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tailings and disturbed river-marginal gravel areas, complex and diverse landuses, continuous willow stringers, townships of Clyde and Alexandra with Alexandra bridge and old piers and red Clyde bridge


After exiting the CromwelllDunstan Gorge the Clutha River flows through another tectonic intermontane basin landscape but one that is different to the Cromwell basin and the downstream Roxburgh and Teviot valleys - it is much drier, surrounded by rocky, grey-brown, semi-arid schist hill and mountain range country to the east, south and west; and by the open terrace and fan lands of the elevated Manuherikia valley to the north which have a distinctive long terrace scarp forming the northem edge of the river landscape. There is one similarity, in the way the alluvial basin floor about the river is a patchwork of intensive landuse, mainly orcharding and vineyards, and the basin also contains urban centers at the entry/exit points.

This section of the river landscape is the southwest end of another long northeast-southwest trending structural depression formed between two parallel schist fault block mountains. Like the Cromwell basln, the Manuherikia basin is filled with vast quantities of outwash, piedmont fan and alluvial gravels dissected, layered and sculpted by river and stream activity. In the Clyde-Alexandra area, the basin floor is an extensive plain of the most recent outwash surface from the last glacial retreat at about 140-200m elevation nested inside older higher terrace and fan landforms to the north (280-300m altitude), their long, even, curving river-cut scarp forming the skyline from river viewpoints; and roHing schist hill ranges to the west and south and east of altitude ranging from 200-300m (Conroys Road valley area) to 600-900m (Earnscleugh hills and Knobby Range).

There are no areas of recent floodplain. The river is a single thread channel incised in the outwash plain following a broadly meandering southeasterly route from Clyde to Alexandra. Here it meets the Knobby Range and does an abrupt 90 degree tum to the southwest following a weakness in the schist bedrock, forming a dramatic antecedent gorge. The Manuherikia River flowing from the northeast enters the Clutha here, and a slug of sediment is building up, now that the river downstream of Alexandra is a lake (slowing down water movement). This junction, on the true right, is called Frenchman's Point. "Like most of the Clutha River there was extensive alluvial mining of the auriferous river bank and bed gravels in the 1860s through to the 1930s, although the last dredge mining stopping in 1963. A rich claim was found at the point, where there used to be a large crescentshaped gravel terrace. This was entirely removed through the gold mining activity. The river in this section is frequently flanked by "giant wormcast" topography of tailings from successive phases of dredge mining, comprising long rounded mounds and piles of pale gravels. The Eamscleugh tailings just upstream of Alexandra are the largest area of tailings left in Otago and Southland, The historic reserve area contains tailings from four different periods of dredging from 1896 to 1963. Some of these areas are now worked for gravel extraction, marked by chaotic topography and infestations of colon ising weeds such as broom, thyme, and vipers bugloss.





Photos clockwise starting above:

Alexandra basin with Eamscleugh tailings. looking up-river to Clyde from Alexandra in foreground


View up-river to Clyde and Clyde Dam; basin floor a patchwork of orchards, shelterbelts, woodlots, grass fields. vineyards, roads


Alexandra end of the Basin, with view to north Manuherikia valley

Clutha River, joined by Manuherikia River coming from ileft, turns sharply to the southwest into the Roxburgh Gorge


Extensive thyme cover on sandy lower terraces and dense willow growth along river is typical



The Manuherikia River is the only relatively large tributary river. The Waikerikeri Stream flows off the Dunstans to join the Clutha though a deep gully also incised in the outwash about a third of the way downstream from Clyde (in Muttontown Gully); and the smaller Fraser River emerges from southwestern hills in a deep gorge-like gully near Clyde then follows a meandering course round the western margin of the valley floor to meet the Clutha near Alexandra in a narrow bouldery willow-choked floodplain.

