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Halfway between Blenheim and Nelson, where a bridge crosses the Pelorus River, there is an enchanting scenic reserve that is a great starting point for easy walks through forest glades. For something a little more adventurous, choose the track that leads to a waterfall and rock pool, or walk up along a ridge to a 417 metre peak.
You'll also find a little bit of Middle-earth magic in this area. Peter Jackson chose Pelorus Bridge as a filming location for scenes from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Here, the dwarves were filmed floating in barrels down the river - an experience that Stephen Hunter, who played dwarf Bombur, called 'his favourite day on set'. A similar experience is also available for visitors, where barrels are swapped for kayaks. This guided kayak tour includes stops at waterfalls, streams and the filming location itself.
Along the way you may see several species of native bird including the large native pigeon (kereru), bellbirds, tui and fantails. The area is also rich in lush native forest.
Visitors who want to stay for longer can spend a night in the Pelorus Scenic Reserve Campground, a great place for swimming and bush walks to visit a nearby bat reserve.
The valley itself was the site of a massacre of the Ngati Kuia and Ngati Apa tribes by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha, who came from the North Island coast, west of Wellington. The first Europeans to arrive in 1843 found a few remaining Maori people producing flax for Te Rauparaha. The original route to Nelson went through the reserve site and over the Maungatapu Saddle. Later, the path that the road follows today was discovered, and a bridge was built across the Pelorus River around 1860. The Pelorus Bridge location was set aside for a future township, but in the early 1900s this was changed to preserve the area's natural beauty. The present bridge was built in the 1950s.