Frugal country and hard on the boots : a history of the Lake Ohau valley

Author(s): Eileen McMillan

NZ History

Secluded and beautiful, little known by most New Zealanders, Lake Ohau and its great glacier-formed valley has a varied and interesting history. Unlike its popular neighbouring Mt Cook valley, little has been written about Lake Ohau. To ancestral coastal Maori, Lake Ohau was part of the rich breadbasket of the South Island's interior where in seasonal excursions they would harvest a great range of roots, birds and eels. From 1857 Europeans settled in and around the area, and near the end of that century Robert Campbell & Sons' vast Benmore Station, at its peak rated at some 310,880 acres, encompassed most of the valley. In 1916 Benmore Station was broken up, as was Ben Ohau Station on the other side of the lake in 1920. The high country stations bordering the lake that evolved from those properties - Benmore (much reduced), Freehold Creek, Ohau Downs, Shelton Downs, Avoca, Lake Ohau, Huxley Gorge, Glen Lyon, a smaller Ben Ohau, Bendrose, Ruataniwha, Omahau and Glenbrook, have been researched for this book. Archives of many kinds have been consulted. Descendants of the original settlers and many station workers were interviewed. All these read and corrected drafts of their particular contributions to ensure as much accuracy as possible. The establishment and development of the Mt Cook & Southern Lakes Tourist Company's Lake Ohau Lodge and Ski Field in the 1950s are recounted up to today's thriving Ohau Snow Fields. The fishing and skiing huts around the lake, many of them historic buildings in their own right, Acclimatisation Society and Forest Service deer culler huts, Alpine Club and Department of Conservation tramping and climbing huts, and the shelters established by station owners for their boundary keepers, rabbiters and musterers along the great rivers Dobson, Hopkins and Huxley are all described, most with photographs. The popular Glen Mary Ski Club history is entertainingly chronicled from the Club's own idiosyncratic minute books. The sometimes vexed development of the Lake Ohau Alpine Village is outlined. Artists and photographers old and new add extra dimensions to the facts and the stories recorded. How salmon and trout were established in the lake more than a century ago is described, as is more recent longfin eel fishing. Hydroelectric power development in the 1970s drowned much of the mighty Ohau River under the manmade Lake Ruataniwha, drastically reducing its legendary sports fishing appeal. Lake Ruataniwha is now well known throughout New Zealand as a popular competitive rowing venue. Hydro canals now support salmon farms. Six years in the researching, this comprehensive local history describes the Lake Ohau valley from the days of first European settlement to the present day, updating Robert Pinney's authoritative Early Northern Otago Runs and Early South Canterbury Runs. Maori history and legends of the area are also briefly covered. There is an extensive bibliography and a detailed index.


Product Information

A librarian, Eileen McMillan was brought up on a South Otago farm and spent most of her working life in Dunedin. After holidaying regularly at Lake Ohau since the 1970s, she and husband Malcolm have retired and live there permanently. Eileen has previously liaised with Molly Akers to compile a history of the Clan MacRae in New Zealand; and wrote Skidding the Tyres - a history of the Classic Motor Racing Club of NZ.

General Fields

  • : 9780473221362
  • : Eileen McMillan
  • : Eileen McMillan
  • : November 2012
  • : 290x215mm
  • : New Zeaand
  • : November 2012
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Eileen McMillan
  • : Hardback
  • : 993.91
  • : 508
  • : Colour and black & white