About Trident Creek Falls, Unser Fritz Falls, and the Franz Josef Glacier Waterfalls
“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.
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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