground acquifers.
How much volume comes out?
Water flows from the spring at a rate of 700 litres per second.
Why is it so cold?
It's been underground for between 50 and 100 years.
Can we drive in to the Blue Spring?
The gate at the Leslie Road end is locked to vehicle access by the public. Sometimes vehicles will be seen on the Leslie Road access way however these are Council or Council contractor vehicles as we service our water pump station and maintain the plantings and service the toilet in the area. Other vehicles would potentially be the landowner as Te Waihou Walkway is partially on private property.
Should mobility challenged visitors wish to visit the Blue Spring, you may contact Council on 07 885 0340 for a gate key and the necessary permissions/approval.
What is in the shed at the Blue Spring?
The ultra-violet disinfection system is housed in the shed. Urban household water supply from the Blue Spring is treated to meet the strict drinking water standards in NZ. Council is confident that the water supply from the Blue Spring is safe for human consumption.
Where does water from the Blue Spring go?
Water from the Blue Spring supplies approximately half of the township of Putāruru and water bottlers.
How often and why does Council sample the water?
We sample the water every four days at the headworks to ensure the absence of e.Coli and other chloroforms to ensure the supply meets the Drinking Water Standards. Further sampling is conducted every eight days in the reticulation system. We sample for pH and turbidity every two to three days. We sample for cryptosporidium and giardia twice a year.
What arrangement does Council have with the water bottlers?
Council has Water Supply Agreements with each of the bottlers, which allows each of the bottles to take a certain volume of water from Councils supply each day.
What do the water bottlers pay?
They pay $1.05 per m3 as per the fees and charges.
Why can't Council make the water bottlers pay more?
Council treats all industry the same that use water from Council's supply, whether the water is used for wood treatment, concrete making or making cups of coffee.
Can Council stop the water bottlers from taking water from the Blue Spring?
Bottlers do not take water from the Blue Spring. Council takes water from the Blue Spring under consent Council supplies half of Putāruru with water from this source. The bottlers are only three properties that are supplied from this source.