Patearoa is a small settlement in the heart of the Maniototo Plain. It is a rural farming community that has links going back to a gold rush in the 1860’s. Then, it was known as Sowburn, the name taken from the river that meanders out of the Rock and Pillar Range high above the township.
The sleepy little town lives on in peace, with just one hotel providing necessities of life. Starting from the Sowburn No 2 bridge (Bridge 148 on the Patearoa-Paerau Highway) there is a charming walkway that follows the river up to a natural dam. This is a place of peace and loneliness with panoramic views over the Maniototo Plain. The walk passes historic gold tailings and huts, and provides the opportunity to swim safely in a fantastic natural setting. It is like an hour taken out from the rest of the world so is a highly recommended tonic.
Park at the picnic spot beside the bridge at the southern end of the township. The track follows the river on the west side until a ford is reached. Either return the same way or get your feet a little wet and cross. The 5 minute walk to Hoffman’s (natural) dam is on the right after crossing the stream. Return from this down the east bank of the river for a loop walk back to the car park. On this side you will pass through sluicings and relics from the Central Otago gold era. The track runs along an old water race and is historic in its own right.