Twin Creek Falls and Reid Falls were a pair of waterfalls in and around the Otira Viaduct, which was a cantilevered (elevated) highway officially opened in 1999 that was born out of necessity as an improvement on the driving route between Christchurch and Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass. This route originally was utilized to significantly cut the distance and time of traversing the Southern Alps between the South Island’s east and west coasts, but given the steepness of the Otira Valley, that original route suffered from persistent rockfall hazards as well as siltation buildup from the Otira River as the twisty and narrow mountain road was prone to closures. This was further exacerbated by the fact that this valley was also seismically active as well as prone to severe winter weather.
After the 440m viaduct was opened, there were no longer vehicle length restrictions as the road was straightened out and buffered from the natural obstacles that once plagued the old road. However, a couple of years later, SH73 was further widened and protected with rock shelters and chutes just north of the cantilevered viaduct at the Reid Falls. That waterfall posed an erosion hazard so the chute diverted the natural flow of the falls away from the cliff to drop safely downslope of the highway. Just south of this modification to the highway was a lookout that allowed Julie and I to look back at the engineering work on display here.
A short distance south of Reid Falls was the elevated Otira Viaduct where after crossing over this section, there was another lookout that allowed us a look back at this piece of engineering. And not long after the end of the viaduct, Julie and I noticed the impressive 115m Twin Creek Falls, which we spotted right from SH73. Even though we got the view you see at the top of this page from right off the highway, we didn’t do any of the walks (e.g. the Dobson Nature Walk or Temple Basin Walk) that might have gotten us a closer look. Thus, as you can see that photo above, we had to contend with annoying power lines running across our line of sight.
Both Twin Creek Falls and Reid Falls were really our waterfalling excuses to take a closer look at the Otira Viaduct as well as have a greater appreciation of how difficult a problem it was to overcome and make this a key supply route. As such, we treated the falls as if they were roadside stops though I wondered if Twin Creek Falls would have had its own car park and signage had it not been overshadowed by the likes of Devils Punchbowl Falls within Arthur’s Pass National Park nearby.
From the Kumara Junction (between SH6 and SH73; also 7km west of Kumara), we drove about 70km along SH73 due southeast towards Arthur’s Pass before reaching the Reid Falls Lookout at the so-called “Candy’s Bend.” After driving beneath both a rock chute as well as the chute diverting Reid Falls, we stopped the car at the car park for the lookout to our right just as the road bent.
About 500m further south of the Reid Falls Lookout was the Otira Viaduct Lookout, which also had a car park and lookout shortly after traversing the elevated highway.
Finally, roughly 2.7km south of the Otira Viaduct Lookout was the car park for the Dobson Nature Walk and Temple Basin Track on the east side of the highway. This was where we stopped the car and got our roadside views of Twin Creek Falls though we probably should have done the 20-minute hike to at least get a closer and more satisfying view.
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