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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Land District: — Mountains, Rivers, Lakes

Land District:
Mountains, Rivers, Lakes.

The Taranaki land district may be said to be the most compact and fertile in New Zealand, for, with the exception of the upper half of Mount Egmont, and of the ranges adjoining, which absorb about 36,000 acres, the whole of the area—minus what is taken up by rivers, streams, and lakes—is suitable for settlement, and certainly two-thirds of the district is good land. The gross area of the district is 2,430,000 acres, or about 300,000 acres more than the area of the original province. The principal mountain is the volcanic cone from which the district takes its name, Taranaki, otherwise called Mount Egmont. This mountain is the centre of distribution, for a radius of twenty miles, of volcanic “drift,” which covers the volcanic rocks below an altitude of 3,000 feet. Beyond the volcanic formation—that is, from about Urenui on the north, to Hawera on the south—the country is generally broken, and the formation is known as papa, a calcareous blue clay, capped in many places by shelly limestone.

Eastward of the base of Mount Egmont there are few, if any, mountains worthy of the name, although there are many ranges varying in height from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet above sea level, and, in a few instances—such as the Matemateonga and Waiaria ranges—they run up to 2,500 feet.

The principal river is the Wanganui, which bounds the district on the east between Taumarunui page 5 and Pipiriki, a distance of about ninety miles. Its average width varies from two to three chains. For nearly the whole distance it is shut in by nigh, precipitous hills, and in many places by perpendicular walls of rock. The scenery is very grand and beautiful. There are numerous rapids, but few of them are dangerous to skilful canoeists. Steamers run regularly from Wanganui to Pipiriki, a distance of fifty-five miles.

Military Outpost. About 1870.

Military Outpost. About 1870.

The next river in size is the Mokan, which bounds the district on the north. It is navigable for steamers drawing from seven to eight feet of water, as far as the coal mines, about twenty miles from its mouth, and for canoes as far as Totoro, twenty-six miles further up. Several outerops of coal are found on its banks, and, as limestone is also present, the river is likely to become an important waterway of the district. The scenery on both sides, although not on quite so grand a scale as that on the Wanganui, is very beautiful.

The other large rivers are the Waitara and Patea. The former has its source about midway between the coast and the Wanganui river, in an easterly direction from Pukearuhe, between New Plymouth and the Mokau. It is about one hundred miles in length, and runs out at the town of Waitara, some ten miles north-east from New Plymouth. There is a bar at the river mouth, but steamers of 300 tons can enter safely in calm weather, and, although there are numerous rapids on its course, it is navigable for canoes for about ninety miles.

The Patea river rises in Mount Egmont, and, after traversing a tortuous course of about 110 miles, runs out at the extreme southern end of the provincial district. It has a bar-harbour, with a depth of thirteen to fourteen feet at springtides. Steamers of from forty to fifty tons trade regularly to the town of Patea, which is situated a mile or so north of the mouth. The Patea is navigable for canoes for fifty miles.

Besides these rivers there are many smaller ones, and streams innumerable—in fact, no district in the world could be better watered and at the same time so secure from disastrous floods. It is estimated that between the Mokau page 6 and the Patea, there are no fewer than eighty-five named streams emptying themselves into the Tasman Sea; and fully sixty of these flow from Mount Egmont.

The largest sheet of water is Rotokare, which is situated about twelve miles from Eltham; it is about half a mile in length, with an average width of six chains. There are also a few small lakes inland from Waverley, at the southern end of the district.

New Plymouth Breakwater. Collis, photo.

New Plymouth Breakwater. Collis, photo.