Our walk among the whimsical limestone Elephant Rocks
From Oamaru, Bob and I made plans to visit the Elephant Rocks near Duntroon, some interesting limestone formations that were made famous by their appearance in the fantasy film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
With Duntroon growing ever closer, Bob and I started to notice a change in the landscape. Slopes were studded with uniquely-shaped boulders poking through the healthy growth of green grass,
and sheer cliffs boasted of the white limestone underlying that area of New Zealand’s South Island.
Upon arrival at the location of Elephant Rocks, we saw immediately why the producer had selected this site for one scene in his movie. The landscape was quite exceptional.
Elephant Rocks are located in a farmer’s field where cows and a flock of sheep were pasturing. Although situated on private land, Elephant Rocks have been made accessible to the public by the farmer who allows people to walk his field in order to view the intriguing rocks.
The paddock covers an area of gently sloping hillsides and is a mere 5-minute walk from the highway.
Bob and I wandered freely over the hillsides photographing the oddly-shaped and weathered limestone rocks from every angle.
Rock formations in whimsical shapes immediately inspired our imaginations.
The name Elephant Rocks was surely influenced by one of the rocks that does indeed resemble an elephant. I can see its trunk. Can you?
25 Million years ago, this area of New Zealand’s South Island was under water, at the bottom of a sea where sediments accumulated and eventually turned into sedimentary rock.
Shifts in the Earth’s mantle eventually saw vast areas of the sea bottom pushed to the surface, and
over time, the forces of Nature carved and shaped some of the limestone into these fantastical shapes. They are remnants of the Otekaike Limestone formation.
Some isolated outcroppings of this eroded limestone are a significant size measuring between 3-33 feet across, and up to 20 feet high, just large enough to challenge visitors if they are so inclined to mount the Elephant Rocks just for the fun of it.
The paddock wherein Elephant Rocks are located is only about 660 feet across, so it only took us about 45 minutes to investigate all around the rocks and really appreciate them.
Elephant Rocks are located in the Maerewhenua Valley and are only one of many geological wonders in the Waitaki District.
The Vanished World Trail is a self-guided route that visitors can follow to explore geological features in this area of the South Island, and Elephant Rocks is one of the stops on that Trail.
It was rather novel sharing the paddock with the sheep and cows. They seemed quite used to visitors and paid us no heed, but more than once, we rounded an Elephant Rock and were surprised to meet a ram face to face. That was a little unnerving!
Having watched the movie Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it was fun to take a few minutes and try to visualize Aslan’s Camp now that we were sitting right there in the middle of where it had been.
Some erosion of the limestone has left megalithic outcrops looking like skulls,
which I’m sure were used to good effect to create an other-worldly atmosphere in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Since Elephant Rocks are off the beaten path, the attraction is not overwhelmed by visitors. One other couple showed up just as we were about to get underway.
They obliged by snapping our photo against a backdrop of the Elephant Rocks. These misshapen limestone formations certainly added another dimension to our experiences in New Zealand.