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

Westland / Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

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


Hiking Distance: 5.4km round trip
Suggested Time: 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-23
Date last visited: 2009-12-28

Waterfall Latitude: -43.44095
Waterfall Longitude: 170.16809

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“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.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_034_11222004 - Trident Creek Falls
Trident Creek Falls

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.

It was an impressive (and fast-moving) glacier that Julie and I had the fortune of experiencing by doing a helihike back in November 2004.

We also did a walk up to the glacier terminus in both November 2004 and December 2009.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_038_12272009 - Looking up from at the Franz Josef Glacier from its terminus
Looking up from at the Franz Josef Glacier from its terminus

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.

Accessing Trident Creek Falls and the Franz Josef Glacier

To even get to “Trident Creek Falls”, we went on the walk to the terminus of the Franz Josef Blacier.

From the car park (see directions below), the waterfall was probably at about the two-thirds point of the hike, where we were hiking amidst the barren glacially-scoured valley.

Such scenery clearly indicated to us that the glacier had been that far out not that long ago before receding to its current position.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_017_11222004 - Context of the glacially-scoured valley caused by the Franz Josef Glacier
Context of the glacially-scoured valley caused by the Franz Josef Glacier

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.

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.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_050_11222004 - At the roped off terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen in our first visit in 2004
At the roped off terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen in our first visit in 2004

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.

Near the car park, there was a separate short trail that led to the top of a hill.

At the crest of that hill, we got another view of the Franz Josef Glacier from a distance (provided clouds didn’t get in the way as they did on our January 2009 visit).

Franz_Josef_Glacier_087_12272009 - Looking back at the glacial valley from near the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier
Looking back at the glacial valley from near the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier

In any case, when all was said and done, we had spent just under two hours on the trail.

The Franz Josef Glacier Helihike

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.

Franz_Josef_helihike_038_11222004 - Guided helihike on the Franz Josef Glacier itself
Guided helihike on the Franz Josef 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.

Indeed, we were very lucky on the day of our helihike.

Franz_Josef_helihike_086_11222004 - Looking towards some notable waterfalls (possibly Unser Fritz Falls on the left) from our guided helihike on the Franz Josef Glacier itself
Looking towards some notable waterfalls (possibly Unser Fritz Falls on the left) from our guided helihike on the Franz Josef Glacier itself

That because we managed to do the excursion despite low hanging clouds and intermittent rain, which always threatened to make flying in such conditions dangerous.

