FRANZ JOSEF | Waiau
Franz Josef village, often referred to simply as ‘Franz’, is a small settlement with all you need to explore the iconic Franz Josef Glacier located just 5km away.
The 11km long Franz Josef Glacier descends from the Southern Alps (3,000m above sea level) to less than 250 metres above sea level – making it New Zealand’s steepest glacier. Along with nearby Fox Glacier, it is one of the world’s most accessible glaciers and the landscape changes almost daily thanks to the glacier’s unusually fast flow (50cm per day!) towards the Tasman Sea.
Franz Josef Glacier
Boasting some of New Zealand’s most dramatic scenery, the region around Franz Josef Glacier is part of the UNESCO World Heritage SIte: Te Wahipounamu – approximately 1.9 million hectares which incorporates Fiordland, Westland, Mount Aspiring and Mount Cook National Parks.
Four Facts About Franz Josef
- The temperature on the ice is usually around five degrees cooler than in town, and the annual rainfall in the glacier region is an impressive 6–8 metres! If the weather is rainy while you’re in Franz, remember that in the glacier’s accumulation zone, this rain falls as snow, which eventually forms ice, which in turn creates Franz Josef Glacier.
- You may notice a large patch of the glacier appears to be grey and grubby. This is because as the ice flows, the centre of the glacier spits up the rocks and gravel it has dislodged. If you take a heli-hike, you’ll see that further up the ice is cleaner with luminous labyrinths of ice to explore.
- If you feel like you’re in Jurassic Park territory while you’re here, that may be because this region with its lakes, waterfalls, fjords and towering cliffs is covered in southern beech and podocarp forest, and some of the trees are more than 800 years old!
- In local Māori legend, the glacier is known as Kā Roimata ō Hine Hukatere (the frozen tears of Hine Hukatere). Hine loved climbing the mountains, and one day asked her beloved to join her, but he wasn’t as adept at mountain climbing and fell to his death. Her tears are said to have frozen to form the glacier.
Photo Credits: West Coast, Across Country Quads, Glacier Kayaks
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