Volcanic Springs

Geysers, Hot Springs,
Mud Pots, and Fumaroles

Te Puia

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Logo Te Puia The name Te Puia (The Geysers/Hot Springs) stands for one of the foremost geyser sites of New Zealand, located in the south of Rotorua. It is part of the Whakarewarewa geothermal area, which also includes the Māori village Whakarewarewa. Latter is managed separately by a different organisation, but both entities share the large Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace.

Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace, seen from Whakarewarewa village:

Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace

The extended blue pool beside the terrace is not fed by its own hot spring but collects water from the geysers. Informally, it is called "The Blueys".
In the narrow sense, the plateau on top of the terrace is called Geyser Flat because it exhibits a remarkably high density of active and dormant geysers. But from a geological point of view, the Geyser Flat extends far beyond this area since the Te Puia Fault, which feeds the geysers with thermal water, runs almost straight from a point north of Kererū Geyser via Pōhutu and Wairoa geysers to Puapua Spring and continues southward.

Currently, three regularly active geysers can be observed at Te Puia, and a further six (Waikorohihi, Māhanga, Te Horu, Pareia, Waikite, and Papakura) may have the potential to resume regular spouting activity as a late result of closing around 300 boreholes in the surroundings since 1987.

The three currently active geysers in Te Puia at a glance. From left to right Kererū, Prince of Wales Feather and Pōhutu:

Geysers on Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace

Geysers on Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace
However, the full significance of this geyser site becomes clear only in an historical retrospective: about 65 geysers and 500 further hot springs are known, including the 15 m (50 feet) and perhaps up to 20 m (65 feet) high playing Waikite Geyser as well as Wairoa Geyser, whose eruptions allegedly measured up to 60 m (197 feet), making it the third tallest geyser of New Zealand.

The Te Puia walkways lead visitors on a major loop through the thermal area, while some dead-end trails and subloops give access to additional features. If you hike clockwise as most people do, you directly come across the main attraction, the Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace with their geysers. On a bridge the trail at first passes Kererū Geyser, located at the foot of the terrace. The up to 15 m (49 feet) high playing geyser is named after an endemic New Zealand pigeon because intervals between eruptions may vary between days and weeks and are as unpredictable and erratic as the bird's behaviour.

Kererū Geyser splashing after an eruption:

Kererū Geyser

Kererū Geyser
We were lucky to catch an eruption of Kererū Geyser, however, not at Te Puia but earlier that day from the observation platform at Whakarewarewa village. While the first bursts came out of a sudden, the geyser continued with longer interruptions and decreasing height over a period of more than 30 minutes. Small splashes as shown on the pricture above still took place for hours afterwards. On the next picture also a more than fist-sized piece of sinter is recognizable, which was ejected by the eruption.

Kererū Geyser in eruption, seen from Whakarewarewa village on 15th November 2019:

Kererū Geyser erupting

Kererū Geyser erupting
The pleasure of experiencing Kererū's eruptions would currently not exist without the above mentioned shutdown of bores, because previously, from 1972 to 1988, no larger activity could be observed. In the period from 1988 to 2000 eruptions were still small and very rare, from 2000 to 2014 the geyser resumed regular eruptions up to 5 m (16 feet) height followed by a full recovery of its play after 2014.

Within the runoff channel of Kererū a tiny perpetual spouter is to be found. At this position or at least not far from it formerly a mud geyser called "Torpedo" was active.

Tiny spouter at the foot of Whakarewarewa Terrace:

Spouter at the foot of Whakarewarewa Terrace

Immediately at the base of the terrace another little spring has built up a small-scale sub-terrace.

Sinter sub-structures at the bottom of Whakarewarewa Terrace:

Sinter sub-structures at the bottom of Whakarewarewa Terrace

South of Kererū and on top of the Whakarewarewa Sinter Terrace, Prince of Wales Feather Geyser and Pōhutu (which translates as "geyser") are offering an amazing spectacle. They are not only adjacent but also closely related to each other, so one cannot be described without the other. The reason for the dependency is that all geysers on top of the terrace are aligned on the Te Puia Fissure. Usually, Prince of Wales Feather Geyser precedes Pōhutu a little bit and acts as an indicator, but at the latest when the angled jets of Prince of Wales Feather have reached their full eruption heights of up to 9 m (30 feet) Pōhutu sets in. Then it dwarfs Prince of Wales Feather Geyser by its mighty water column of 15-20 m (50-65 feet) height. Even bursts reaching 30 m (98 feet) do occur.

