The Lake Hawea township is on the south-western shore of the lake. It was originally visited seasonally by Maori - at first, Waitaha people, then Ngati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu communities - who established several mahinga kai (food gathering centres) around the shores of the lake. For Māori, the Wānaka and Hāwea area was a natural crossroads. The Haast Pass led to the West Coast and its Pounamu (Greenstone); the Cardrona Valley led to the natural rock bridge "Whatatorere" which was the only place that the Kawarau River and Clutha River / Mata-Au could be crossed without boats. Reed boats enabled a swift return downriver to the east coast. The Cromwell basin supported a large population of Moa, which were hunted to extinction about 500 years ago. Until the early nineteenth century, the area was visited annually by Ngai Tahu who sought Pounamu (Greenstone) in the mountains above the Haast River and hunted eels and birds over summer, returning to the east coast by descending the Clutha River /Mata-Au in reed boats. Ngāi Tahu use of the land was ended by attacks by North Island tribes. In 1836, the Ngati Tama Chief Te Puoho, led a 100-person war party, armed with muskets, down the West Coast and over the Haast Pass: they fell on the Ngāi Tahu encampment between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hāwea, capturing 10 people and killing and eating two children. Although Te Puoho was later killed by the southern Ngāi Tahu leader Tuhawaiki, Maori seasonal visits to the area ceased. The first European to see the lake was Nathaniel Chalmers in 1853. Guided by Reko and Kaikoura, he walked from Tutarau (Southland) to the lakes via the Kawarau River . He was stricken by dysentery, so his guides returned him down the Clutha in a reed boat.
Lake Hawea-Road To The Haast
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