In pre-European times, parties of Maori stopped in the area on trips from Tasman Bay to Canterbury or the West Coast. They would fish in the rivers and the lake. Midden sites have been found at Kerr Bay and in the Travers Valley at the head of the lake.

European settlers coming to Nelson were looking for flat land which could quickly be developed into pastoral farms. They had been promised large areas by surveyors who had never visited the country which they were subdividing.

Probably the first European to discover the lake was J. S. Cotterell, a surveyor employed by the New Zealand Company. Towards the end of 1842, travelling with a Maori guide, he explored the pass at Tophouse and the Wairau Valley and the east coast as far as the Clarence River. He discovered the lake at the beginning of 1843.

In 1845 Charles Heaphy, explorer and artist, was sent from Nelson to explore southwest, and found that the mighty Buller River flowed in a narrow gorge for as far as they could see. Then a year later William Fox led a group consisting of Heaphy, Thomas Brunner and a very knowledgeable Maori guide, Kehu, on further exploration of the area and painted scenes around the lake. Then from 1846 to 1848 Kehu and another Maori guide led Brunner on an extensive journey to Lake Rotoiti and down the West Coast to Paringa.

In 1860 Julius von Haast, a German geologist, was sent by the government to study this area. He prepared detailed reports of the rock, fauna and flora of the area, and expressed great delight in the beauty of the area. He also reported that gold was to be found around Rotoiti and Rotoroa. After reports from a surveyor called Rochfort that gold was seen on the edge of the Buller a short-term gold rush began in 1862.

Some of the land now within the park was set aside for public use between 1907 and 1928, but the Nelson Lakes National Park was created in 1956.

Credits: Dorothy and NZine. The complete article is here.



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