Sunday, 22 November 2009

Historic Place - Skippers Road

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has Skippers Road registered since 15 December 2006. The Trust protects the heritage of the road. They describe this remarkable piece of engineering as follows:

Skippers Road is one of the most outstanding of New Zealand's surviving nineteenth century roads.

Built in four stages from 1883 to 1890, and only a single lane wide, its construction had to overcome major physical obstacles before it could be completed. The most spectacular of these (Pinchers Bluff) required the removal of large amounts of rock to create a road platform. The road and the country it travels through are both spectacular and scenic. The road is most significant too as, in all likelihood, the only nineteenth century road that has remained in continuous use without major upgrading.

The road was built to improve access to the upper Shotover River for miners, particularly for those seeking to install large machinery. It also provided a better means of access for those living in the canyon than the existing packtrack (1863). Mining's heyday was over by the time the road was completed but it continued to be used by farmers and tourists and those mining operations that lingered on in the twentieth century.

Although much of the road remains as it did in the nineteenth century, the topography, harsh climate, widening, and regular maintenance have led to the loss of some significant features, including some of its stone walls, famous features intended to prevent vehicles from toppling off the road. Today tourism is the road's biggest user, with many people coming to see the road or use it as a means of access to bungy jumping operations or white water rafting. Skippers Road is an iconic New Zealand road of outstanding heritage significance.

The Trust has the majority of Skippers Road protected under its register:
The registration of Skippers Road starts at Skippers Saddle, a short distance from the intersection of Skippers Road and Coronet Peak Road. The road winds down Long Gully as far as the flat, former site of the Long Gully hotels and from there down to the Bells Bridge - the lowest point in the section to the Shotover River. From there the road sidles up Bell Hill and then continues along for several kilometers as far as the landmarks of Pinchers Bluff and the Devils Elbow. From there the road descends to river level and crosses Deep Creek. It then rises and continues along several kilometers to the flat area at Maori Point and from there through the Maori Point Saddle to Blue Slip. Just beyond there is the intersection with the Branches Road, a side road to the Branches Station. The road to Skippers continues on a short distance, past the Bridal Veil Falls, and on to the Skippers Suspension Bridge. Beyond the bridge the road climbs the ridge to the terrace above. A short distance to the west is Mt Aurum Station homestead and to the immediate east is Skippers, including the cemetery, the nominal end of the registration.

After crossing Skippers Suspension Bridge, you will reach the area of the Department of Conservation. Please read my other post about Conservation in Skippers.

If you would like to visit this outstanding road, join us on our unforgettable Skippers Canyon tour. We - Queenstown Heritage Tours - are looking forward to sharing this remarkable area with you.

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