Authorities

Trident Creek Falls and the Franz Josef Glacier reside in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park near the town of Franz Josef in the West Coast region of South Island, New Zealand. They are administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_004_12272009 - Looking up towards a side waterfall near the start of the walk to the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_005_12272009 - Looking ahead along the Franz Josef Glacier Valley under some persistent low clouds threatening to obscure the Franz Josef Glacier itself during our late December 2009 visit
Franz_Josef_Glacier_008_12272009 - Context of Julie walking on the glacially-scoured Franz Josef Glacier Valley en route to the terminus of the glacier as well as the base of 'Trident Creek Falls' during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_012_12272009 - While on the trail to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in late December 2009, I didn't recall having to cross footbridges like this during our November 2004 visit. Perhaps the increased outflow of the Waiho River due to Global Warming might have necessitated this measure
Franz_Josef_Glacier_013_12272009 - The familiar Trident Creek Falls in as seen in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_019_12272009 - Julie chilling out before the Trident Creek Falls as seen in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_026_12272009 - Context of Julie approaching the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_028_12272009 - Looking towards another one of the side waterfalls in the Franz Josef Glacier Valley in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_030_12272009 - As we got closer to the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier, we noticed that we were getting past the low clouds and starting to actually see the glacier itself during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_042_12272009 - An ice tunnel where the Waiho River flowed through the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier as seen in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_045_12272009 - Looking back towards the Franz Josef Glacier Valley and the low cloud ceiling hovering over the glacially-scoured valley as we started to head back from the glacier's terminus in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_046_12272009 - Looking towards other waterfalls funneling through these side gullies as seen from the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_051_12272009 - Looking towards some guides setting the way for a group to climb up the dirty part of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen from our valley walk in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_074_12272009 - Now looking back towards a group climbing up the dirty ice atop the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen from our glacier valley walk in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_077_12272009 - Looking back at more groups climbing up towards the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_093_12272009 - Looking towards another one of the side waterfalls tumbling into the Franz Josef Glacier Valley while walking within the glacially-scoured basin in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_104_12272009 - Another look back towards the mighty Franz Josef Glacier as we continued walking back towards the Trident Creek Falls during our valley walk in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_110_12272009 - Looking back at a contextual view of the Trident Creek Falls as seen during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_124_12272009 - Looking back towards a tall waterfall spilling towards the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen during our visit in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_157_12272009 - Another look at this tall waterfall that was spilling next to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier, which I thought to be the Unser Fritz Falls as seen in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_156_12272009 - Looking back at the Franz Josef Glacier and the context of Unser Fritz Falls in late December 2009
Franz_Josef_helihike_001_11222004 - Looking past the helipad towards the mountains surrounding the Franz Josef Glacier as we were waiting for our turn to go onto the glacier via the helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_002_11222004 - Waiting at the helipad for our turn to chopper our way up to the middle of the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_007_11222004 - Looking towards the extent of the Franz Josef Glacier from the chopper as part of the helihike tour that we did in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_008_11222004 - Aerial view towards other side waterfalls en route to the Franz Josef Glacier as seen from the chopper as part of the helihike tour that we did in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_009_11222004 - Looking beneath the clouds towards one of the impressive waterfalls feeding the Franz Josef Glacier while we were in the air as part of our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_010_11222004 - Another aerial look at the extent of the Franz Josef Glacier from the chopper as part of the helihike tour that we did in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_011_11222004 - Focused look at the extent of the glacial ice in the higher portions of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen from the chopper during our visit in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_015_11222004 - Our helicopter that landed on the Franz Josef Glacier as we started the helihike portion of our November 2004 tour
Franz_Josef_helihike_017_11222004 - Looking higher up the cleaner ice of the Franz Josef Glacier after having landed pretty high up the glacier itself in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_021_11222004 - Doing our random meander atop the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_023_11222004 - Looking across the jagged surface of the ice on the Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_024_11222004 - Randomly walking amidst some interesting formations on the Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike tour in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_026_11222004 - Some guy approaching an arch formation in the glacial ice atop of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_030_11222004 - Our helihike guide carving out some steps to make it so we could ascend higher up parts of the Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_033_11222004 - Looking towards another ice arch formation on the Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_044_11222004 - While we were on the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004, we looked towards this waterfall through the clouds that might be the Unser Fritz Falls
Franz_Josef_helihike_045_11222004 - A thin waterfall seen while we were atop the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_047_11222004 - The helihike tour group going around some pools of melted glacier water while we were atop the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_050_11222004 - Another tour group on a Franz Josef Glacier helihike towered over by some interesting formations as seen in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_053_11222004 - Looking downslope along the icy surface of Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_054_11222004 - Contextual look at our helihike group spreading out towards the end of little excursion in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_058_11222004 - Context of other helihike participants standing atop parts of the jagged ice of Franz Josef Glacier as seen in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_065_11222004 - Broad look towards other side waterfalls as seen from high up the Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_066_11222004 - Looking down at some helihike participants going into a tiny ice cave in the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_071_11222004 - This was the tiny ice cave that we saw inside the Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_088_11222004 - Focused look at the waterfall that I thought was the Unser Fritz Falls as seen while waiting for our return chopper to pick us up atop the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_090_11222004 - Looking towards another thin waterfall while awaiting our return chopper from the top of Franz Josef Glacier during our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_092_11222004 - Looking down the Franz Josef Glacier at the weather that we had to contend with on that day in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_095_11222004 - Contextual look back up at the Franz Josef Glacier while back in the chopper at the end of our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_101_11222004 - Other thin waterfalls in the distance while choppering our way back to Franz Josef township to end our helihike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_helihike_108_11222004 - Aerial view of the glacial alluvial fan while looking in the direction of Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_005_11222004 - Looking over the car park to start our walk to the terminus for the Franz Josef Glacier during our visit in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_007_11222004 - Crossing 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 November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_009_11222004 - Closer look at the waterfall seen by the car park during our November 2004 visit
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_022_11222004 - Hiking amidst the jumble of rocks while making our way to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_023_11222004 - Looking towards a waterfall just as we had left the native bush section of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley hike in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_025_11222004 - Focused look at the side waterfall near the start of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk during our visit in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_027_11222004 - Following the trail towards the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_029_11222004 - Approaching the Trident Creek Falls seen back in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_036_11222004 - Looking across the Franz Josef Glacier Valley towards this waterfall towered over by a bush-clad mountain during our November 2004 visit
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_040_11222004 - Looking towards another waterfall in a notch as seen during our Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_042_11222004 - Approaching the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen during our valley walk in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_053_11222004 - Looking to the side of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley from the terminus of the glacier during our visit in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_055_11222004 - More waterfalls seen on our way back from the Franz Josef Glacier on our visit in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_060_11222004 - Yet another waterfall seen on the way back from the Franz Josef Glacier during our valley walk in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_063_11222004 - Another waterfall tumbling in a nook beneath a knobby mountain as seen during our Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_064_11222004 - Contextual look back at the Franz Josef Glacier as the rain started falling again and we were about to conclude our visit in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_066_11222004 - Julie making her way back from the Franz Josef Glacier in the rain to end our valley walk in November 2004
Franz_Josef_town_003_11232004 - SH6 and the Franz Josef Glacier township when the weather finally started to improve on our November 2004 visit

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To access the “Trident Creek Falls” and the Franz Josef Glacier terminus, we started from the Franz Josef Glacier township, and 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.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_003_11222004 - Driving the spur road towards the car park for the walk to the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier
Driving the spur road towards the car park for the walk to the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier

On our November 2004 visit, this road was unsealed, but on our return visit in December 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.


Bottom up sweep of the segmented waterfall


Direct and deliberate bottom up sweep of the segmented falls

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Tagged with: franz josef, westland, tai poutini, west coast, fox glacier, unser fritz, trident creek, waiho river, hokitika, haast, south island, southern alps, new zealand, waterfall



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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