25 km south of Reefton at an altitude of 670 m, Big River is testimony to mans' relentless search for gold. It is reached either via walking or mountain biking along an old pack track from Waiuta, or by 4WD from Reefton along an old dray road that was pushed through steep country in the 1880s.
Today you can easily spend a full day exploring remnants of the old township, wandering along water races, making the trip up to the Big River dam site and inspecting the large double acting Robey steam-winding engine in the reconstructed (2000) engine shed. The engine once lifted mine tubs containing gold-rich quartz up the 602 m mineshaft to the surface for processing.
Behind the engine house, wind your way up the track to the restored poppet head standing above the mineshaft. From this vantage point you are rewarded with spectacular views out to the Grey River and the Paparoa Range.
A further 30 minutes walk from the poppet head along the track that leads to the Inangahua River is the Big River sawmill. Here you can see the sawmill remains and the Robey boiler under slung steam engine that was abandoned when it closed back in the 1920s.
Access to Big River from Reefton is via a challenging 4WD road or as a two day tramp along the Big River track which links Waiuta through Big River to the Inangahua River on SH7. You can overnight in the 30 bunk Department of Conservation hut at Big River. Book your spot through the DOC website.
Mountain biking is also a popular choice for getting into Big River, either along the 4WD road from Reefton or along the Big River tramping track from Waiuta. A mountain biking loop from Reefton - Big River - Waiuta - Reefton is achievable as a two-day trip.
For more information contact:
Reefton Visitor Centre
67-69 Broadway, Reefton,
Buller 7930, West Coast, NZ
0064 3 732 8391