Visitors watch from the bridge and the first lookout point as the dam gates open and fill the rapids
Image: Nate Wallace | DOC
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 Taupo.
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.
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.
This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.
The Aratiatia Dam and Rapids are located on Aratiatia Road, off SH5 10 km north of Taupo.