Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland, New Zealand : a report comprising the results of official explorations
The Hokitika is the next river which claims our attention. It drains a considerable portion of the Southern Alps, about 30 miles in extent along the divide, nearly of the same size as that drained by the Rakaia branches, to which its sources generally lie opposite. Its main branch owes its origin to the Sale glacier (4183 feet above the sea level), descending the north-eastern slopes of Mount Whitcombe, close to "Whitcombe Pass. For about 13 miles it has a nearly straight north-north-east course, flowing in a deep channel amongst lofty snow-clad ranges, first over large blocks and afterwards in a narrow shingle-bed; then entering the wooded ranges, it forms a succession of waterfalls and rapids. It turns then to the north-north-west, and receives numerous affluents from both sides, those from the eastern ranges being the largest. After a course of six miles it enters the Hokitika plains, but before doing so, it flows through a deep gorge with rocky vertical banks, the water appearing [unclear: stagnant], being so deep that no bottom could be felt with the longest pole available. Two causes combine for the formation of this remarkable gorge, nearly half a mile page 223in length: first, the existence of very hard gneiss granite through which the river had to cut its channel; and secondly, the existence of a small mountain torrent below the gorge having thrown a large shingle cone across it. In the Hokitika plains the river, flowing for eight miles in a general north-north-west direction, has formed a broad shingle-bed; it then abuts against morainic accumulations, by which its course is deflected at a right, angle, now flowing for five miles northeast, and becoming, for the last mile, deep and apparently stagnant; the Kokatahi, by which it is joined, having thrown a shingle barrier across the main river, near its junction. At this point, the Hokitika turns again to the north-north-west, which course it maintains for about eight miles to its mouth. The Kokatahi is an important affluent of the Hokitika, its sources being situated in the central chain, a few miles south of Browning's Pass, where a high alpine saddle, north of Mount Chamberlin, leads into one of the tributaries of the Wilberforce. It flows, for the greater portion of its course, in a deep rocky gorge. Near its entrance into the Hokitika plains, the Styx or Browning river leading by the Wooded saddle into the Arahura and to Browning's Pass, joins it on its northern bank. The Styx has a remarkably straight course, and is an old channel of the great Arahura glacier, which here sent a branch into the Kanieri basin. A mile lower down on the opposite side, the Taaroha, also a wild and rocky mountain torrent, empties itself. Its glacier sources are situated on the south-western side of Mount Chamberlin. After the junction of this latter branch, the Kokatahi follows a north-western course for six miles across the Upper Hokitika plains, and then, as before observed, it joins the main river. Pive miles below this confluence, the Kanieri enters it on its northern banks. It issues from Lake Kanieri, and is, for nearly its whole length, a mountain stream, except for the last six miles of its course, where it is dammed back by the large shingle deposits of the Hokitika.
Lake Kanieri, a charming piece of water, possessing numerous deep bays, and surrounded by forest-clad mountains, is nine miles long, and on an average one mile and a half broad. Like nearly every lake on both slopes of the Southern Alps, it is surrounded at its lower end by a broad circumvallation of moraines, through which its outlet has cut a deep channel. It is fed exclusively from the mountains on both sides. A low and broad pass at its upper end, leading into the Styx or Browning, river, proves that the former Kanieri glacier came by that valley. Finally, the Mahinapua creek joins the Hokitika page 224river near its mouth. It is a sluggish water-course, but justly celebrated for the luxuriance of the forest vegetation growing along its banks. Four miles south of the Hokitika bar, it issues from Lake Mahinapua, which lies close to the coast-line, but is separated from it by a moraine wall about fifty feet high, the lowest remnant belonging to the Hokitika basin. This shows that a branch of the Hokitika glacier during its greatest extension, after passing Koi-te-rangi, an isolated roche moutonnée lying near the centre of the Hokitika plains, followed a straight course so as to reach with its terminal face the point where Lake Mahinapua is now situated.