Volcanic Springs

Geysers, Hot Springs,
Mud Pots, and Fumaroles

Te Puia - page 2

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South of Pōhutu's sinter terrace (the Geyser Flat in a narrow sense) the Te Puia Fault continues and gave rise to the formation of further geysers, all of which are currently either dormant or extinct. Separated by the trail, a huge sinter hill, almost a mountain, marks the position of Wairoa Geyser (Tall Water Column). A short dead-end turning to the south gives close access to Wairoa's deep vent at the foot of a high crater wall with mighty globular sinter deposits. But already the grey colour of the sinter tells us that Wairoa Geyser wasn't active for a long time. Indeed, the last natural eruption occurred in 1940, and it can be assumed that the termination is attributable to geothermal drilling, which started in Rotorua in the 1930s. With supposedly 60 m (197 feet) height, eruptions of Wairoa must have been an incredible spectacle. However, even in the past natural eruptions had been very rare, and the occasional triggering by soap was discontinued in 1959. Since 2011 at least boiling water has returned to Wairoa's formerly dry vent. A further recovery seems not very likely, but on the other hand it cannot be ruled out for the future.

Wairoa Geyser, vent and sinter structures:

Wairoa Geyser

Wairoa Geyser
Approximately 20 m (50 feet) east of Wairoa, Te Komutumutu (The Surprise) occupies the sinter hill. The once circular pool on top of a towering sinter cone is also called "The Brain Pot" because at the end of the 18th century the brain of the defeated Māori chief Tukutuku was cooked in it and eaten by his enemies. The formerly smooth, bulging sinter cone has badly deteriorated and is now rather inconspicuos. A spring next to Te Komutumutu is listed as geyser, but only one brief period of activity in 1970 is mentioned in scientific papers.

Te Komutumutu:

Te Komutumutu

Te Komutumutu
South of Wairoa the mighty but heavily damaged cone of Waiparu Geyser (Muddy Water) adjoins, which nowadays acts as a steam vent. For this feature I was unable to find any record of geyser activity.

Among the many thermal features on the Te Puia Fault south of Wairoa Geyser a hot spring and probably geyser named Puapua may be both the most exceptional one and the one closest to the trail. It is reported that approximately every 20-30 minutes violent boiling boosted Puapua's water level by up to 2 m (6.5 feet). The Māori name Puapua (Steaming Foam) puts this behaviour in a nutshell. Moreover, scientific reports also mention a small geyser embedded in the east wall of the crater. Unfortunately, every time when one of us checked Puapua during our visit both the spring and the geyser stayed quiet. So if Puapau still is active, at least the current interval must be longer than 30 minutes.


Wairoa Geyser

Wairoa Geyser
About 15 m south of Puapua the cone of the extinct Waiporu Geyser once was accessible by a trail to Waikite Sinter Terrace. This trail has been closed in 2008 because a new hot spring broke out approximately 20 m south of Puapua in direct vicinity of Waiporu. Unfortunately, both features are not recognisable from the open trails.
Beyond Wairoa Geyser and Puapua at a great distance to the Te Puia Fault a further large sinter terrace extends southwestward up the slope of a forested hill. This terrace is home of Waikite Geyser, Pareia Geyser, and three smaller geysers. Most prominent Waikite Geyser (Water Seen From Afar) sits enthroned on the summit of the terrace above all other geysers in Te Puia. Even if its eruptions with a supposed height of up to 20 m (65 feet) were not as tall as the ones of Pōhutu or even of Wairoa, Waikite's elevated position made them the most impressive events from all of Whakarewarewa. On the other hand, due to its raised site as one of the very first geysers Waikite's eruptions were stopped in 1967 by goethermal drilling. In 1969 the vent fell dry. All the more welcome was the observation that the shutdown of bores apparently had a positive effect on Waikite by the return of thermal waters in its vent on several occasions since 2008.

Sinter terrace with Waikite Geyser on top:

Waikite Geyser

Wairoa Geyser
Even more positive is the recovery of Pareia Geyser (B. Jones et al., Microbial Construction of Siliceous Stalactites at Geysers and Hot Springs: Examples from the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Area, North Island, New Zealand, Palaios, Vol 16, 2001). It was almost completely inactive from 1981 to 1998, when the first eruption for 17 years occurred. Since then it plays 2-4 metres (6.6-13 feet) high for about one minute with intervals in the range of 30-60 minutes. Before it went dormant in 1981, eruptions even reached 6 m (20 feet) height. Pareia's large, flat cone with a prominent crack in centre occupies the low-lying, southern tip of the sinter terrace, appoximately 40 m (130 feet) southeast of Waikite. From the open trails it is barely visible.

