Of Falls, fails and bridge building

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A new book recounts the loss of a Queenstown tourist attraction, a disastrous attempt to dam the Kawarau River to mine gold, and the herculean job of building the original Kawarau Falls Bridge. Philip Chandler reports.

Queenstown’s Kawarau Falls area – site of a swanky new two-way bridge – is also the setting for some of the resort’s most colourful history.

Local historian George Singleton brings this to life in his new book, The Banks of the Kawarau: Tales of the Past.

An early chapter reveals the Kawarau Falls were “a feature attraction of Queenstown with regular launch trips provided from the township to view them and the manicured lawns and gardens of the nearby [former] Kawarau Falls homestead”.

“Before their destruction … these monumental rock outcrops had resisted the waters of Lake Wakatipu and held back the lake levels some two metres above those of the Kawarau River.

“But they were not only remarkable and spectacular, they also created dangers for the uninitiated and unwary who attempted to cross the unpredictable water channels.”

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