Tōtara Reserve, the region's only regional park, opens for camping season this Labour weekend.

Less than an hour from Dannevirke, the reserve is nestled in the foothills of the Ruahine Range in the Pohangina Valley.

It is one of the best and most accessible examples of native lowland forest that once covered most of the Horizons Region.

A popular spot for daytime visitors and walkers, each year the reserve opens for camping from Labour weekend through to Easter weekend.

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Horizons Regional Council biosecurity, biodiversity and partnerships manager Rod Smillie says it's wonderful seeing families return to Tōtara Reserve as well as new groups camping each year.

"Tōtara Reserve has grown in popularity in recent years and camping spots at the reserve are hot property," says Smillie.

"We encourage anyone wanting to stay to get in early and book now for the summer months to avoid disappointment."

There are powered and non-powered camping sites available and this year a fire pit is being installed in the camping grounds, along with a designated area for children's motorised bikes being available.

There are two camping grounds in Tōtara Reserve, the older Kahikatea Camp provides a sense of nostalgia and seclusion while the newer Kererū Camp adjacent to Camp Rangi Woods offers easy river access for swimming.

Bookings are necessary for powered sites and can be made by contacting the camp office on 06 329 4708.

Unpowered sites operate on a first in first served basis.

Smillie says the reserve offers modern facilities, including hot showers for campers, and toilets, barbecues, numerous bush walks and a fantastic nature playground for day and overnight visitors to enjoy.

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"Biodiversity has also improved within the reserve thanks to pest control efforts by council," says Smillie.

"The reserve is home to many native bird species including kārearea (NZ falcon), tūī, pīwakawaka (fantail), tauhou (wax-eye), ruru (morepork), korimako (bellbird), kotare (kingfisher), kererū (wood pigeon), tomtit, and pōpokatea (whitehead)."

"We've also recently had confirmed sightings of kākā."

Horizons asks that any swimmers be mindful of the risks involved with swimming in the region's rivers such as sunken logs, riverbank trees and rocks.

"We also advise to make sure they swim well away from cliffs and access the river from the larger Kererū campsite."

More information about the reserve, its facilities and rates for camping is available online at www.horizons.govt.nz