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Located in central North Island, Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, and the fourth established national park in the world. The park encompasses three active volcanoes located at the southern end of a 2,500 km long range of volcanoes, below which the Indo-Australian Plate meets the Pacific Plate. The three volcanoes - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, which have resulted due internal tectonic processes, have erupted as recent as August 2012. The park has two other volcanoes on the northern end that last erupted over 20,000 years ago. These volcanoes have been together building the mountains of Tongariro National Park for over two million years.

Ruapehu is one of the world's most active volcanoes and the largest active volcano in New Zealand. The volcano began erupting at least 250,000 years ago, with major eruptions occurring about 50 years apart and minor eruptions almost every year. Between major eruptions, a beautiful emerald crater lake forms, fed by melting snow. Their brilliant colors are caused by dissolved minerals leaching from the surrounding rocks.

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