Visitors watch from the bridge and the first lookout point as the dam gates open and fill the rapids

Image: Nate Wallace | DOC

Introduction

Several times a day the gates at the Aratiatia dam are opened to release the full flow of the river - a spectacular sight from the lookout points. Stay safe and keep clear of the rapids at all times.

Track overview

620 m | 7 km

Walking and tramping

10 min | 2 hr Easiest: Short walk
Easy: Walking track

Mountain biking

45 min Easy: Grade 2

Dog access

Dogs allowed. Keep dog under control at all times.

About this track

Description

Keep clear of the rapids at all times

Never enter the spillway or downstream areas.

Aratiatia Rapids lookout walk

Time: 10 min
Distance: 620 m 

The track leading to the two lookout points begins 50 metres from the bridge on the true right of the river. Before the water was diverted to the power station in 1964, the Aratiatia Rapids were the largest in Australasia - the Waikato River dropping 28 metres in just one kilometre. Today their full potential can still be seen during the scheduled daily releases. Each release lasts 15 minutes.

Opening times: 10 am; 12 noon; 2 pm (and also 4 pm 1 October - 31 March)

The tiers of the rapids and steep walls of the gorge are remnants of an ancient volcano. It is said the the name "Aratiatia" comes from the meaning "stairway of Tia". Tia was a leader from the waka Te Arawa, and passed through the gorge with a small party on route to discovering Lake Taupō. 

These are also the famous rapids used in the filming of the barrel escape scene in Peter Jackson's movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. 

Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids Track

Time: 2 hr walk, 45 min mountain bike
Distance: 7 km 

Walk or ride to Aratiatia Dam from Huka Falls by following the track that begins after the last viewing area over the falls. The track climbs onto the cliff tops with magnificent views of the river.

It then gradually descends and continues along the river through lovely bush cover as far as the SH1 bridge. After passing under the bridge, and climbing to a lookout over the Wairakei power station, the track opens out to grass and regenerating bush until you reach Aratiatia. Try to finish the walk when the spill gates are due to open.

Return via the same track or arrange transport from Aratiatia.

Mountain biking

This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.

Getting there

The Aratiatia Dam and Rapids are located on Aratiatia Road, off SH5 10 km north of Taupō.

Know before you go

Stay safe at the Aratiatia Rapids

aratiatia-spills-map.png

Stay out: Keep clear of the Aratiatia Rapids spillway and downstream area at all times. Never enter, swim or kayak in this area.

Pay attention: Stay alert for the signs, sirens and safety warnings.

Be aware: Spills may happen at any time, even when there is no siren.

Spill schedule

  • Scheduled viewing of tourism spill: 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, (4 pm summer only)
  • Controlled operational spill: Year round and anytime 24/7
  • Uncontrolled water flow (without warning): Year round and anytime 24/7
  • Major works are underway which will mean larger and more frequent dam spills

Contacts

Taupo Office
Phone:   +64 7 376 0072
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   taupo@doc.govt.nz
Address:   37 Motutaiko Street
Taupo 3330
Postal Address:   PO Box 528
Taupo 3351
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