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Dart Track reopens after three-year closure

The new section of the track includes 13m of new stairways. Photo: DOC

After several years of being closed, the Dart section of the Rees-Dart circuit has reopened.

The Dart Track closed in January 2014 after a landslide blocked a significant portion of the trail, forming a 3km, seemingly permanent, lake. The Rees Valley has remained open during the closure.

“It has been a long journey for DOC staff, and patiently waiting trampers, but it will be worth all the hard work to see people back in the stunning valleys, mountains, and rivers which form the Rees-Dart circuit,” DOC Wakatipu operations manager Geoff Owen said in a statement.

The circuit is a four- to five-day tramp, and because it is considered to be more challenging than the nearby Routeburn Great Walk, it typically attracts a more experienced tramping market, Owen said.

Work on the track included 2.7km of track rerouting, 111m of blasting, 13m of new stairways, and a 12m steel truss bridge. “Numerous man hours, come rain or shine, have been needed for the hard slog of hand clearing debris such as fallen trees,” said Owen. “The track will remain more challenging between Daleys Flat Hut and Bedford Bridge so it is recommended that trampers prepare themselves for a longer day and more arduous conditions over that section.”

Locals from the Upper Clutha Tramping Club are thrilled to see it reopened.

“It’s one of the most important tracks in Otago,” club member Brian Cleugh said. “It’s different from the other tracks in that it’s all alpine peaks and mountain valleys. There are river flats, with each one different from the next one. You go through stands of bush between, and when you come out, you’re in a different world.”

Cleugh said it’s been many years since he’d been on the circuit, and is looking forward to a wander through sometime soon.