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The Whanganui River runs through one of the largest tracts of lowland forest in the North Island, the Whanganui National Park. The combination of a mighty river, vibrant forest and rich Maori history have drawn visitors to the Whanganui River since a regular riverboat service was established in 1891. Now, the journey on the river between Taumarunui and Pipiriki, is considered one of New Zealand’s world renowned Great Walks even though it has to be negotiated on the water!


BridgeToNowhere 5

The carefully constructed concrete bridge surrounded by native bush in the Whanganui National Park

Bridge to Nowhere

From 1917, servicemen returning from World War 1 were gifted leases of parcels of land in the heart of the Whanganui Forest around the Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka valleys. From the outset, life was hard in the isolated valleys and the work to convert the steep hillsides, covered in forest, into farmland, was extremely difficult.

However, the settlers persevered and in 1919 a wooden swing bridge was built over the Mangapurua Stream (superseding a cage crossing on a wire rope) to connect the settlements with the riverboats that brought supplies up the Whanganui River.

Memorial to early settlers Bridge to Nowhere

An early settlers plough remains as a memorial to the families who tried to break in the land.

As this bridge decayed, plans were drawn up for a new concrete bridge and this was opened in 1936. But by the time it opened the hard life of the settlers had begun to take its toll and they were walking off the land. The authorities of the day refused to fund slip repairs to the road and by 1944, the last farmers had left leaving the farms to be reclaimed by the bush and leaving the bridge over the Mangapurua stream as the now famed Bridge to Nowhere.