Rakaia River

The Rakaia River is in the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand's South Island.[1] The Rakaia River is one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand.[2] The Rakaia River has a mean flow of 203 cubic metres per second (7,200 cu ft/s) and a mean annual seven-day low flow of 87 m3/s (3,100 cu ft/s).[3] In the 1850s, European settlers named it the Cholmondeley River, but this name lapsed into disuse.[4]

Rakaia River mouth, NZ
Rakaia River mouth, 2007
Rakaia River Mount Hutt
The Rakaia River as viewed from Mount Hutt
NZ-Rakaia R
The Rakaia River system
Rakaia River from Butler Saddle New Zealand Aotearoa
Upper reaches of the Rakaia River, in the foreground


It rises in the Southern Alps, travelling 150 kilometres (93 mi) in a generally easterly or southeasterly direction before entering the Pacific Ocean 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Christchurch. It forms a hapua as it reaches the ocean.

For much of its journey, the river is braided, running through a wide shingle bed. Close to Mount Hutt, however, it is briefly confined to a narrow canyon known as the Rakaia Gorge.

The Rakaia River is bridged in two places. The busiest crossing is at the small town of Rakaia, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the river mouth, where State Highway 1 and the South Island Main Trunk Railway cross the river using separate bridges. These two bridges are New Zealand's longest road and rail bridges respectively, approximately 1.75 kilometres (1.09 mi) long.[5] A second bridge, much shorter and less used, spans the Rakaia Gorge.

The Central Plains Water Trust is proposing to take up to 40 m3/s (1,400 cu ft/s) of water from the Rakaia River as part of the Central Plains Water enhancement scheme.[6]

The Rakaia River is a celebrated Chinook salmon fishery.[7] It has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it supports breeding colonies of the endangered black-billed gull.[8] The river is also known for its large wrybill population which represents 73 percent of the total population. Other important bird species using the riverbed are black-fronted tern and banded dotterel.[9]


  1. ^ "Place name detail: Rakaia River". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  2. ^ Morland, K. 1994: Water Resources of the Canterbury Region. Canterbury Regional Council Unpublished Technical Report U94/59.
  3. ^ Morgan, M., Bidwell, V., Bright, J., McIndoe, I, and Robb, C. (2002): Canterbury Strategic Water Study Archived 20 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Lincoln Environmental Report No 4557/1, Lincoln University, New Zealand. Table 6.1.
  4. ^ 'Rivers Revert', John Wilson. 'Canterbury', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 19-Sep-2007 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/Places/Canterbury/Canterbury/en, retrieved 30 June 2008.
  5. ^ "The Rakaia River", Selwyn District Council, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), retrieved 31 August 2007
  6. ^ Central Plains Water Trust applications for resource consent Archived 15 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine Environment Canterbury Resource Consents webpage, retrieved 6 October 2007.
  7. ^ West I. F. and Goode,R. H. (1987) "Aerial counts of spawning chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) on the Rakaia River system, Canterbury, New Zealand, 1973-76." New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 1987, Vol. 21: 563-572.
  8. ^ "Rakaia River". BirdLife data zone: Important Bird Areas. BirdLife International. 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  9. ^ O’Donnell, C.F.J. (2000). The significance of river and open water habitats for indigenous birds in Canterbury, New Zealand, Environment Canterbury Unpublished Report U00/37.

External links

Coordinates: 43°56′S 172°13′E / 43.933°S 172.217°E

Acheron River (Canterbury)

The Acheron River is a river in Canterbury, New Zealand and flows from Lake Lyndon south into the Rakaia River.

Small deposits of coal are found near the river. In the 1870s, a proposal existed to extend the Whitecliffs Branch, a branch line railway, through the Rakaia Gorge to the Acheron River to access these coal deposits, and an 1880 Royal Commission on New Zealand's railway network was in favour of this extension, but it never came to fruition.

Head: 43°18′48″S 171°41′22″E

Confluence with Rakaia: 43°23′57.52″S 171°34′21.46″E

Avoca River (Canterbury)

The Avoca River is a river in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand. It is a minor tributary of the Rakaia River via the Harper and Wilberforce Rivers, south of Arthur's Pass in Canterbury.

Barrhill, New Zealand

Barrhill is a lightly populated locality in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. It is situated on the Canterbury Plains, on the right bank of the Rakaia River, about 17 kilometres (11 mi) inland from Rakaia. It was founded by Cathcart Wason in the mid-1870s and named by him after his old home Barrhill in South Ayrshire, Scotland. Wason set it up as a model village for the workers of his large sheep farm. The population of the village peaked in the mid-1880s before the general recession initiated a downturn for the village. Wason had expected for the Methven Branch railway to run past Barrhill, but the line was built in 1880 on an alignment many miles away, which caused Barrhill population to decrease.

