The Bridge To Nowhere is a concrete road bridge spanning the Mangapurua Stream in the Whanganui National Park. It has no roads leading to it, but it is accessible by mountain bike or tramping on the mountains to sea (cycle) trail, or by jetboat or canoe, followed by a 45-minute (one way) walk along maintained bush trails.
The Bridge To Nowhere is an icon within the Whanganui National Park and a major visitor destination.
A wooden swing bridge was constructed across the Mangapurua Stream in 1919. This connected the isolated valley with the riverboats that brought goods along the Whanganui River. However the settlers had always expected that roading access would be improved – a more solid bridge would be built and that it would form part of a road between Raetihi and Taranaki.
Planning for the new bridge started when the timber bridge began to rot. In 1936 the new steel-reinforced concrete bridge was finally opened. It was an impressive sight at nearly 40 metres above the river within the steep ravine walls. Today, you can still see the remains of the old swing bridge from the concrete Bridge To Nowhere that replaced it.
By the time construction of the Bridge To Nowhere was finished, many of the Mangapurua settlers had abandoned their holdings. The physical labour and economic hardship had taken their toll on the returned servicemen and their families. Serious erosion (caused by the clearing of bush), flooding and poor road access were other obstacles that the settlers could no longer overcome.
By 1942 only three of the farmers remained in the valley. They were eventually forced to leave when the government decided that road access would no longer be maintained. By 1944, everyone had gone. Not only that, they left virtually penniless.
The Bridge To Nowhere gets more use now than it did when it was first built. It is the unofficial flagship of Whanganui National Park and a major visitor attraction on the Whanganui Journey – one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
There are three ways to access the Bridge To Nowhere, either by a gentle 40-minute walk from the Mangapurua Landing on the Whanganui River (via a 45 minute jet boat ride from Pipiriki) or by canoeing from Taumarunui or Whakahoro (3-5 day journey), or cycling/walking the Mangapurua Track, accessible from either Whakahoro or Ruatiti Road end, which is a 5-7 hour ride for most.