The Saw-Cut is a perculiar alleyway of stone, 50m long, 50m high and barely 3m across in some places. The route is easy, with splendid limestone gorges and formations, but with lots of river-crossings it would be hopeless to attempt after heavy rain. One small hut.
Saw Cut Gorge Track
How to get there
Some 75 km from Kaikoura or 50 km from Blenheim on Highway 1 is the turn-off to the Waima or Ure River. Public Transport on Highway 1 with Intercity or Road Services but non available up the 12 km of twisting metal road to the Blue Mountain Station. A tiny carpark bay is available just before the homestead and permission should be sought bevor crossing the station lannd.
Immediately after the Blue Mountain homestead a vehicle Track drops to the Waima River to a ford across to the old homestead and yards. Keep to the riverside, crossing where convenient fo 1 km past Blue Mountain Stream. Where the river is squeezed between steep walls and the boulder blocks are getting awkward to negotiate, an unmarked trail starts on the right (north) bank.
This track twists in and out of Scrub forest and big boulders underneath the limestone canyon of the Waima for 1/2 km. It avoids the worst of the gorge thend drops back to the river and fades into easy gravel and scrub flats. After 200 m Isolation Creek enters inconspicuously on the left. A good campsite by this forks.
Round a couple of bends in Isolation Creek and the Saw-Cut appears. Even by the innpressive standards of the Waima gorge this is an astonishing place. A thin slit in the band of Rock, 50m high and 3-5m wide, the opposite walls almost close enough to be touched by outstretched arms. The creek bed is smooth shingle and it is usually easy to walk up the 50 m length of the gorge. Some hardy mosses even manage to grow in this grey cloister, gloomy even on a sunny day.
At the other end Isolation Creek winds narrowly (sometimes broken by waterfalls) between high cliffs for just over 1 km where it opens into a wide and ugly shingle flat. The 2-bunkd hut sits on a manuka terrace between the prominent forks. A fireplace outside and a bit of camping around.
Daytrips tend to be adventurours, and a useful one is up onto Isolation Hill (1100m), a thick scramble in the beech, but a splendid lookout to the coast, Chalk Range and Kaikoura mountains.
The return trip down Isolation Creek will not lessen the impact of the Saw-Cut, which must be one of the most unusual features in the South Island.