Three of the original buildings of Barrhill plus the gatehouse at Wason's homestead were constructed of concrete, and they still exist to this day. One of those buildings, St John's Church, is registered by Heritage New Zealand as a Category II heritage building, and the gatehouse is a museum that is open on request. Today, few buildings exist in the village, but the formal layout of avenues still exists, giving the setting a charming appearance.


A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs. Lagoons are commonly divided into coastal lagoons and atoll lagoons. They have also been identified as occurring on mixed-sand and gravel coastlines. There is an overlap between bodies of water classified as coastal lagoons and bodies of water classified as estuaries. Lagoons are common coastal features around many parts of the world.

Lake Coleridge

Lake Coleridge is located in inland Canterbury, in New Zealand's South Island. Located 35 kilometres (22 mi) to the northwest of Methven, it has a surface area of 47 square kilometres (18 sq mi). The lake is situated in an over-deepened valley formed by a glacier over 20,000 years ago in the Pleistocene era. It currently has no natural outflows. There is a little settlement at the lake.

The lake is located to the north of the Rakaia River, and is the site of one of the country's earliest hydroelectric schemes, completed in 1914 and built mainly to supply power to Christchurch. The project makes use of the difference in altitude between the lake and river (the lake is 150 metres higher). Both the Harper and Wilberforce Rivers have had some of their flow diverted into the lake, with up to 100% of the Harper's flow diverted for the Lake Coleridge Power Station.

The Lake was named by the chief surveyor of the Canterbury Association, Joseph Thomas, on a sketch map prepared in early 1849. It commemorates Edward Coleridge and William Coleridge, who were first cousins and both nephews of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, two early members of the Canterbury Association. Two further members of the Coleridge family joined the Canterbury Association in June 1851, i.e. after the lake had been named: John Taylor Coleridge (a brother of Edward), and John Coleridge, one of John Taylor's sons.The lake was the epicentre for the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck on 26 June 1946.

Lake Heron

Lake Heron is a freshwater lake in the South Island of New Zealand. It is drained by Lake Stream which in turn feeds into the Rakaia River.

Forest and Bird have expressed concern over the environmental impacts of new roading on the southern shore of the lake.

Lake Lyndon

Lake Lyndon is a small lake in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. It is located near Porters Pass on State Highway 73 after Springfield heading into the Southern Alps. The lake regularly freezes in winter due to its elevation and location on the outer border of the Southern Alps.It is roughly an hour from Christchurch and is a popular site for rainbow trout fishing as the trout population in the lake is thriving due to the dense oxygen weed beds that provide a plentiful food source. The lake is largely surrounded by Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, and the Acheron River flows from the lake to the Rakaia River. Mount Lyndon is to the west of the lake and Castle Hill Peak is to the North of the lake.

One of the proposed routes for the Midland Line railway to Westland would have left the now-closed Whitecliffs Branch in Homebush and followed the eastern shore of Lake Lyndon on its route to Cass. The route that was built takes a more direct route to Cass and bypasses the lake.

Lauriston, New Zealand

Lauriston is a lightly populated locality in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. It is situated on the Canterbury Plains south of the Rakaia River, some 20 kilometres (12 mi) inland from Rakaia. It was named after one of its pioneer settlers with the name of Laurie.


Leeston is a town on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island of New Zealand. It is located 30 kilometres southwest of Christchurch, between the shore of Lake Ellesmere and the mouth of the Rakaia River. The town is home to a growing number of services which have increased and diversified along with the population. Leeston has a supermarket, schools (pre-school, primary school and high school), churches, hospital (for the elderly only), gym, cafes, restaurants, medical centre, pharmacy and post office. The Selwyn District Council currently has a service office in Leeston, after the headquarters was shifted to Rolleston.

The 2013 census returned a population of 1,506, which is 15.9% higher than the 2006 census. This is significantly above the average population growth rate in New Zealand. Population growth is expected to continue due to people leaving Christchurch as a result of the 2010 Canterbury earthquake and the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

Little River (New Zealand)

The Little River is a tributary of Rakaia River, about 7 km (4.3 mi) long, in the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand's South Island. It rises on the 2,185 m (7,169 ft) Mount Hutt and enters the Rakaia 314 m (1,030 ft) above sea level.Little River is also the name of a short river, roughly 2 km (1.2 mi), on Stewart Island, about a 2-hour walk from Oban.Wairewa marae, a marae (tribal meeting ground) of Ngāi Tahu and its Wairewa Rūnanga branch, is located at Little River. It includes Te Mako wharenui (meeting house).

Longbeach, New Zealand

Longbeach is a lowly populated locality in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. It is located in a rural area of the Canterbury Plains on the shore of the Pacific Ocean on the northern side of the Hinds River's mouth.

Nearby settlements include Waterton and Eiffelton to the north, and on the other side of the Hinds River, Lowcliffe to the west. The small township of Hinds is to the northwest, while the nearest significantly sized town is Ashburton, further north.

