Smiths Creek Shelter

Smiths Creek Shelter is a day shelter managed by the Department of Conservation located in the lower Tauherenikau valley.

Smiths Creek Shelter was built by Wellington Tramping & Mountaineering Club (WTMC) in a different site from the original Smiths Creek hut. Smith Shelter No. 3 was slightly up the Tauherenikau River. This is the fourth of four of the ‘Smith’ structures in the area. It was opened on 17 July 1983.

Smiths Creek Shelter;

This was the second of four ‘Smith’ structures in the area. It was originally a Wellington Tramping & Mountaineering Club hut. The hut opened in Feb., 1949. By 1964 the hut was dilapidated & it was demolished in 1965 as the nearby Tauherenikau Hut was far more welcoming. Photo D Field 1963.

Photo above – Oct 1961. – Tramping group outside Smiths Creek Hut – The photograph was published in the Evening Post 10 Oct 1961 in relation to missing trampers

Photo above – This was the second of two Tauherenikau huts. It was built by members of the Tararua Tramping Club in 1958 & opened on 29 June, 1958. It burnt down on 1 Feb., 1975. Photo – Tararua Tramping Club members put finishing touches to the new Tauherenikau Hut before the official opening. This hut was built to replace the old hut which was undermined by the Tauherenikau River in spite of the building of groynes to protect the site. Photographed by Greig Royle 29 June 1958

Joe Gibbs (above) at the Smiths Creek hut. Joe was known to many trampers and hunters in the 1960s, when he resided in the huts in the Tauherenikau valley in the Tararua range after his retirement. He was a familiar sight to many trampers that tramped into the first huts in the valley on a Friday night. Read more about Joe Gibbs here

Huts in the Tauherenikau Valley.

The huts in the Tauherenikau valley date back to the earliest huts built in the Tararua range. The valley was the learning ground for Tararua trampers and hunters. The huts in the lower valley were often used as Friday night stop overs for longer trips weekend trips into the range. In the 1960s-70s there were four main huts in the Tauherenikau Valley. (Tauherenikau, Smiths Creek, Alloway Dickson and Cone.) Earlier than this, huts had existed on Cone Saddle and also the predecessor to Cone hut was Top Tauherenikau hut located further down the valley from Cone hut.

The first major tramping route crossing the Tararua range was the Hector track. Track committees were set up for the western and eastern ends of this proposed tourist route. The eastern section was planned to start at Woodside and ascend Mt Reeves , then descending to the upper Tauherenikau valley. In April 1907 the Greytown Committee completed Top Tauherenikau Hut. Packhorses were used to transport materials for the hut construction.

 It was called Tauherenikau Hut until the new one lower down the valley forced a change to Top Tauherenikau Hut. It conformed to the old pattern of segregated sleeping rooms with a communal cooking area. Its exterior covering was malthoid which perhaps explains its early decay, for although it was still being used in 1929, when Neill and Winchcombe slept there on the way to their eponymous ridge, the 1936 map has down-graded it to the status of an unnamed ‘whare’.

In 1922 the Greytown Committee erected a simple 3-wire bridge across the Tauherenikau River but that was washed away in the next flood. The decision was made to erect a sound suspension bridge in the vicinity and Government funding became available in 1924 to have the work done.