A montane high grade schist tor-plateau bounds to the southwest forming a low intermediate horizon at elevations 400-900m. Beyond rises the high steep eastern scarp of the schist fault block Old Man Range, forming the well-known southwest backdrop and sky line to the lower Manuherikia basin, attaining heights of over 1600m. The tor plateau is a geologically interesting area with sarsenstones - cemented quartzose material exhumed from an ancient surface through weathering and erosion. They have a different shape from tors being more rounded and smoother looking. Towards the south closing in on Alexandra is a further line of low rocky hills of a lower grade schist separated by a fauR line (Conroys Gully hills).

To the west the high eastern flanks of the Cairnmuir Range (rising to around 1100m) and the Dunstan Range fault block scarp (rising to over 1600m at Leaning Rock tor) bound the basin. The lower rolling dissected rock-studded Knobby Range plateau reaching elevations of 900-1000m bounds to the east, fanning the memorable rugged arid backdrop to Alexandra. Peri-glacial processes have strongly affected the higher surrounding rolling ancient peneplain range summits, and landslide topography is typical of the steep flanks of the ranges. Range crests and slopes are studded with some of the most prominent stack tors (eg, Leaning Rock, Obelisk), and there is much rock outcrop with numerous large bluff systems and fretted schist. The land surface west of Alexandra appears to be more rock than soil and grass. Range flanks are generally deeply dissected by streams forming rolling spurs and deep steep sided rocky gullies.

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The environment is extraordinarily harsh with extremes of temperature and dryness. It is semi-arid approaching continental. The Cromwell to Alexandra area is the most inland country in New Zealand. The driest, hottest and coldest events in the nation occur around the lower Manuherikia valley >Alexandra once went 12 months with only 167mm of rain (ORC 2001). Annual valley floor rainfall is only 300-400mm, the lowest in the country. It rises to 1200-1400mm on the range crests, much of it falling as snow or fog. The Old Man and Old Woman Ranges conspire to guard this area from the influence of cold moist southerlies; and the Dunstan Range accentuates the fohn effect. Winters can be intensely cold with heavy frosts, and summers can be long, hot and dry. There are many clear days and a large diurnal temperature range. Winter inversion layers with persistent fog are commonplace, with hoar frosts also a winter phenomena in freezing moist calm conditions. Summer thunderstorms bring "thunderplumps" - a sudden convectional downpour - and a summer maximum rainfall but there .is also high evapo-transpiration due to the fohn effect and the predominance of hot calm days.

The indigenous cover would have been extensive tussock grasslands (short grading into tall at 800-11 DOm or so depending on aspect) and shrublands with extensive kanuka, Olearia, kowhais and grey scrub, maybe totara forest remnants

Salt pan areas with specialized halophyte plant and insect communities used to be widespread and numerous due to high eva po-transpiration rates. These are nearly all gone now due to cultivation. A few patches are left and reserved around Conroys Road and Dam areas.

Short and tall tussock grasslands and scrublands remain on the surrounding

hill country but they have been greatly modified through repeated buming, grazing and AOSTD. They are now in a mostly depleted state interspersed with exotic grasses, various herb and mat plants, ever extending areas of thyme, and sweet brier. Woody cover is reduced to patches and scattered plants - porcupine shrub, matagouri, grey scrub and kanuka, olearia.Rock outcrops and steep-sided gullies are havens for such species where there is some protection from fire and grazing. On drier slopes an induced semidesert cover of annual grasses, scabweed and small herbs exists or a monoculture of thyme in places. Wilding pines are an increasing component on the hills east of Alexandra, and conifers are also present across the toe of the Caimmuir Range at Clyde. Range summit areas support degraded snow and alpine short tussock and. subalpine/alpine cushionfield, fellfield, herbfield and bog communities.

The valley floor is almost completely modified with very little indigenous cover left. It is a complex visual patchwork of vineyards, orchards, small pine plantations, cultivated pasture and feed crops stitched together with a network of poplar and pine shelterbelts and roads including the State Highway between Alexandra and Clyde. Areas of rush and sedge wetlands invaded by exotic grasses, broad leaf weeds and willows occupy low lying depressions. This mostly green and visually complex area is a great contrast to the relatively visually simple go.ld/brown/grey scrub and grassland covered hills around.

