Upper Tama Lake

BY JULIAN THOMSON (GEOLOGIST)
Accessibility: MODERATE
Tama Lakes and Ruapehu seen from Ngauruhoe, J.Thomson / GNS Science
Several large explosion craters partially filled by a lake.
Upper Tama Lake and Ngauruhoe, J.Thomson / GNS Science
Upper Tama Lake occupies explosion craters that were active about 10,000 years ago, like the other nearby craters on Tama Saddle. It is confined by steep cliffs made up of lava flows that are between 180,000 and 250,000 years old. The older lavas were likely erupted as domes and the younger lavas were probably fed from vents to the north, now buried by the much younger Mt Ngauruhoe. The lava flows were already heavily eroded by the time the explosive eruptions occurred in the saddle area. Similarly for the area around Lower Tama Lake, the area surrounding Upper Tama is blanketed by a variety of volcanic (pyroclastic) rocks, ranging in size from large andesite blocks to ash, ejected explosively out of the craters as they erupted. More recent eruptions mainly from Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and Taupo have mantled the area with younger ash deposits.
Taupo Pumice and charcoal near Upper Tama Lake, J.Thomson / GNS Science
The Upper Tama lake is in an impressive setting with Ngauruhoe close by to the north. From the high point near the Upper Lake you will get great views of the Lower Tama Lake and its related craters, and will be able to see the glacially eroded valleys and 180,000 to 250,000 year old lava flows around the Upper Lake. Keep a look out for pumice from the Taupo eruption at various places along the track. It is possible to continue eastwards to follow the ridge down the east side of Lower Tama Lake from the view point. This makes for a nice 'round trip' back to the main Tama Saddle track.
Directions/Advisory

Park in Whakapapa Village. The track starts near to the Skotel Alpine Resort.

This is a windswept and exposed alpine area. Be fully prepared for sudden changes in the weather.
All waterways including the lakes on Tongariro and his peaks Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are sacred to local iwi, Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. Kaumātua Te Ngaehe Wanikau asks visitors to the area to respect the sanctity of the maunga tapu (sacred mountains) by not touching or entering any of the waterways including the alpine lakes. Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro places extreme importance on their guardian role in protecting Tongariro and his peaks.

Accessibility: MODERATE

Follow the track from the village to Taranaki Falls. The Tama Lakes track (which is part of the Tongariro Circuit) forks off to the right just above the Taranaki Falls. Before reaching the craters, fork left to Upper Tama Lake.

Features
Volcanic Landform
Geological Age
About 10,000 years
Zealandia Evolution Sequence
Pākihi Supergoup: 5 million years ago – present
Links
Updated weather and track information at the visitor centre in Whakapapa. http://www.doc.govt.nz/tongarirovisitorcentre