Steam and Sulphur in Orakei Korako

After we left the cool green rainforest we set out for the hot and steamy landscape of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The Taupo Volcanic Zone is highly active and contains numerous volcanic vents and geothermal fields.  The zone is named after Lake Taupo which formed after the eruption of the largest volcano in the zone.

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The “Artists’s Palette” at Orakei Korako

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Steam rising from the “Cascade Terraces,” a fault-stepped sinter terrace.

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The “Cascade Terraces” and the “Map of Africa”.

Our first stop in the region was the active geothermal area of Orakei Korako. The lowest terrace at Orakei Korako plunges beneath Lake Ohakuri.  In the 1960’s an earthen dam blocked the Waikato River and rose the water 160 feet above the original water level.  Unfortunately, the newly formed lake submerged 2/3 of the park’s geothermal area, including two of the world’s tallest geysers. Despite this loss, Orakei Korako still remains the largest geyser field in New Zealand.

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The “Golden Fleece,” the third and largest fault scarp.

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Tangle Fern, a tropical species, only occurs in geothermal areas in New Zealand. It cannot survive frost, so these warm spots provide an island of refuge.

We took a ferry across Lake Ohakuri to reach the lowest terrace, Emerald Terrace. From this lower terrace, we viewed and crossed over a series of fault-stepped sinter terraces.  The three terraces (fault scarps) were formed by a massive earthquake in 131 AD.  The vivid colors of the terraces are produced from cyanobacteria that thrive in the hot thermal water. Our favorite part was at the very top of the area where we viewed the bubbling mud pools (see the video below).

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Kate, recording the geothermal action.

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One of the many geothermal pools at Orakei Korako.

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Close up of the “Golden Fleece”.

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Close up of the “Map of Africa”.

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Colorful microbial mats.

4 thoughts on “Steam and Sulphur in Orakei Korako

  1. Are the white deposits travertine? I think I remember that from Yellowstone. Also the “map of Africa” shaped by floating bio-mats or is that stuff solid?

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    • The white deposits are opaline silica (sinter). Similar formation to travertine though. The “map of Africa” is shaped by the bio-mats. Visiting this place makes us want to go back to Yellowstone!

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