"Trident Creek Falls", Unser Fritz Falls, and the Franz Josef Glacier Waterfalls

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

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 2.5
Trident Creek Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

"Trident Creek Falls" was what I believe to be an unofficially named waterfall since it didn't appear to have an official name on any of the maps that I had seen of New Zealand. That said, the maps did indicate that this waterfall flowed on Trident Creek, and it also had a segmented appearance that kind of resembled a trident so I guess it was certainly an appropriate name for the falls. Regardless of nomenclature, this page was really my waterfalling excuse to talk about the Franz Josef Glacier, which was an impressive (and fast-moving) glacier that Julie and I had the fortune of experiencing by doing a helihike on back in November 2004 as well as a walk up to the glacier terminus on both November 2004 and December 2009. In addition to this waterfall and the glacier, we saw many other waterfalls along the way so I decided to include these other waterfalls on this page as well.

To even get to "Trident Creek Falls", we went on the walk from the car park for the Franz Josef Glacier (see directions below) to the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier itself. The waterfall was probably at about the two-thirds point of the hike, where we were hiking amidst the barren glacially-scoured valley that clearly indicated to us that the glacier had been that far out not that long ago before receding to its current position. Before we descended into the barren valley, we passed through a section of native bush that managed to take advantage of the combination of rich soil and very wet climate. And all along the way, we saw several unnamed waterfalls, but it was hard to tell if any of them were truly permanent waterfalls or they just so happened to benefit from the rain in both of the times we had been here.

Beyond "Trident Creek Falls", we made it up to the roped barricade at the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier. Over the years, it appeared that the face of the glacier had changed, which attested to how dynamic the glacier was. Given the hazards of being close to the glacier (which could calf at any moment), we didn't tempt fate as we turned around and headed back to the car park. There was a separate short trail that led to the top of a hill next to the car park where there was another view of the Franz Josef Glacier from a distance, but there wasn't much of a view on our January 2009 visit from there when the clouds were hanging low until it parted right in front of the glacier. In any case, when all was said and done, we had spent just under two hours on the trail.

In our trip to the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004, we also did a helihike higher up on the glacier itself (in addition to the valley walk). The guided glacier walk was basically a seemingly random meander amongst the jagged ice formations and pinnacles. During this walk, we saw some more waterfalls tumbling from the cliffs right onto the sides of the glacier itself. I believe one of them was the officially-named Unser Fritz Falls, which was one of the more prominent tumbling cascades. However, without the benefit of a map, I could totally see how it would blend in with the rest of the plethora of waterfalls we managed to notice here.

The helihike was only doable if the weather wasn't so poor that it would be unsafe to fly the chopper due to bad visibility. We were very lucky that on the day of our helihike, we were able to do the excursion even though it was raining on and off while the clouds seemed to maintain its threat of lowering even more to render flying dangerous.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the view as we were descending into the glacier valley left behind by the scouring action of the Franz Josef GlacierThis was the view as we were descending into the glacier valley left behind by the scouring action of the Franz Josef Glacier
Here's a broad view from atop the Franz Josef Glacier with some thin waterfalls in the background. We were lucky to have been able to do such a glacier walk given the threatening weatherHere's a broad view from atop the Franz Josef Glacier with some thin waterfalls in the background. We were lucky to have been able to do such a glacier walk given the threatening weather
This was the view of the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier just as the clouds suddenly stopped short of covering it during our return visit in December 2009This was the view of the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier just as the clouds suddenly stopped short of covering it during our return visit in December 2009
Roughly a half-hour's drive southwest of the Franz Josef Glacier township was the Fox Glacier, which felt a little less developed and a little more laid back than FranzRoughly a half-hour's drive southwest of the Franz Josef Glacier township was the Fox Glacier, which felt a little less developed and a little more laid back than Franz
Looking past the helipad towards the mountains surrounding the Franz Josef Glacier as we were waiting for our turn to go onto the glacierLooking past the helipad towards the mountains surrounding the Franz Josef Glacier as we were waiting for our turn to go onto the glacier

Waiting at the helipad for our turn to chopper our way up to the middle of the Franz Josef GlacierWaiting at the helipad for our turn to chopper our way up to the middle of the Franz Josef Glacier

Looking beneath the clouds towards one of the impressive waterfalls feeding the Franz Josef Glacier while we were in the airLooking beneath the clouds towards one of the impressive waterfalls feeding the Franz Josef Glacier while we were in the air (maybe this might be Unser Fritz Falls)

Our helicopter that landed on the Franz Josef GlacierOur helicopter that landed on the Franz Josef Glacier

Doing our random meander atop the Franz Josef GlacierDoing our random meander atop the Franz Josef Glacier

