Dawson Falls

Egmont National Park / Stratford District, Taranaki Region (North Island), New Zealand

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 1.5
Dawson Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Dawson Falls was our convenient waterfalling excuse to explore more of the conical Mt Tarnaki - the centerpiece of Egmont National Park. The funny thing about this classically-shaped volcano was that it actually doubled as the iconic Japanese volcano Mt Fuji in the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai. In any case, the 16m waterfall appeared as a double-barreled drop that reminded me a lot like a smaller version of Havasu Falls in Arizona (without the colors). However, on a later visit five years later, the waterfall looked different as it barely had its second parallel drop flowing. The scenic rating we put up accounted for this latest observation.

From the car park of the Egmont National Park Dawson Falls Visitor Centre on the southeastern slopes of Mt Taranaki (see directions below), we walked back along the narrow road towards the signposted Kapuni Loop Trailhead. It didn't look like there was sufficient room to park the car at this trailhead, and I wondered if we were allowed to park here in the first place, so that was what necessitated the walk along the road. Once we were on the track, we immediately descended into the lush native bush towards a fork.

At first, we went right at the fork, which took us down to a somewhat contextual view of the falls spilling over the bush. We could have continued on the trail then looped back to the base of the falls, but instead, we opted to go back up to the fork, then continue to down the shadowy steps leading directly down to the base of Dawson Falls. From down here, it was a little misty on our first visit in November 2004, which had a bit of volume, so I had some trouble taking photos from this close. So when we tried to get a little further away for a better photo, we had to be careful of the slippery rocks as we were scrambling around the wet scene (yielding the photo you see at the top of this page).

When we came back here in January 2010, the photographing difficulties weren't as prevalent as it seemed to have significantly lower volume than before. However, it looked like an unbalanced waterfall as the lone thick column (now the left column instead of the right column) left only a trickle for the right column (formerly the larger column from back in 2004). I guess it just showed us Nature runs by her own rules and what we would otherwise think would be "normal" was really just a snapshot of Nature being itself at any given moment when left to its own devices.

Even though our hiking only took less than 30 minutes total (it was only 5 minutes walk from the trailhead to the falls), we did have the option of extending our hike towards Wilkies Pools, the Enchanted Track, or other tracks that go up and around Mt Taranaki. That said, we didn't do them so we can't say more about them.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

After visiting Dawson Falls, we briefly checked out the Surf Highway. Here's a view looking south towards the Tasman Sea from the Surf Highway south of Mt TaranakiAfter visiting Dawson Falls, we briefly checked out the Surf Highway. Here's a view looking south towards the Tasman Sea from the Surf Highway south of Mt Taranaki
This was the view looking up at Mt Taranaki from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre on the volcano's southeastern slopesThis was the view looking up at Mt Taranaki from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre on the volcano's southeastern slopes
Back in November 2004, after visiting Dawson Falls, we made a quick detour to see Waverley Beach and the Waverley Arch. It was very peaceful and calm as Julie and I were the only ones here at the timeBack in November 2004, after visiting Dawson Falls, we made a quick detour to see Waverley Beach and the Waverley Arch. It was very peaceful and calm as Julie and I were the only ones here at the time
On our second visit to the Taranaki area of New Zealand in January 2010, we checked out the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, which was a really neat experienceOn our second visit to the Taranaki area of New Zealand in January 2010, we checked out the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, which was a really neat experience
Looking through some of the low clouds hovering around the southern slopes of Mt Taranaki from the Surf Highway on a later visit in January 2010Looking through some of the low clouds hovering around the southern slopes of Mt Taranaki from the Surf Highway on a later visit in January 2010

In our first visit to Dawson Falls, we drove from Stratford directly to the falls, where we got these partial views of the snow-capped Mt Taranaki along Opunake RdIn our first visit to Dawson Falls, we drove from Stratford directly to the falls, where we got these partial views of the snow-capped Mt Taranaki along Opunake Rd

This was the narrow Manaia Rd as we made our way up to the Dawson Falls Visitor CentreThis was the narrow Manaia Rd as we made our way up to the visitor centre near the falls

During the drive up Manaia Rd, we could see parts of the snowy peak of Mt Taranaki in November 2004During the drive up Manaia Rd, we could see parts of the snowy peak of Mt Taranaki in November 2004

The signpost for the Kapuni Loop Track telling us that it was only 5 minutes walk to a pair of views of Dawson FallsThe signpost for the Kapuni Loop Track telling us that it was only 5 minutes walk to a pair of views of the falls

The track was wet and puddly when we first did the hike in November 2004The track was wet and puddly when we first did the hike in November 2004

Dawson Falls viewed from further away on the Kapuni LoopThe double-barreled falls viewed from further away on the Kapuni Loop

Closer look at Dawson Falls from the more distant view on the Kapuni LoopCloser look at the double-barreled falls from the more distant view on the Kapuni Loop

Descending the steps leading down to the base of Dawson Falls as seen in January 2010Descending the steps leading down to the base of the falls as seen in January 2010

Profile view of Dawson Falls as we were approaching its base back in November 2004Profile view of the falls as we were approaching its base back in November 2004

A misty up-close view of Dawson Falls seen back in November 2004A misty up-close view of the falls seen back in November 2004

How Dawson Falls looked after a visit in January 2010How the falls looked after a visit in January 2010

Looking upstream at Dawson Falls in its single-barreled state in January 2010Looking upstream at the falls in its single-barreled state in January 2010

This lit up waterfall was in Puka Park during the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, which Julie and I thought was a magical family friendly evening on this festive evening in early January 2010Later that evening, we saw this lit up waterfall in Puka Park during the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, which Julie and I thought was a magical family friendly festive evening in early January 2010


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom up sweep of the falls viewed from just downstream of its base


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From the SH3 and SH43 junction in the heart of Stratford, we went south on SH3 for about 1km, then turned right onto Celia St. We followed Celia St (which then became Opunake Rd) for about 14km. Then we turned right at the intersection with Manaia Rd to go onto Manaia Rd, and we followed this road up the mountain to the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre after about 9km. We had to be careful on this section of Manaia Rd because it was narrow (like about 1.5 lanes) with some blind turns and heavy bush cover.

There were other ways to get to Manaia Rd from other rural streets and roads. However, if you happened to be on the Surf Highway (SH45), Manaia Rd also junctions with SH45 at the township of Manaia. It would be about 19km between Manaia and the Opunake Rd/Manaia Rd intersection.

Finally for some context, Stratford was about 30 minutes (40km) south of New Plymouth or 4 hours drive (312km) north of Wellington. New Plymouth was 4.5 hours drive or 361km south of Auckland.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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