Waikite Sinter Terrace, the position of Pareia Geyser (mound not visible) is on the outer lefthand side:

Waikite Geyser

From Wairoa Geyser the trail leads also into the western section of Te Puia, where geothermal features in the main follow the Puarenga Stream. In this section acidic mud pots dominate the scene, but also a few hot springs and one important geyser are to be found. The extensive complex of Ngāpuna tokatoru (The Springs at Three Rocks) includes bubbling mud pools as well as one large and several small mud cones.

Ngāpuna tokatoru, eastern section with large mud crater. At the outer right margin the steam of spring RRF0055 is visible:

Ngāpuna tokatoru

Ngāpuna tokatoru, western section with small mud cones:

Ngāpuna tokatoru

Not far south of Ngāpuna tokatoru a second cluster of mud pots appears, called Hauanu (Cold Breeze) mud pools.

Hauanu mud pools:

Hauanu mud pool

At Hauanu a dead-end trail in western direction passes two deep-seated, bluish clouded hot springs, one on either side of the trail. Just as the geyser mentioned above, one is called Waiparu (Muddy Water), while the other one bears the name Te Werenga (Turbid Water). It is interesting how two completely different expressions in Māori language translate into two nearly identical terms in English. The official tour pamphlet does not allow a clear assignment of the names to the pools, but according to Lloyd's booklet Waiparu sits in the southeast while Te Werenga is located in the northwest.

Waiparu hot pool:

Waiparu hot pool

Te Werenga hot pool:

Te Werenga hot pool

The dead-end trail leads to Puarenga Stream, on whose banks two small hot springs can be seen. Apparently they are not named but identified by a code. RRF0505 stands for the right (eastern) one, RRF0053 for the left one, which is largely obscured by bushes.

Spring RRF0505 (right) on the bank of Puarenga Stream. Meanwhile also here bushes obscure the sight to some extend:

Spring RRF0505

If you follow the main loop trail farther southwest, very soon the next turn into a dead-end trail shows up, this time in the eastbound direction. Along this trail, which ends at the foot of Waikite Sinter Terrace, a further remarkable feature is to be found south of a pit with the name Ngamokai. Located deep down in a crater, two perpetually spouting springs coloured by thermophile bacteria offer an interesting sight. Behind the springs the entrance of Te Hinau Cave can be seen, where according to a legend the Māori chief Tukutuku tried to hide from his pursuers.

Springs in front of Te Hinau Cave, west of Waikite Sinter Terrace:

Springs in front of Te Hinau Cave

Close-up of Spring in front of Te Hinau Cave:

Spring in front of Te Hinau Cave

The main trail leads southwest back to Puarenga Stream, where Papakura Geyser (Treasure Box) occupies the riverbank. It's deep, jagged crater, whose inside is difficult to spot from the trail, is embedded in a large, pronouncedly sculptured sinter shield. The waist-high and about 6 m (20 feet) long sinter wall at the far side of the crater looks like rocks squeezed out of the ground by titanic forces. Like many other geysers Papakura had suffered from dwindling geothermal fluids by bores and had stopped its up to 5 m (16.5 feet) high eruptions in 1979. Starting in early 2011, the geyser intermittently showed signs of recovery by an incease of the water level and of water temperatures. But it took as long as September 2015 until the geyser erupted for the first time since 34 years. During this event Papakura at first threw dark, muddy water, which successively became clearer, up to a height of 4 m (13 feet) continuously for about 36 hours.

Papakura Geyser:

Papakura Geyser

Papakura Geyser on the bank of Puarenga Stream
Across the trail from Papakura Geyser another named feature is to be found. The permanently boiling Ngāraratuatara (The Rushing Tuatara) got its name because it resembles the tuatara's eye. It is also called "The Cooking Pool", what exactly corresponds to its usage. Up until 2011 Ngāraratuatara showed a pronounced overflow towards Puarenga Stream, but natural changes in the springā€˜s sinter rim lowered the water level and reduced the overflow to a narrow trickle.



The author would like to thank Te Puia (www.tepuia.com) for granting a photographic permission.

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