January 26, 2021

Shotover River Fun facts

KJet’s Jet boat trips take you down the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers.  Did you know that the Shotover River is the second richest gold bearing river in the world? That’s just one of the many interesting facts about the ‘Shotty’ that we have uncovered below.

1] The river was named the Shotover river by the ‘Founder of Queenstown’ William Gilbert Rees who settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in 1860. Rees named the river after business partner, George Gammie’s estate back in England ‘Shotover Park’. [1]

2] The Māori name for the Shotover River is Kimi-ākau which means ‘looking for the coast’ possibly a reference to their search for a route to the West Coast.  [2]

3] The discovery of gold in the Shotover River is credited to Thomas Arthur and Harry Redfern in November 1862. This was only a few months after the discovery of gold in the Arrow River, and set off one of the largest gold rushes anywhere in the world!  [3]

4] The Shotover River drains into the Kawarau River four kilometres from the Lake Wakatipu outlet. A characteristic of the Shotover River is the large quantity of sediment it transports from its mountain catchment. [4]

5] The first bridge across the Shotover River was completed in 1870, and allowed horses and heavier traffic to travel directly between Queenstown and Arrowtown without facing a treacherous river crossing, or diversion to Arthurs Point. It was continuously washed away and eventually closed in 1878. [5]

6] The Shotover bridge brought all its traffic past The Ferry Hotel. This hotel serviced miners, farmers and merchants until around 1912. In 1872 the Ferry hotel was destroyed by fire, but was quickly rebuilt that same year. When the new Shotover bridge was opened further upstream in 1915 (which is now the site of the current “Old” Shotover Bridge) The Ferry Hotel was cut in half and moved, by traction engine to its current location on Spence Road. It continued to operate as a hotel until 1971, when Land Transport built the current modern bridge back near its original site. The Ferry Hotel wasn’t able to be moved again and has remained on Spence Road. Since 1994 it has been operating as a Bed & Breakfast. [6]

7] The Oxenbridge Tunnel is a manually bored 170-metre tunnel on a solid rock bluff on the west side of the river near Arthurs Point, that was part of a mining scheme (that eventually failed and was abandoned) by the Oxenbridge brothers in the early 1900’s. The brothers attempted to divert water from the Shotover river to recover gold from the riverbed. It was registered as a Category II Historic Place in 1985, and is used by rafters and kayakers today instead. Early KJet trips used to go all the way down the Shotover River to the Oxenbridge tunnel (and were a bit longer than the one-hour trips we have today!). [7]

8] For views of the Shotover River and Oxenbridge Tunnel, take the DOC track the ‘Oxenbridge Tunnel Track’ that goes from the Edith Cavell Bridge alongside the Shotover River to a viewpoint that overlooks the tunnel river diversion and an old steam engine. [8]

9] In winter 1991 and 1992, the Shotover river froze from bank-to-bank near Skippers Canyon and in July 2007 blocks of ice the size of car tyres formed in the river.

10] In the early 2000’s the old Lower Shotover Bridge was no longer able to carry vehicles, and had been superseded in 1975 by the new bridge. By 2003 it had deteriorated so badly due to neglect it was proposed that it be restored and used for passenger and bicycle use.  Today, the bridge forms an important part of the Queenstown Trail and provides stunning views from both sides – The Remarkables to the South and Coronet Peak to the North. [9]

[1] http://home.clara.net/shotover/history/nz.htm

[2] “Skippers” (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 26 January 2021.

[3] Miller, F.W.G. (1949). Golden Days of Lake County. New Zealand, Otago, Dunedin: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd. P 758

[4] IPENZ Engineering Heritage Record Report; Shotover River Bridge, Lower Shotover; Rebecca Ford and Karen Astwood; 15 February 2016; P6

[5] https://queenstowntrail.co.nz/trail-directory/old-lower-shotover-bridge/

[6] https://www.ferry.co.nz/history/

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotover_River

[8] https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/queenstown-area/things-to-do/oxenbridge-tunnel-track/

[9] https://queenstowntrail.co.nz/trail-directory/old-lower-shotover-bridge/