Tōtara Reserve Regional Park open for camping

Tōtara Reserve, the region’s only regional park, opened for camping over the weekend.

Less than an hour from Palmerston North, the reserve is nestled in the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges in the Pohangina Valley. It is one of the best and most accessible examples of diverse lowland forest that was once widespread in the Horizons Region.
Popular with daytime visitors and walkers, each year the reserve opens for camping from Labour Weekend through to Easter Weekend. 
Horizons Regional Council biodiversity coordinator Sue Moore says it’s a wonderful spot for families that has grown in popularity over recent years as facilities have been upgraded.  
“The two campgrounds provide powered and non-powered sites, hot showers, a fire pit, an adventure playground and electric barbecues,” says Ms Moore. 
“We also have a new online booking system for the reserve which is convenient and easy to use. We encourage anyone wanting to stay to get in early and book now for the summer months to avoid disappointment.”
Ms Moore says that another reason people should book early is that the campgrounds will operate at a reduced capacity at Alert Level 2.
“Unfortunately adjusting for Covid is necessary while we remain at Level 2, however there is plenty of space out at Tōtara Reserve for campers to spread out. Extra cleaning is also being undertaken and masks are to be worn in the shared facilities.”
There are two camping grounds in Tōtara Reserve, the older Kahikatea site provides a sense of nostalgia and seclusion while the newer Kererū site adjacent to Camp Rangi Woods offers easy river access for swimming.
Fees start from $16 for non-powered sites and $37 for powered, both for two people, with extra campers at $6 each and under-fives being free.
There are numerous bush walks in the area and good spots to fish.
“Horizons manages the reserve and have intensified predator control so it’s a great place to go for a walk and enjoy native biodiversity,” says Ms Moore. 
 “The reserve is home to many native birds including kārearea (NZ falcon), tūī, ruru (morepork), korimako (bellbird), kererū (wood pigeon), miromiro (tomtit), and pōpokatea (whitehead). Plus there are some really impressive mature tōtara trees.”
Ms Moore says the Pohangina River swim spot at Kererū campground is a popular one with locals and visitors alike, and is monitored by Horizons as part of their summer swim spot monitoring programme.
“However, Horizons asks that any swimmers be mindful of the risks involved with swimming in the region’s rivers such as sunken logs, riverbank trees and rocks. We also advise they stay well away from cliffs and only swim at the Kererū site.” 
To book online and find information about the reserve, its facilities and rates please visit totarareserveregionalpark.co.nz. For water quality information and to check when it’s suitable to swim at the Pohangina River spot visit lawa.org.nz.