Dense willow growth all ~Iong the river and creeping into adjacent disturbed areas is a marked feature. There are pine plantings and extensive thyme cover on dry sandy to gravelly ground between highway and river on the true left, and thyme is establishing over the tailings.

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Landuse of the valley floor is diverse and generally intensive - orcharding, vineyards, lifestyle blocks and small holdings; former alluvial hand and dredge mining leaving extensive areas of tailings; gravel extraction; the urban areas of Clyde· and Alexandra with peri-urban golf course; conservation pine plantings on sandy eroding river marginal areas.There is recreational use of true right river margin with the Millennium track between the two towns

The surrounding hills and higher terrace and fan lands are mostly used for extensive pastoralism in large pastoral or ex-pastoral lease runs, mainly Merino sheep grazing and some goats, also deer and cattle. Higher altitude areas have been or are likely to be largely retired for nature conservation and recreation purposes as an outcome of tenure review.


Clyde to Alexandra

Whole section is one reach


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Mainly cultural sites including extensive tailings from gold mining, historic buildings and bridges, and the Millennium track


LAND TYPE: 20 Dry Inland 8asinand Major Valley

21 Dunstan-Caimmuir

22 Old Man-Old Woman and

23 Knobbys


cess LCA:


Maniototo District (CENTRAL OTAGO REGION), basin floor surrounded by

Dunstan District (CENTRAL OTAGO REGION), Dunstan Range and Manorburn Hill country southeast of Alex and

Old Man District (WAIKAIA REGION), hill and range land from Flat Top Hill to top of Old Man Range

Range and Basin BR5 (Alexandra), range crest to range crest

16 Maniototo (valley basin floor) enclosed by

10 Dunstan (Dunstan and Old Man Ranges) to west and south; and 13 Lammenawto the east




moderately low

mostly highly modified landscape with intensive development and urban areas and highway on basin floor; more natural on surrounding hills used for extensive grazing on improved and unimproved tussockland and scrubland.

Distinctiveness variable

Vividness low, moderate


the developed basin floor is similar to several other areas. The only distinctive area is the Earnscleugh tailings due to its scale and historical complexity. The dam area could be described as memorable for the degree of human endeavour and extent of modification. The bridges are distinctive features.



with the exception of the Earnscleugh tailings area which is unique due to scale and complexity.


moderately high

broadly: low on basin floor; higher on range land. Range landform structure more clearly visible under uniform cover of grassland and patchy scrub with little land development to mask and confuse natural patterns however extensive modification of vegetation cover weakens legibility. Overall landscape structure discernible with extent of valley floor accentuated by overtay of intensive development which contrasts .stronqly with the low lntenslty land use of the surrounding hill country. Poor legibility within the basin floor area however due to intensive development masking underlying landform and soil patterns and absence of natural vegetation patterns.


variable low, high

high on hill country, low on valley floor. Majority of hill country areas retain high coherence with uninterrupted flow of landform and natural patterns of land cover; intruding discordant elements include access tracking and power lines. Coherence low on basin floor to due to extent of modification and intensive level of use, resulting in a visually diverse landscape where it is difficult to relate patterns of land-use to underlying natural patterns. Disturbed areas of tailings and gravel pits lack coherence altogether. Location of urban areas at either end of the basin, at transition points in the landscape is a coherent response to landscape.

Complexity Diversity Mystery

variable moderate, high

the extensive willow growth along the river promotes this attribute - without the willow growth the open terrace landforms and the large scale meanders of the river would hold little mystery. The willow growth is almost too dense however with limited views out thus limiting opportunities for 'discovery'. The intensely developed landscape about


generally Iowan the low basin floor, high on surrounding hills. Low due to intensive development with much tree planting and many structures including power lines. Urban areas are less open in character than rural areas. Greater sense of openness in the tailings areas due to absence of tree cover. Open character is high on the surrounding hills with a dominance of open grasslands and shrublands.

the river is high in diversity and complexity but lacks order in many places thus not supporting this attribute in a positive way.

