Nelson Creek has had a varied goldmining history of success and decline from its beginnings in 1865, when it was rushed as a shallow creek working, which yielded shotty course gold. Some areas were rich in gold but finds were patchy. At the height of the rush over 1200 miners were scattered throughout Try Again Terrace downstream from Nelson Creek, but numbers fell almost immediately, once the productive ground was worked out.
The Nelson Creek area is formed from layers of sandstone overlaid by glacial outwash gravels. Gold was concentrated in trough-like hollows on the surface of the sandstone. Ground sluicing was the main method of working the gold. Sluicing needed a good supply of water which was directed over the working face, washing the gravels out. Large rocks were lifted aside and stacked as tailings, while the smaller material was washed down tailraces containing riffle boxes to 'save' the gold. Tailraces were also essential to remove excess water from the working area.
Nelson Creek suspension bridge
The suspension bridge crossing Nelson Creek is a historic bridge originally built in 1872 and rebuilt a couple of times, most recently by the New Zealand Forest Service in 1982 to the original plans. The forest at Nelson Creek was felled to provide fuel and timber for huts, fluming and other mining structures, and was used in farming to a small degree. The forest, which is predominately beech, is now regenerating, with red and silver beech on the lower slopes and hard beech on the higher slopes.
25 km from Greymouth.
From Greymouth follow SH 7 about 25 km north to Ngahere. Turn right at the Ngahere-Kopara Road and carry on to the Nelson Creek Settlement.
Specialist activities: Gold fossicking
A recreational gold fossicking area has been established at Nelson Creek, you are invited to bring a goldpan and have a go at fossicking, no licence is required but your respect is appreciated.
Getting to the gold fossicking area: From the true right end of Nelson Creek swingbridge follow the track left to the first creek you come to, follow up Gows Creek the Prices Creek about 400 metres by way of easy flats and creek-crossings until you reach a signpost indicating the start of the gold panning area. The area follows up Prices Creek bed for 1 km. Another fossicking area is located up Claughesys Creek, this area is not signposted, inquire at the Greymouth Office for more details.
Fossick with care for the environment:
- Be informed of all statutory regulations that govern prospecting activities in New Zealand.
- Prospect only in the permitted area.
- Only drive your vehicles on tracks and roads open to the public.
- Do not remove or damage any shrubs or trees, and minimise damage to ground layer vegetation.
- Restore the ground as you found it. Backfill any holes you dig and replace any leaf litter as it was as best you can.
- Equipment for excavation on the land other than hand tools may not be used. Never use explosives.
- Don't disturb, destroy, interfere with or endanger an archaeological site or place of cultural significance.
Plan and prepare
- You should wear comfortable footwear and take wet weather clothes as the West Coast is known for sudden changes in weather. Wasps will be present through out this area in summer.
- Take care off formed tracks as shafts and tunnels are scattered throughout the area.
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