Poolburn Dam on Rough Ridge in the Ida Valley is isolated with rugged, beautiful scenery.
Poolburn Dam is a quiet, exposed spot, the surrounding land is very open and tussock covered. The hills around the lake have many interesting rock formations (and there are some rocks that rise to just below the surface in the lake itself so if using a boat be careful).
Poolburn, was the setting for the city of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. There is access to Poolburn Reservoir from either Omakau in the Manuherikia Valley (30 kilometres) or from Oturehua in the Ida Valley (43 kilometres). There is also access from Paerau over the Rock and Pillar Range (24 kilometres), but this “dry-weather” road should only be negotiated by four-wheel drive. However in saying that we did take our ageing Holden Commodore station wagon over there one summer!! Luckily it was very dry. The road does get quite a bit of 4 wheel drive traffic and this makes for deep ruts and boggy puddles. The road from Paerau via Poolburn Reservoir is part of the Old Dunstan Road that gave gold diggers access to the gold fields during the early days of the Otago Gold Rush. The journey from Dunedin to the gold fields took five days. The high parts of the road are closed from early June to late September each year.
Serpentine Scenic Reserve is a spectacular high point on the Rough Ridge mountains which features historical treasures: a stamper battery, water wheel and church. Good 4WD conditions are necessary to get access.
In wet weather or when there is snow around it’s advisable not to go on your own, the road can get very boggy and you wouldn’t want to get stuck up there!
There are some cribs and huts around the Dam
Serpentine Scenic Reserve has a feeling of remoteness and offers viewing of intact historic relics. From the ridge, you decide to turn left or right to see either the Serpentine church or the water wheel and stamper that sit within the ‘mining complex’.