Waima/Ure River, Isolation Creek

Last Modified: 3-11-2020 18:51

Waima (Ure) River
Waima (Ure) River
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

The Waima -(literally white water, due to the limestone in the river bed), or Ure River has its mouth a few kilometres south of Ward, and is the southernmost river fully within the curent Marlborough District Its its headwaters rise  in the Blue Mountain Range, and for much of its length of about 30km, it flows through rugged limestone gorges. The river itself is small, but like most New Zealand alpine fed rivers, can rise rapidly in flood. The European name Ure presumably derives from the Ure River in Yorkshire which also runs through limestone country. 

A great deal of the catchment is in rugged limestone rich country, and it is for this reason that much of the scenery is so spectacular. Towering cliffs, and enormous boulders are a common feature of the landscape, and the most spectacular feature of all is the aptly named 'Sawcut Gorge'. A small tributary of the Waima, Isolation Creek flows through the gorge. The gorge itself is a narrow cleft in the mountainside only a few metres wide, through which the creek emerges. Smooth limestone walls reach to a considerable height, and in overhanging vegetation partially obscures the sky.

A variety of native plants thrive in this environment, including the ubiquitous Marlborough Rock DaisyPachystegia insignis which is common on the steep rock faces, finding a foothold in even the smallest cracks. On slightly flatter ground with more soil, the rare Marlborough Broom is relatively common. Other native plants include some Podocarps, Matagouri, and Wahlenbergia species. Unfortunately, Buddlia has become a major pest and has aggressively colonised the river bed.

In its lower reaches, the Waima forms a braided bed, with private land planted in vineyards on the river flats, and pastoral farming including merino sheep occupying the hill country. The upper catchment is administered by the Department of Conservation as Isolation Hill Reserve, and public access was permitted until the Kaikōura earthquake destabilised the area. Public access involved crossing private farm property, so permission was required. Huts are located in the area, however due to closure as a result of earthquake damage are currently inaccessible.

Two road bridges and a railway bridge span the Waima; a rail bridge and State Highway One near its mouth, and a road bridge on Ure Road.

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Waima/Ure River, Isolation Creek. (2020) Retrieved May, 20, 2022, from