About Wakefield Falls
Wakefield Falls was perhaps the most prominent of all the named waterfalls that we were aware of in the vicinity of the great Mt Cook (Aoraki was its Maori name). Indeed, this waterfall was our waterfalling excuse to talk about New Zealand’s highest mountain as our visit here was centered around being close to this impressive mountain surrounded by both the Hooker and Tasman Glaciers. And while there were some fairly strenuous hikes in the area to see Aoraki in different ways, Julie and I were able to see this waterfall from right off the road. We were aware of its presence from studying our Tumonz map, and it was a good thing we did that because when we got to the falls, there didn’t seem to be signage or any other indicators pointing out the falls so I’d imagine it could be easily missed by casual visitors. Perhaps this was why it seemed to be pretty unknown and obscure when we came here in December 2009.
Even though this was essentially a roadside waterfall, we were tempted to get closer to the falls for an up-close and personal experience. However, our off-trail scrambling only went so far as we ultimately decided against crossing the stream to get even closer to the base of the twisting mountain cascade. Besides, I was also feeling guilty about tramping on what looked to be fragile bush and grass that may take years to grow back.
The falls tumbled down the mountainside in three prominent drops with a handful more smaller cascades sprinked throughout. Due to the twisting nature of the falls, it was hard to get a complete view (as there’s always some part of the falls concealing itself due to cliff or mountain slopes getting in the way). Plus, it seemed like the further from the falls we were, the better we were able to appreciate not just its context but also its height. Indeed, this was a nice add-on attraction since it was on the way to the Tasman Glacier (see directions below).
Having been to this waterfall twice during our December 2009 visit, we must warn that the best time to photograph the falls would be early in the morning. During that time, we got soft morning backlighting without nearly as many shadows causing problems. During the late afternoon on our first look at this falls the day before, we were looking right into the sun with some nasty shadows surrounding the depression in which the falls tumbled through.
The unsealed Tasman Valley Road turnoff was about 1km south of the Mt Cook Village, which itself was at the official end of the Mt Cook Rd. We had to drive the dusty but wide Tasman Valley Road for about 6km before Wakefield Falls came into view to our left.
Mt Cook Village was about 56km north of the SH8 and Mt Cook Rd junction between Tekapo and the Mackenzie District. This junction was roughly 272km (nearly 4 hours) west of Christchurch, 264km (over 3.5-4 hours) north of Dunedin, and 207km (about 3 hours) east of Queenstown.
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