Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959
Before the opening of the Karangahake Goldfields in 1875, there can have been very little if any settlement in the Mackaytown and Karangahake district, the slopes of the mountain being to a very considerable extent covered with bush. On the opposite side of the river from Doherty's Creek to right through the gorge the bush came down to the river bank and as late as 1887 the forest primeval almost shadowed the side of the road through the township. But further through the gorge beyond the precipitous bluff, some of the bush had been burnt and all that was left was a solitary landmark — the skeleton of an enormous kauri tree which must have been from 10 to 15 feet in diameter. For many years its remains could be seen lying on the hill-side.
The road from Paeroa to Katikati and Tauranga turned sharply left at Mackaytown where it is now known as the Rahu Road. Climbing over a long ridge it met the Ohinemuri River again near Owharoa thus by-passing the precipitous gorge. The Thames County had a riding track put over the hills above the gorge. It started near Doherty's Creek and was graded up to pass over the top of the bluff and down again to where the Rahu Road meets the river. It was known and probably still is known as Butler's Track from the name of the contractor "Hugh Butler" who carried out the work. The Thames County are also responsible for the graded track running round Karangahake mountain on south-west side of the Waitawheta Valley, generally referred to as a the "hill road."
For wheel traffic Karangahake was then a dead end but with the coming of the new county, the general development of the country in general and the gold-mining industry in particular, the matter of a road through the gorge was given serious consideration. In about the year 1890 a preliminary engineering survey was made but an estimate of the cost was beyond the means of the county. However the matter was gone into several years later and successfully arranged.
— Courtenay Kenny