Fox Glacier Waterfalls

Fox Glacier / Westland Tai Poutini National Park, West Coast Region (South Island), New Zealand

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 2.5
Contextual view of a cascade spilling towards the Fox Glacier as seen in December 2009

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Fox Glacier Waterfalls were the series of waterfalls that Julie and I encountered when we finally had a chance to visit this glacial counterpart to the more famous Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009. Unlike with Franz, it didn't seem like we could identify any waterfalls with official names (we couldn't even identify Flute Falls, which seemed to be the only officially-named waterfall in this valley) so all we had were a bunch of photos of waterfalls that we had trouble associating with names. So if this page is a difficult read because we couldn't single them out, well, we did our best to describe them under the circumstances.

In any case, these waterfalls were really our waterfalling excuse to talk about the Fox Glacier itself, which was the primary draw. Like Franz, this glacier was also said to be one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, and it also could make that rare claim that it terminated into coastal rainforest. That said, it seemed to us to be noticeably quieter and less developed than the Franz Josef Glacier (including its neighbouring township) though it too saw its share of tour groups. Indeed, the waterfalls were like backdrops to the overall scenery without any of them drawing the kind of attention to stand out on its own.

Julie and I only did the glacier valley walk from the car park (see directions below) to the glacier terminus. We didn't get a chance to do a helihike on this glacier. Yet we already started to see waterfalls coming down around the car park area as well as the access road to get there. According to our map, Flute Falls was supposed to be tumbling near one of the access roads to get here so perhaps it was one of the waterfalls we saw during the drive. Anyways, we're not sure if these waterfalls were permanent or they benefitted from the rains that would frequently come to this end of the Southern Alps. Perhaps this uncertainty was the main reason why hardly any of these waterfalls seemed to have official names.

Nonetheless, we then proceeded to walk along the north side of the Fox River as the mostly rocky track had a somewhat long (and potentially wet) stream crossing beneath a cascade before ultimately reaching the terminus of the glacier, where we saw another cascade tumbling across the valley. There were signs warning us about tidal waves in the Fox River, and Julie and I happened to witness the reason why as we managed to hear the crack and see the thundering calving of the glacier terminus right before our eyes! Overall, we spent just under two hours doing the walk, but when Julie and I made a return visit later in the afternoon (when the weather was calmer), we only needed one hour as we stopped fewer times to take photos.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Even though it was relatively quieter than Franz Josef Glacier, there were still quite a few people visiting the Fox GlacierEven though it was relatively quieter than Franz Josef Glacier, there were still quite a few people visiting the Fox Glacier
Mt Cook and Mt Tasman rarely showed themselves given the persistent cloud cover and frequent rain on the west coast, and during our visit in December 2009, this was as good as it gotMt Cook and Mt Tasman rarely showed themselves given the persistent cloud cover and frequent rain on the west coast, and during our visit in December 2009, this was as good as it got
On an access road from the Fox Glacier township towards the coast, we made a quick visit to Lake Matheson where Mt Cook could be seen reflected in the lake, but it was too cloudy during our visitOn an access road from the Fox Glacier township towards the coast, we made a quick visit to Lake Matheson where Mt Cook could be seen reflected in the lake, but it was too cloudy during our visit
As we were driving north from the Haast Junction towards Fox Glacier, SH6 passed by the rocky and windswept beaches on this rainy side of the coastAs we were driving north from the Haast Junction towards Fox Glacier, SH6 passed by the rocky and windswept beaches on this rainy side of the coast
Partial view of the Fox Glacier in November 2004 from a lookout on the road to the south side of the Fox River (opposite the glacier access road)Partial view of the Fox Glacier in November 2004 from a lookout on the road to the south side of the Fox River (opposite the glacier access road)

The start of the track to the terminus of Fox GlacierThe start of the track to the terminus of Fox Glacier

This was a fairly long (and potentially wet) stream crossing on the way to the terminus of Fox GlacierThis was a fairly long (and potentially wet) stream crossing on the way to the terminus of Fox Glacier

Looking across the span of the terminus of Fox GlacierLooking across the span of the terminus of Fox Glacier

Julie still taking photos as we continued approaching the Fox GlacierJulie still taking photos as we continued approaching the Fox Glacier

This was one of the more prominent waterfalls that we saw on the way to the terminus of Fox GlacierThis was one of the more prominent waterfalls that we saw on the way to the terminus of Fox Glacier

Now we were getting fairly close to the terminus of Fox GlacierNow we were getting fairly close to the terminus of Fox Glacier

A closer examination of the striations in the dirty part of the terminus of Fox GlacierA closer examination of the striations in the dirty part of the terminus of Fox Glacier

Tidal wave signs warning us not to get close to the Fox River due to glacial calving, which we actually witnessed during our visitTidal wave signs warning us not to get close to the Fox River due to glacial calving, which we actually witnessed during our visit

Contextual look back at the Fox Glacier as the sun started showing upContextual look back at the Fox Glacier as the sun started showing up

Heading back to the car park with some interestingly-shaped knobs and hills flanking the glacier valleyHeading back to the car park with some interestingly-shaped knobs and hills flanking the glacier valley

Angled view towards this double-barreled waterfall seen near the car parkAngled view towards this double-barreled waterfall seen near the car park

More direct look towards that double-barreled waterfall tumbling near the car parkMore direct look towards that double-barreled waterfall tumbling near the car park

As we went a short distance down the access road, we noticed this attractive falls spilling right into a colourful poolAs we went a short distance down the access road, we noticed this attractive falls spilling right into a colourful pool

We came back later in the afternoon to see the Fox Glacier again, and in doing so, we noticed this cascade in the distance seen from the car parkWe came back later in the afternoon to see the Fox Glacier again, and in doing so, we noticed this cascade in the distance seen from the car park

Context of the Fox Glacier with the Fox River and some cascades tumbling towards itContext of the Fox Glacier with the Fox River and some cascades tumbling towards it

Looking across the terminus of Fox Glacier towards a cascadeLooking across the terminus of Fox Glacier towards a cascade

A closer look at that waterfall tumbling near the termins of Fox GlacierA closer look at the waterfall tumbling near the terminus of Fox Glacier

Our last look at the impressive Fox Glacier before we left for goodOur last look at the impressive Fox Glacier before we left for good


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep from left to right starting at a prominent cascade then panning over to the glacier terminus before following the river downstream


This isn't a waterfall movie, but...

Folks, this is why you heed the warning signs!!!


An impressive waterfall fronted by a colorful pool just north of the car park for the glacier terminus walk


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The turnoff for Fox Glacier is about 2km south of the Cook Flat Road/SH6 intersection (in the Fox Glacier township). Turning left onto the access road from the town centre, proceed for just under 4km to the car park at the end of the road.

If you're coming from the south and heading north, the turnoff is on the right just past the bridge over the Fox River.

Note there's also an access road to the south of the Fox River just before (as you're heading north) the bridge. This took us to an overlook, but I didn't recall it taking us to the glacier itself.

For geographical context, the Fox Glacier township was 23km (30 minutes drive) west of the Franz Josef Glacier township, 157km (2 hours drive) south of Hokitika, 196km (2.5 hours drive) south of Greymouth, and 327km (4 hours drive) north of Queenstown.




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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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