Motu Falls and an early NZ conservation hero

The Motu Falls are one of Eastland's hidden gems, with a stunning vantage point from a high suspension bridge.

If you don’t have a head for heights, you’d perhaps better not read on.

The Motu Falls are one of Eastland's hidden gems. When the Motu River has a good flow, they form a spectacular wall of water, thundering into a tight, rocky chasm.

But it’s the bridge that makes the spot.

It’s a suspension bridge, for walking only. You step out over the air and look straight down on the falls. When they’re pumping, your face is quickly wet from the spray.

You look up into towering forest.

The falls sit alongside Whinray Scenic Reserve, which you can walk through. This is a spot of huge environmental value, home to Hochstetter's frog, wild kiwi, and more. It’s co-managed by the Whinray Ecological Charitable Trust.

Whinray Scenic Reserve is an important remnant of the original forest that once spanned the whole Motu district.
The name commemorates James Whinray (1845-1912), whose campaigning led to the government setting aside land for a scenic reserve in 1905.

His obituary in 1912 recorded “the splendid efforts by Whinray in the direction of forest conservation and the preservation of the natural scenic beauties of the district…” The obituary also noted that Whinray “took a keen interest in having breathing spaces reserved for the people…”

Clearly, he was a man of remarkable foresight.

The reserve track was once part of the main route to Opotiki, first connected 1876. This horse track pre-dated the current Motu Road, which was connected about 1915.

Since the first bridge, built 1876/7, there have been four bridges at the Motu Falls, including the present one. The remains of an old bridge foundation can still be seen in the rock below the current suspension bridge.

A great place to stay and enjoy the area, is Motu Community House. See the Motu Trails web site for details, listed in the services directory.

From Motu settlement (and the Community House), you can cycle or drive a flat 5km to the falls.

Or you can run from Motu settlement to the falls, through Whinray Scenic Reserve, and back to Motu settlement on Marumoko road, a 17km loop.

As you cross the bridge, look up at the forest — and thank Mr Whinray.

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