Journey Beyond the Screen

Poolburn Reservoir

New Zealand: The Lord of the RingsPoolburn Reservoir: Rohan's Westfold

Location

The Poolburn Reservoir, which features in The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers, is an artificially dammed lake and nestles amongst the barren landscape of Central Otago's Raggedy Range. Built in the Great Depression, the dam project was pushed through in order to boost employment, but also to irrigate the farms in the nearby Ida Valley.

These days, the reservoir is a popular spot for trout fishing. The northwestern part around the lake is dotted with cribs - a South Island New Zealand word for holiday cottages - that are mainly used as a base to hunt and fish in the area.

For the filming, the cribs were turned into Rohan huts, complete with wooden decor and thatched roofs. Two of the huts were purposely built for filming and then burnt down for a scene. When we visited the location in March 2017, a few charred beams from one of those huts were still lying around.

The remains of one of the burnt Rohan huts are still visible today.

The remains of one of the burnt Rohan huts are still visible today.

Key Scenes

After Saruman fires up the Wildlings to fight on his side, they spread throughout Rohan's Westfold and start to attack its villages, amongst them the settlement, where Morwen and her two children live. The family only owns one horse, so Morwen decides to stay behind, so she can save her son and daughter, Éothain and Freda. Morwen: "Listen to me: You must ride to Edoras and raise the alarm. Do you understand me?"

Morwen saddles the family horse, which will take her children to safety.

Morwen saddles the family horse, which will take her children to safety.

A few moments later, the first Wildlings appear on the hills in the distance.

As the villagers flee, the Wildlings start ransacking the first huts.

As the villagers flee, the Wildlings start ransacking the first huts.

Morwen watches in fear, as the horse with her two children gallops away from the scene.

But there is no hope for the ones left behind.

 

Videos

Map

The viewpoint of the Rohan village is at S45° 17' 56.283" / E169° 44' 45.828" or -45.29896736222385 / 169.74606319972236.

Access to Poolburn Reservoir is via the Old Dunstan Road from the Ida Valley, which is very rough in places (gravel and rock surfaces) and only open in summer. It can be negotiated by a normal car by an experienced driver. 

Tips

If you have access to a 4WD, try out the more adventurous route to the Poolburn Reservoir by taking the Old Dunstan Road. This historic road was the main inland route for the goldminers during the 1860s. It starts at Clarks Junction on SH87, passes the Great Moss Lake and gradually climbs over the 1000m high Rock and Pillar Range before dropping down into the upper Taieri River valley. The historic town of Paerau is at the end of this first part of the Old Dunstan Road.

After the first 9 kilometres, the sealed road gives way to gravel, clay and bare rock. It can be rutted, slippery, muddy and/or dusty and there is no shelter.

The second part of the Old Dunstan starts 15km north of Paerau. It is even rougher than the first part of the road, containing gravel, grass, mud and rock sections. You also need to ford a creek, which should not pose a problem under normal conditions. Once over Rough Ridge, the road approaches the Poolburn Reservoir. From there, it improves considerably.

The Poolburn Reservoir is accessible by car from the Ida Valley, but the road is very rough in places.

The Poolburn Reservoir is accessible by car from the Ida Valley, but the road is very rough in places.

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