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Natural wildlife refuge on The Whale Trail

Lake Elterwater looking a bit gorgeous in the early morning light

A special feature on the Whale Trail, Lake Elterwater is a shallow, freshwater lake in southern Marlborough about 4km north of Ward, approximately two kilometres long and 300m wide with a maximum depth of about 1.8 metres.

Lake Elterwater looking east towards London Hill and Ward Beach

The lake has had the designation of a wildlife refuge since 1956. Providing an important habitat for more than thirty species of birds that have been observed on and arond the lake, shortfinned eels, bullies, and freshwater mussels may also be found in its waters.

In dry summers, the lake bed can dry up completely; in 2017 a game of cricket was held on the dry lake bed, and the lake bed has also been used to grow fodder crops. One year when the lake dried up over summer, light aircraft landed on the dry lakebed.

This week members of the Lake Elterwater Restoration Group had a walkover of the proposed trail with Whale Trail representatives to discuss alignment of the trail around Lake Elterwater/Ruakanakana.

Ali Donovan, Dave Barker (Land owners), John Preece (Wetlands NZ), Mike Aviss (Marlborough District Council) discuss the Whale Trail route on the KiwiRail side of Lake Elterwater

Whale Trail representatives Nigel Muir and Hamish Seaton have met regularly with this group over the last 18 months to ensure trail planning and alignment is in line with future safeguarding of this special wetland area.




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