The Beaumont region is a paradise for outdoor recreation. Popular activities include fishing, hunting, kayaking, jet boating, and walking / biking on river and mountain trails. Annual events include a Clutha River Fishing Competition at Easter, a Beaumont Hunting Competition every August, and a motorcycle rally. A myriad of enthusiasts come to Beaumont to participate.

The Millennium Trail follows the historic route along the north bank of the Clutha River from Beaumont to Miller's Flat. The trail makes use of the original road formation and the old railway track, providing easy access to the river for rest stops with wonderful scenic views of the Clutha River and the Beaumont Gorge. This is an easy 23 km (Beaumont to Miller's Flat) gravel road with some undulations. There are a number of picnic areas at marked locations. This track is ideal for a family ride with lots of time to explore and enjoy.

There are also many shorter trails around Beaumont and in the native bush corridor of the Rongahere Gorge. New trails are being developed that will eventually create a contiguous route along the Clutha River from Lake Wanaka to the sea, linking with the Otago Central Rail Trail, and the Te Araroa NZ Walkway. The Beaumont Residents Group has a representative on the Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway Group, which is the umbrella organisation for local trail groups along the entire river.

Riding a local trail

Along the Millennium Trail, Beaumont Gorge

The Clutha River is an excellent fishery providing ready access to countless fly-fishing and spinning reaches. Abundant stocks of wild brown and rainbow trout and land-locked salmon, thrive along the length of the Clutha. The Lower Clutha has good populations of sea run and resident brown trout, and also has salmon spawning runs from January to April.

Beaumont Brown Trout

Spinning in the Lower Rongahere Gorge

The Lower Clutha River, below Roxburgh, is a high volume river with excellent recreational access. The Beaumont Gorge has long Grade 2-3 rapids ideal for kayaking, rafting and Canadian canoes. Groups of kayakers come here annually to train in the rapids and rock gardens of the Beaumont Gorge, staying at the camp-ground near the river.

Kayaking group, Beaumont Gorge rapids

Canadian canoes in the Beaumont Gorge

Year-round, jet boat enthusiasts navigate the river, on fishing trips, on family picnic excursions, or just for a good day out on the river. Beaumont has its own jet boat operator, Beaumont Jet Tours, taking clients up through the Beaumont Rapids to the Lonely Graves, or down the native bush-lined Rongahere Gorge.

Beaumont Jet

Beaumont is at the northern end of the Blue Mountain recreational hunting reserve which has long been a Mecca for hunters from around the world. As the species hunted, red deer, fallow deer, wild boar, hare and rabbits, are not native to New Zealand they may be hunted all-year-round, both in daylight and at night with spotlights. Hunting is necessary to limit damage to the environment, protecting native flora and fauna which evolved without the threat of mammals.

Hunting Trophy

The Beaumont area, like the Clutha River generally, abounds with historic sites. One of the most famous is the Lonely Graves. In a peaceful location, 8 kms downriver from Miller's Flat in the Beaumont Gorge, the Lonely Graves are a poignant reminder of the harsh reality of the gold-rush. During the winter of 1865, according to folklore, William Rigney, a gold-miner, found the body of a handsome young man washed up beside the river at the Horseshoe Bend Diggings with a shivering dog beside the body. He buried the man nearby and on a wooden headboard he burned "Somebody's Darling Lies Buried Here". A marble headstone was erected in 1903 by the residents of the district with the assistance of a public subscription. The original headboard was encased in glass against the headstone.

Lonely Graves, Horseshoe Bend, Beaumont Gorge

Rigney died in 1912 and was buried there with a similar headstone that reads 'Here Lies the Body of William Rigney, The Man Who Buried "Somebody's Darling".' Historians now believe that Rigney's association with "Somebody's Darling" began some time after the young man was buried, when Rigney constructed a manuka fence to protect the grave, and made the headboard. He subsequently cared for the grave faithfully until he himself died. Some researchers believe that "Somebody's Darling" was Charles Alms, a Nevis Valley butcher or farm-hand, but no proof exists. Legend records that Rigney also cared for the dog, until it died years later, when he buried it beside its former master.

