Alpine Reef Water Wheel, Alexandra

The Alpine Reef Water Wheel is displayed outside the front of the Alexandra Museum and Art Gallery. Wheel diameter is 6.8m. There are 45 buckets. Bucket capacity: 115 litres. Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand.

** Click on photo to enlarge **


It came from a gold mine at a reef 1600 metres above sea level. The water wheel powered the stamper battery that crushed the gold-bearing quartz.

The water was essential to power the mining operation. At this elevation summer is very brief with the snow melting sometime in December and freeze-ups well under way again by early April.


After the huge effort of establishing the mine at this altitude and remote location, little work was actually done before the mine was abandoned.  The machinery wasn’t installed until 27 May 1882 and it was the following April before the plant was in “working order”. In October 1883 it was reported that the Alpine Reef had been abandoned.


This excellent diagram displayed by the water wheel shows how the plant operated.

I was incredulous at the time and effort that was put into establishing this ill-fated gold venture. The battery had been ordered in Dunedin (January 1880) and was transported from Dunedin to Lawrence by rail, then by ‘trains’ of several bullock wagons at a time into Central Otago and on up the Old Man Range, finally reaching the Alpine Reef in March 1882.

CREDIT: The historical information above I have condensed from the text of the information panels by the water wheel. I photographed the text during my visit on 19 April 2018.

Photo below:  Stamper battery on display in the town of Clyde, Central Otago; from a recent post


Text and Photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2018)

8 thoughts on “Alpine Reef Water Wheel, Alexandra

Add yours

  1. The enlarged photo of the water wheel caused Benjamin’s excited : “WOW, that is the most humongous wheel ever!” I can only wonder how much gold was procured before the abandonment. It was most likely did not match the cost of the venture. It would seem that the weather alone would prohibit it’s success. A very interesting bit of history indeed. Thank-you x 2!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the photo enlargement, its well worth clicking through to the large version! I guess a lot of the gold ventures either made a fortune for the investors or bombed abysmally!


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