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Canopy Trees of the West Coast – Franz Josef Tours, Franz Josef Glacier

Canopy Trees of the West Coast – Franz Josef Tours, Franz Josef Glacier

by | Jan 18, 2020

Explore the Canopy trees of the West Coast with us in Franz Josef.  If you’re looking for a unique holiday activity, then a tour on Lake Mapourika is one of the best things to do in Franz Josef Glacier!  A kayak or boat cruise across Lake Mapourika provides unique access to the a Rowi (kiwi) Conservation area hidden amongst these tall canopy trees.  Franz Josef Wilderness Tours has sculpted a private trail through the forest, designed to allow close proximity to Jurassic rainforest giants such as Kahikatea and Rimu, as well as the native birdlife that live amongst the branches.

The Westland Tai Poutini National Park is located on the West Coast of the South Island.  It’s home to a diverse array of plant and tree species. There are over 6000 different species native to New Zealand. Many of these can be found in our local South Westland thriving rain forests.

The best way to experience the lush rainforest is to join one of our Guided Kayak & Walk or Cruise & Walk tours.  You’d be surprised what you’ll learn, and you might even take away a piece of woven flax to remember your journey.

Read on to find out more about some of the specific native tree species around the shoreline and the wetlands of Lake Mapourika, on the West Coast of the South Island.


A reflection of the forest on Lake Mapourika, West coast nz A View from above on Lake Mapourika


Kahikatea – White Pine

Kahikatea trees make up most of the canopy tree line in a swampy wetland area.

Did you know the Kahikatea are an ancient species dating back to the Jurassic Period?  Fossilized pollen and leaf material were found within Jurassic rocks dating back to 150 – 200 million years ago!


a view from the forest of Lake Mapourika A view of the canopy trees on Lake Mapourika

Being New Zealand’s tallest tree species, these can grow upwards of 60 meters!  Today, Kahikatea grow in much fewer places that they once did.  This is largely due to clearings that were created all around New Zealand for farmland.

a Kayak under a Kahikatea tree on Lake Mapourika


Kahikatea Was Used for…

Timber from Kahikatea trees wasn’t highly regarded by European settlers in comparison to other coniferous tree species.  Although, it was useful for transporting and packaging dairy products (such as cheese and butter) thanks to it’s odorless wood.

Kahikatea trees proved useful for the native Maori populations. For instance, the fleshy Aril that surrounded seeds became and important food source.  The wood was versatile and easy to work with.  They created spears from the wood, which was used to hunt birds.

Maori also created tattooing pigment from the soot of the burnt wood.  Ta Moko are the traditional maori tattoos. Kahikatea trees are deep rooted in their history and culture.

Rimu – Red Pine

Throughout lowland and lower mountain regions, Rimu is one of the most common and widely distributed conifers in New Zealand. Although they are slow growing, they can eventually reach upwards of 50 meters, joining the Kahikatea at filling the forest canopy.


rimu foliage on lake mapourika Rimu trees on Lake Mapourika


In the juvenile stage of growth, the weeping branches and foliage make it east to recognize.  As trees mature and ascend further away from the forest floor the scale leaves start to shorten and the bark separates.

The bark of a Rimu tree is unique and beautiful.  Known as watermarks, these patterned formations can be good indicators of tree age. With a lifespan of up to 1000 years, existing individual Rimu trees can easily pre-date the arrival of both European and Maori settlers in New Zealand.


A group walking through native NZ rainforest on Lake Mapourika

A shot from our exclusive rainforest trail on Lake Mapourika. Come and spot a fantail with us!

As previous guests have raved:
Franz Josef must-do – Review from Emma on Tripadvisor
Fantastic afternoon spent kayaking on Lake Mapourika with our brilliant guide, Kylan. We loved the informative walk through the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary followed by tea/coffee and chats, before kayaking through the beautiful creek and heading back to enjoy sunset on the lake.
We were close to just renting kayaks ourselves but we’re so glad we went with the guided tour instead – we learned a lot about the area and Kylan showed us spots on the lake we wouldn’t have found ourselves. Totally a must-do when around the Franz Josef area!


Join us for an up close and personal paddle in and around our beautiful West Coast Rain Forest. For more details regarding tour time and booking visit our website BOOK HERE