Horseshoe Bend Foot-Bridge, Beaumont Gorge

NZ's Most Threatened Town

Since the 1940s hydro dam proposals have threatened our valley and our community. Time and again we have resisted and endured.

In the mid-1990s a petition against a proposed hydro-electric dam that would flood Beaumont was signed by 26,000 people, and the project was "shelved."

In 1996, Contact Energy inherited these controversial plans and numerous properties in the area that their predecessor, Electrocorp, had bought up. The land in question consists of 4,400 hectares, including two commercial properties, 15 residential sections, nine farms, 15 lifestyle blocks and 43 "small properties".

Most of these properties are situated between Miller's Flat and Tuapeka Mouth, and include some in the township of Beaumont.

Over the years, Contact Energy has done little to maintain these properties, so that buildings have fallen into disrepair, reflecting poorly on our community. Contact Energy has also refused to sell back these properties. This, combined with never-ending uncertainty over the future of our community, has effectively stifled local investment.

In April 2009, Contact Energy proposed four further 'Think Big' dams for the Clutha. Two of the options, Tuapeka Mouth and Beaumont, would submerge our valley.

In May, 2012, Contact Energy announced that it had ceased all work on the proposed dams.

Birch Island / Moa Nui Reserve

Birch Island / Moa Nui Reserve is an ecological 'Noah's Ark' in the Upper Rongahere Gorge. This 1km long island, covering seven hectares, became a protected area under the Conservation Act in 2001.

The Otago Conservation Board unanimously called for Birch Island to be given reserve status as early as 1994. The Department of Conservation began a long and complex process of securing protection after Contact Energy announced in 1996 that it had deferred development plans indefinitely. But the land still remained without protection when the National Party lost power in the 1999 election. The Otago Conservation Board strongly supported Birch Island being brought under the Conservation Act, and Land Information New Zealand also supported the change.

Protection status was awarded primarily because Birch Island has a nationally significant population of invertebrates, surviving in their isolated refuge, ostensibly because the island has remained predator free.

In 1995, scientists investigating the invertebrate fauna on the island discovered several new species, including a Peripatus, a genus of Onychophoran. The Onychophora is an animal somewhat like a permanent caterpillar, part insect and worm. It has been suggested they warrant priority for conservation owing to their status as living fossils, being unchanged in 570 million years. Due to their predatory nature they also have potential as an indicator species in the assessment of biodiversity. Scientists also discovered unusual beetles, moths, snails and springtails.

Birch Island has what is considered to be the most intact ecosystem of its kind in New Zealand.

River Trails Old and New

Beaumont is situated at the junction of regional trails, from Southland, Blue Mountains, Central Otago and Lawrence.

One of the oldest trails in Otago is the route through the Beaumont Gorge, used originally by Maori for mahika kai (traditional hunting, fishing and food gathering), for warfare, and as access to distant greenstone rivers. Beaumont had a major role in both Maori and European times as a trail junction and river crossing.

Today, the Millenium Trail follows the river from Beaumont to near Miller's Flat, along part of the original Maori route inland.

A new trail from Roxburgh to Lawrence - the Clutha Gold Trail, is currently being planned by the Clutha Gold Trail Trust. This will eventually form part of a Mighty Clutha River Trail along the entire Clutha Mata-Au from Wanaka to the sea, combining historic routes used by Maori and European explorers, and countless gold-miners.

The Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway Group proposed the river-length trail in 2003, and now serves as an umbrella organisation for local groups.

Members from the Beaumont Residents Group are involved in trail planning, and together with members of the Clutha Gold Trail Trust and the Parkway Group, we have scouted an excellent route down the true left of the Rongahere Gorge through native bush to Tuapeka. Planning is ongoing.