Just a year after it reopened, the Rees-Dart Circuit is again closed after heavy rain damaged a bridge earlier this month.
Senior DOC ranger Richard Kennett said about four metres of the river bank was washed away at the lower Snowy Creek bridge, close to Dart Hut. The bridge separates the hut from a nearby campsite and has to be crossed to reach the Rees Saddle, which connects the Rees and Dart valleys.
“The bridge is hanging in mid air at the moment,” he said.
Kennett said experienced trampers would be able to cross the river, but as the track was popular with less experienced trampers, DOC decided to close the circuit.
“It’s an entry to moderate level tramp, the next step up from the Routeburn. For an experienced tramper, it’d be no different to any other major river you have to ford, but if you say that to the general public we’d be collecting bodies out of Lake Wakatipu,” he said. “The river rises very quickly and there are big boulders to navigate – at the moment it’s too high and is impassable.”
Engineers were working on an interim bridge, which Kennett said would be installed in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, trampers could walk either the Rees Track or the Dart Track.
The access road to the start of the Rees Track has also been washed out. Queenstown Lakes District Council has been approached for an update on when the road will be repaired. Kennet said in the meantime, people had to park about 2km from the start of the track and walk.
Meanwhile, another bridge on the Dart Track which was damaged in January is set to be replaced in a couple of weeks. The bridge crossed Spaniard Creek, about an hour from the start of the Dart Track, and was damaged by windfall.
Kennett said the creek was normally about ankle deep, but it could be difficult to cross in high flows, and it was raining steadily in Glenorchy.
The Dart Track was closed for three years in 2014 after a large landslide blocked a significant part of the trail, forming a 3km, seemingly permanent, lake. The track reopened in January 2017.