There’s a lot going on between Rotorua and Taupō – geysers, thermal springs, crater lakes, boiling mud pools, active volcanos, and steam…lots and lots of steam. It is one of the world’s greatest concentrations of geothermal activity (heat from the earth).
Ōrakei Kōrako Thermal Park; Māori – “a place of adorning”
Never mined or extensively developed, Ōrakei Kōrako is close to a pristine state and has more active geysers than any other geothermal field. It is spectacular!
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
The world’s youngest geothermal area was created on June 10, 1886 when Mt Tarawera erupted. The valley’s Lake Rotomahana, famous for the Pink and White Terraces, “8th Wonder of the World” exploded to twenty times its original size covering 15 craters (2,000 acres), and the terraces were destroyed. Unaltered by man since 1886, Waimangu continues to grow and evolve.
Frying Pan Lake – On April 11, 1917, Flying Pan Flat exploded and was destroyed. Water collected in the enlarged Echo Crater and created Frying Pan Lake, the world’s biggest hot spring.
Inferno Crater Lake is the largest geyser-like feature in the world. The actual geyser is underwater, on the lake bottom. The water temperature ranges from 95 to 176 °F. Lake levels vary up to 39 ft over a 38-day cycle – when the water level and temperature of Inferno Crater Lake increase, the water level and outflow of Frying Pan Lake, decrease.
Wai-o-tapu (Sacred Waters) Thermal Wonderland
No kidding! 160,000 years old. Beautiful bush country and volcanic features, collapsed craters, cold and boiling mud pots and steaming fumaroles. The prismatic Champagne Pool is 195 ft wide and equally deep. Nearby, Roto Kārikitea Crater (its lime green color due to acidic mineral deposits) fills with excess water from the Champagne Pool.
Belching Rotorua Mud
Rotorua smells of sulfur. Steam hisses along the city streets, backyards and pastures. In the public park, Kuirau, flowerbeds sit alongside steaming pits, geysers and signage warns that new eruptions can occur anytime. In 2001 mud and rocks the size of footballs flew 10 meters into the air as a new steam vent opened up.
Uses for Geothermal Heat
Hot pools originate underground when volcanic activity heats up water, and Māori used hot pools for cooking, heating and bathing.
Europeans, mid-1800’s, built therapeutic spa baths that became the basis of the Rotorua tourism industry. The elegant Bath House was built in 1906 and the Art Deco Blue Baths in 1931.
The temperature of the Whangapiro Spring is 212 ºF, and was piped to the Bath House. Today it is directed to the Polynesia Spa, a most delightful soak! Whangapiro (fang-ah-pee-ro) translates to “evil-smelling place” – It was later renamed Rachel Spring, after Madam Rachel – a Victorian Influencer/con artist.
In the 19th century NZ had an estimated 220 erupting hot springs. By 2004, only 58 remained.
The first geothermal power station, built in the 1950’s, drew steam from the ground to generate electricity for homes, mills and greenhouses. As geothermal areas were drained of their heat, hot springs, geysers and blowholes dwindled or became extinct.
The NZ Government has taken steps to protect the remaining geyser basin in Rotorua.
Click HERE to read previous post, Blown To Oblivion! Taupo Volcanic Zone (Mt. Tarawera Crater Walk)