Egmont National Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe almost symmetrical cone of Mount Taranaki towers over the surrounding area, and is the perfect center point for Egmont National Park.
GeographyEgmont National Park is located south of the city of New Plymouth, near the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The park receives a remarkable amount of annual rainfall, as moist westerly winds move onshore from the Tasman Sea, before rising over Mount Taranaki and the Pouakai and Kaitake ranges.
GeologyThe park is a mountainous area encompassing three volcanic cones, with the main peak of Mount Taranaki standing at 8,261 feet at the center of the park. Taranaki is the most recent and only active volcanic peak in the park, although it is now considered dormant. The other two volcanic cones are now extinct, and form the basis of the Pouakai and Katake Ranges in the northwestern part of the park.
Lava flows, ash showers and lahars (debris flows) have transported volcanic material away from the peaks. The oldest lava flows on Mount Taranaki are preserved in the west, but erosion has removed a number of older flows.
MythologyAccording to Maori legend, Taranaki once lived with the other volcanoes of the central plateau of the North Island: Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. When he flirted with a pretty hill named Pihanga, Tongariro erupted in a jealous fury. Taranaki fled to the west, gouging out the Whanganui River on his way. Today, Mount Taranaki is still held in high regard, and the summit is sacred to local Maori.
The first ascent of Mount Taranaki is attributed to Tahurangi, who lit a fire on the summit to prove he had taken possession of the mountain for the Taranaki tribes.
HistoryThe park is named after Mount Egmont, which dominates the area. Early European explorer Captain James Cook named the mountain after John Perceval, the 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty who promoted Cook’s first voyage. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, indigenous Maori had long called the mountain Taranaki. Nowadays the Mountain has two official names: “Mount Taranaki” and “Mount Egmont”.
The land was first formally protected in 1881 when the slopes of the mountain were made a forest reserve. More land was added, and the national park was established in 1900.
Plant lifeThe park’s high annual rainfall and mild coastal climate has created a lush rainforest that covers the foothills. The park’s forest is notable for the absence of beech trees, which dominate other native plant life across New Zealand.
The forest shows clear patterns of vegetative zones. At lower altitudes you’ll find tall rimu and rata trees, which slowly make way for kamahi, totara and kaikawaka trees. Above the snowline you can find sub-alpine shrubs and herbfields.
The Ahukawakawa Swamp is an unusual high-altitude sphagnum moss wetland found between Mount Taranaki and the Pouakai range. Here you can find many native species specially adapted to acidic soils and lower temperatures.
Animal lifeThe park is home for some 28 native and 15 introduced bird species. The North Island brown kiwi, fernbird and blue duck are threatened birds that call the park home. In the park you can also find several unique invertebrate species, and almost half of New Zealand’s indigenous fish species, including the threatened giant kokopu, short-jawed kokopu, banded kokopu and koaro.
HikingThe walking tracks in the park are extensive, ranging from short 15-minute strolls to a three-day circuit. A range of short walks can be found around Dawson Falls and East Egmont. The two-day Pouakai Circuit, which starts and finishes at North Egmont, crosses over the Ahukawakawa Swamp and the remains of the old Pouakai volcano. The ‘Around the Mountain Circuit’ takes three to five days to complete.
Mount Taranaki is often described as “New Zealand’s most climbed mountain”, owing to the achievable walk to the summit. Allow six to eight hours for the return trip to the summit. The main climbing route starts at North Egmont. The climb is best attempted during summer, as in winter summit climbs are only for experienced snow and ice climbers.
SkiingOn the eastern slopes of Mount Taranaki is the Stratford Mountain Club, which operates a ski field from June to October.
AccommodationThere are eight hikers’ huts within the park, managed by the Department of Conservation and linked to the walking track system. There are also two hikers’ lodges: Konini Lodge at Dawson Falls and the historic Camphouse at North Egmont. Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge and Mountain House Motor Lodge are two privately owned lodges within the park.
Outside the park, nearby towns Stratford, Opunake and Hawera all have accommodation, as well as the nearby city of New Plymouth.
How to get thereEgmont is one of the most accessible of New Zealand’s national parks. There are three main entry points to the park: Manaia Road to Dawson Falls, Egmont Road to North Egmont, and Pembroke Road to Stratford Plateau.
The park is a half hour drive from New Plymouth, which is served by an airport with domestic connections. The nearest international airport is in Wellington, a 50 minute flight or 4.5 hour drive from New Plymouth.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Apr 21, 2016