Prince of Wales Feather Geyser (left) and Pōhutu Geyser (right) on top of Whakarewarewa Terrace:

Pōhutu Geyser erupting

Prince of Wales Feather Geyser (left) and Pōhutu Geyser (right), seen from close up:

Pōhutu Geyser erupting

Both intervals and eruption durations of Prince of Wales Feather Geyser and Pōhutu Geyser are quite variable, whereby a typical interval is said to be somewhat more than one hour. On our visit the quiet times between the eruptions were exceptionally short, in the range of a few minutes or less. All the remaining steaming and splashing made it hard to capture photos on which the geyser orifices were clearly visible. My best attempt shows the mouth of Prince of Wales Feather Geyser with smooth surfaces in vivid colours.

Orifice of Prince of Wales Feather Geyser:

Prince of Wales Feather Geyser

This geyser had been known as Te Tohu (The Indicator) before it was renamed in 1901 on the occasion of a visit of the Prince of Wales, the later King George V. The idea was born because the geyser’s plume resembled the feathers on his coat of arms.

Pōhutu Geyser offers the visitor on the nearby walkway no insight into its orifice. All you can see from there is the outer slope of the cone. However, southeast of the Geyser Flat there is an elevated observation platform which provides a better viewing angle once the abundant steam has cleared the viewline. Not only the reddish ornamentation of the geyser cone but also the sulfur coated sinter stalactites in its surrounding create the impression of a magical world.

Sinter formations around Pōhutu Geyser:

Sinter formations around Pōhutu Geyser

With a little patience also the inside of Pōhutu's crater can be spotted. It displays some unexpected structural details and colours.

Orifice of Pōhutu Geyser:

Orifice of Pōhutu Geyser

Immediately next to Pōhutu on the south side the large, rectangular pool of Te Horu Geyser (The Roar) shows up. Steam on Geyser Flat makes it not always easy to get an undisturbed look at it. Te Horu went dormant in 1972 and has not recovered by the shutdown of bores until now. Before 1972, it erupted up to 7 m (20 feet) high at an interval around 2 hours. It has not yet been proven if air-cooled water from Pōhutu's eruptions, which falls into Te Horu at northerly winds, leads to a delay in Pōhutu's intervals. This is logical to assume because of the subterranean connection between the two systems.

Te Horu Geyser, seen from the southeast. The position of the large vent is on the near side of the pool:

Te Horu Geyser

Te Horu Geyser
Farther south of Pōhutu and Te Horu a large, very prominent sinter cone rests on Geyser Flat not far away from the trail. Its structure gives a clear indication that it had been a geyser in the past. Unfortunately, I was not able to get sufficient information about this feature until now.

Large geyser cone northwest of Waikorohihi Geyser:

Cone on Geyser Flat

The fissure on Geyser Flat supplied at least two further geysers with hot water, however, both are dormant now. The one closer to the trail and easier to spot is Māhanga Geyser (The Trap). Because of its shape it is also called The Boxing Glove. Unlike many other geysers, it only started to erupt in 1961 and went dormant again in 2001. Māhanga's sinter structures indicate, however, that it must have been a geyser since ancient times. Eruptions were described to be up to 4.5 m (15 feet) high. Currently Māhanga acts as a steam vent.

Māhanga Geyser, seen from the southeast:

Māhanga Geyser

Māhanga Geyser
In close vicinity of Māhanga Geyser, only 4 m (13 feet) to the northwest, the second one, Waikorohihi Geyser (Loudly Hissing Water) is to be found. Unfortunately, it sits beyond Māhanga Geyser as seen from the trail, and moreover, its cone opens to the northeast. This virtually obscures Waikorohihi Geyser from trails and platforms at Te Puia if it is not erupting. I tried to capture a photo from the observation platform southeast of Geyser Flat, but the result was unsatisfactory. Only steam from the merely visible depression indicates the position of Waikorohihi's vent.

Waikorohihi Geyser, seen from the southeast:

Waikorohihi Geyser

Waikorohihi Geyser
Even though further away, the upper observation platform at Whakarewarewa village supplies a better viewing angle, but it likewise does not permit a look at the vent. At least the flat crater structures above the vent become visible. Waikorohihi Geyser features no surface pool.

Waikorohihi Geyser, seen from Whakarewarewa village. The (obscured) vent is located just right of the picture's centre:

Waikorohihi Geyser

Waikorohihi Geyser
Waikorohihi used to emit a stout water jet from the very narrow vent. As was written on an information board next to the geyser, the fountains reached a height of 3-5 m (10-16 feet) at an interval around one hour and a half. But the frequency declined strongly since 2000 and the eruptions have ceased completely since 2004. Just as in case of Māhanga currently only steam is emitted.

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