Open Character

variable low, high


variable low, moderate, high

low to moderate on basin floor, high on surrounding hills where land use is primarily extensive pastoralism. Built up , areas lack openness; basin floor areas have many buildings dotted through but overall impression is still of a primary production landscape albeit an intensive one.


variable moderate on true left; Iowan true right. Proximity of low, moderate highway and more intensive rural settlement on true right undermines sense of solitude along the river. On true right, there is a greater sense of solitude. There is a lighter pattern of settlement. There is no highway. Landuses close to the river are large orchards mainly, gravel extraction and "rouqh" areas, or tailings. Solitude lessens at either end of the river section in the vicinity of the built up areas.

Overall Landscape Quality

Natural Character

The section of river landscape between Clyde and Alexandra has a relatively low degree of natural character, certainly compared to the Cromwell and Roxburgh Gorges to either side.

The landscape along both sides of the river is almost entirely a cultural landscape of orchards, vineyards, mining and gravel extraction areas, recreational areas (golf course) and township. Whilst many of the elements in these areas are natural (trees, grass, gravel, water) their distributional pattems and the processes that shape them and their environment are non-natural.

More natural are the 'rough' areas not in active productive use - areas of disturbed gravels, self-planted willows, rank grass and weeds or dry land colonisers such as thyme, vipers bugloss and sweet brier, informal paths often made by trail bikes or mountain bikes, discarded rubbish. Most of the river margin area appears to be of this kind of landscape but totally modified landscape is consistently close by - within view if the willows permitted. Three pylon lines cross the river detracting from natural character. The Millennium track whilst a deliberately formed walkinglbiking/running track complete with boardwalk sections does not really detract from the natural character of the river area at present as it is mostly a gravel path winding in amongst the trees and over tailings in a natural way.

Predominantly however the landscape can only be described as lacking a strong natural character.


• presence of houses and domestic development close to the river

• development of areas for formal recreational use and amenity value (mown

lawns, seating, specimen tree planting, etc)

• development of land for more intensive uses close to the river or lake

especially vineyards, tree crops, orchards and irrigated pasture and crops

• increase in extent of gravel extraction and mining

• increase in presence of structures along or crossing the river

• modification of the river channel

• wilding pine spread on adjacent hillsides

• insensitive tracking and fence lines on nearby hillsides

• uncontrolled spread of gorse, broom, lupins, sweet brier, willows, poplars


• encourage indigenous cover on areas near the river where a woody cover is being permitted or is desired, eg, disturbed sites

• remove wilding pines, gorse and broom, control willow growth

• remove most of the willows and plant more appropriate exotic and native species

• encourage development to keep away from the river or lake or at least to create a substantial natural landscape buffer

• sensitive and discreet siting of tracks, roads and structures including any recreational facilities

• encourage riparian ecological restoration conditions in subdivision




1 Graveyard Gully

1800's graveyard, start of Roxburgh Gorge track

2 Frenchmans Point

site of extensive gold mining which remove whole terrace

3 Alexandra bridge and old bridge piers bridges piers date back to 1882 built of stone from either side of the river; modern bridge built 1958

4 Alexandra Clock

5 Alexandra township

a number of historic buildings and places remain

6 Earnscleugh Tailings Historic Reserve area of tailings from 4 different dredging periods; largest remaining tailings site in Otago/Southland

7 Clyde Bridge

8 Clyde Township

a number of historic buildings and places remain

9 Clyde Dam lookout 1 OGeological Site

schist exposure of certain kind

m~iI. t e v e n LANDSCAPE ARCHI"fECT

May 2006


1 Alexandra-Clyde Millennium Track follows the river closely, side visits to the tailings

.., . a