Randomly walking amidst some interesting formations on the Franz Josef GlacierRandomly walking amidst some interesting formations on the Franz Josef Glacier

While we were on the Franz Josef Glacier, we looked towards this waterfall through the clouds that might be the Unser Fritz FallsWhile we were on the Franz Josef Glacier, we looked towards this waterfall through the clouds that might be the Unser Fritz Falls

A thin waterfall seen while we were atop the Franz Josef GlacierA thin waterfall seen while we were atop the Franz Josef Glacier

The tour group going around some pools of melted glacier water while we were atop the Franz Josef GlacierThe tour group going around some pools of melted glacier water while we were atop the Franz Josef Glacier

Context of the waterfall that I believe to be Unser Fritz FallsContext of the waterfall that I believe to be Unser Fritz Falls

Looking down the Franz Josef Glacier at the weather that we had to contend with on that dayLooking down the Franz Josef Glacier at the weather that we had to contend with on that day

The road to the Franz Josef Glacier was unsealed back in 2004The road to the Franz Josef Glacier was unsealed back in 2004

At the car park for the Franz Josef Glacier, where the knobby hill was one overlook while there was a waterfall in the background on the far right side of this photo taken in 2004At the car park for the Franz Josef Glacier, where the knobby hill was one overlook while there was a waterfall in the background on the far right side of this photo taken in 2004

Closer look at the waterfall seen by the car parkCloser look at the waterfall seen by the car park

Hiking amidst the jumble of rocks while making our way to the terminus of Franz Josef GlacierHiking amidst the jumble of rocks while making our way to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier

Looking towards a waterfall just as we had left the native bush section of the valley hikeLooking towards a waterfall just as we had left the native bush section of the valley hike

Following the trail towards the terminus of the Franz Josef GlacierFollowing the trail towards the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier

Approaching the Trident Creek Falls seen back in November 2004Approaching the Trident Creek Falls seen back in November 2004

Looking across the valley towards this waterfall towered over by a bush-clad mountainLooking across the valley towards this waterfall towered over by a bush clad mountain

At the roped off terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004At the roped off terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004

More waterfalls seen on our way back from the Franz Josef GlacierMore waterfalls seen on our way back from the Franz Josef Glacier

Yet another waterfall seen on the way back from the Franz Josef GlacierYet another waterfall seen on the way back from the Franz Josef Glacier

Another waterfall tumbling in a nook beneath a knobby mountainAnother waterfall tumbling in a nook beneath a knobby mountain

Julie making her way back from the Franz Josef Glacier in the rainJulie making her way back from the Franz Josef Glacier in the rain

SH6 and the Franz Josef Glacier townshipSH6 and the Franz Josef Glacier township

Back on the trail to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009Back on the trail to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009

The familiar Trident Creek Falls in December 2009The familiar Trident Creek Falls in December 2009

Julie chilling out before the Trident Creek Falls in December 2009Julie chilling out before the Trident Creek Falls in December 2009

Julie approaching the Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009Julie approaching the Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009

One of the side waterfalls in the Franz Josef Glacier Valley in December 2009One of the side waterfalls in the Franz Josef Glacier Valley in December 2009

An ice tunnel where the Waiho River flowed through the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009An ice tunnel where the Waiho River flowed through the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009

Looking back at the valley from the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier with Trident Creek Falls in the backgroundLooking back at the valley from the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier with Trident Creek Falls in the background

This tall waterfall that was spilling next to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier was what I thought to be Unser Fritz FallsThis tall waterfall that was spilling next to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier was what I thought to be Unser Fritz Falls

Looking back at the Franz Josef Glacier and the context of Unser Fritz Falls in December 2009Looking back at the Franz Josef Glacier and the context of Unser Fritz Falls in December 2009


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom up angled sweep of the so-called "Trident Creek Falls" in the Franz Josef Glacier Valley


Bottom up sweep of the segmented waterfall


Direct and deliberate bottom up sweep of the segmented falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From the Franz Josef Glacier township, we drove the SH6 south for about 4km. Just on the other side of the bridge over the Waiho River (which itself was fed by the melting waters of Franz Josef Glacier), we turned left onto a road that continued south for another 4km until it ended at the car park.

On our 2004 visit, this road was unsealed, but on our return visit in 2009, this road was completely sealed.

The Franz Josef Glacier township was about 129km south of Hokitika along the SH6. Hokitika was 39km (30 minutes drive) south of Greymouth, 245km (over 3 hours drive) northwest of Christchurch via SH73 through Arthur's Pass, and over 6 hours drive northeast of Queenstown along the West Coast.




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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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