As you drive towards Ashburton Lakes, you enter the Hakatere Conservation Park, at about 600 metres above sea level. The park is very extensive, at 60,000 hectares, and takes in various areas around Ashburton Lakes and between the Rakaia River and Rangitata River.

Approaching the lakes, you cross an area called Fagans Downs. This is a wide dry plain surrounded by distant mountains and a scattering of lakes and wetlands. You can drive to some of the bigger lakes; Lake Camp, Lake Clearwater and Lake Heron. There is a rough 4WD road to Lake Emma and there are tracks that take you to several other smaller lakes, as well as higher into mountain tussock lands.

The contrast between dry and wet is amazing, and the lakes make for superb lake reflections on a calm day.

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