The Nevis Valley was first used as a trail route by Maori people. Early European settlers farmed the valley and in 1862 a Maori farmhand found some gold in the river. Years later, pioneering miners decided to investigate reports of this find and they soon struck it rich. Efforts to keep the find a secret failed - and so began the Nevis Valley gold rush.Saved by the remoteness of this valley, the remains of numerous stone buildings from the gold mining days offer a fascinating insight into the perseverance and ingenuity of early pioneers. The relics include everything from the cemetery and settlement buildings through to a woolshed and the first ski hut.Today only the family at Ben Nevis Station occupies the area, so it still feels very isolated. High mountain ranges rise from either side of the valley - to the west the Remarkables and Hector Mountains, and to the east the Old Woman Range. Fed by numerous creeks from the ranges, the Nevis River meanders along the broad valley floor. From Cromwell the unsealed road to Nevis Valley rises 1300 metres over Duffers Saddle before descending to run alongside the river. Nevis Valley has a lower and an upper section separated by a gorge. When the valley is not snowbound, four-wheel drive vehicles and trail bikes can continue on through the gorge and upper valley, crossing several fords before rising over the Hector Mountains to the town of Garston just south of Lake Wakatipu.