There is a Longbeach School, though it is actually located in nearby Willowby rather than Longbeach. It was formed when three local schools amalgamated in 2000 and caters for students in grades 1 to 8.In the 1860s, there was a proposal to build the Main South Line railway between Christchurch and Dunedin on a coastal route that would have passed through Longbeach, but this was abandoned in favour of a more inland route through Ashburton that had easier river crossings. However, Longbeach continued to lobby for a railway. In 1878, a proposal was made to extend the Southbridge Branch from Southbridge across the Rakaia River to Longbeach and Waterton. It was primarily intended to serve agricultural interests in the area. Although an appropriate location for a bridge was found, the government never acted on the proposal and it lapsed.

Mathias River

The Mathias River is a river of the Canterbury Region of New Zealand's South Island. It flows from its origins in three rivers (the North, South, and West Mathias Rivers) in the Southern Alps. Of these, the North Mathias River is the longest, flowing predominantly southwards from its source northeast of Mount Williams. After 18 kilometres (11 mi) its waters combine with those of the West Mathias River, which flows predominantly southwest for 13 kilometres (8 mi) from its sources 10 kilometres (6 mi) west of Mount Williams. The South Mathias River, a tributary of the West Mathias River, is a 6-kilometre (4 mi) long easterly-flowing river which meets the West Mathias 5 kilometres (3 mi) from its confluence with the North Mathias.

The combined waters flow a further 17 kilometres (11 mi) southeast across a braided, shingle strath, which meets with the valley of the Rakaia River 15 kilometres (9 mi) west of Lake Coleridge.

Mount Hutt

Mount Hutt (Māori: Opuke) rises to the west of the Canterbury Plains in the South Island of New Zealand, above the braided upper reaches of the Rakaia River, and 80 kilometres west of Christchurch. Its summit is 2190 metres above sea level.

The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage gives a translation of "place of the hill" for Ōpuke.


Rakaia is a town seated close to the southern banks of the Rakaia River on the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand's South Island, approximately 57 km south of Christchurch on State Highway 1 and the Main South Line. Immediately north of the township are New Zealand's longest road bridge and longest rail bridge, both of which cross the wide shingle beds of the braided river at this point. Both bridges are approximately 1750 metres in length.

Rakaia was also the junction of the Methven Branch, a branch line railway to Methven that operated from 1880 until its closure in 1976. An accident at the railway station in 1899 killed four people.A township of under 1000 people, its most obvious feature is a large fibreglass salmon. The river from which the town takes its name is known for its salmon fishing and jetboating.

The town and river were previously known as Cholmondeley, but the Maori name would eventually prevail over the English one.

The rural community of Acton is located south of the Rakaia township.

Rakaia Gorge

The Rakaia Gorge is located on the Rakaia River in inland Canterbury in New Zealand's South Island.

Like its neighbour, the Waimakariri River, the Rakaia runs through wide shingle beds for much of its length, but is forced through a narrow canyon as it approaches the Canterbury Plains.

In the 1870s, there were proposals to extend the Whitecliffs Branch railway into the Rakaia Gorge, and an 1880 Royal Commission on New Zealand's railway network was in favour of this proposal, but it never came to fruition.

The Rakaia Gorge bridge was completed in 1882 and provides an inland alternative to the more frequently used Rakaia River bridge just north of the town of Rakaia. The bridge carries State Highway 77 and the Inland Scenic Route and connects the settlements of Glentunnel and Methven

Smite River

The Smite River is a river of the Canterbury Region of New Zealand's South Island. It flows west from the Taylor Range to feed Lake Stream, the outflow of Lake Heron, which is an upper part of the Rakaia River system.

Southbridge, New Zealand

Southbridge is a small town on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island of New Zealand. It is located 45 kilometres (28 mi) southwest of Christchurch, between Leeston, Dunsandel and the Rakaia River.

Southbridge had a population of 858 at the 2013 New Zealand census, an increase of 123 people since the 2006 census. There were 426 males and 432 females. 91.5% were European/Pākehā, 7.4% were Māori, 1.1% were Pacific peoples and 1.1% were Asian.The town serves mainly as a centre for agricultural services, but also has nearly 70 small to medium-sized businesses, a swimming pool, tennis courts, Southbridge Primary School, and many other attractions.On 13 July 1875, a branch line railway was opened from Christchurch to Southbridge. Despite proposals to extend it further to Longbeach and Waterton, the line's terminus remained in Southbridge and it was thus known as the Southbridge Branch. Traffic was strong in the line's early decades; in 1914, two mixed trains and a goods-only train ran each way daily. However, the line entered into decline after the late 1920s. Passenger services to Southbridge were cancelled on 14 April 1951, and the line closed entirely on 30 June 1962. Few remnants of the line remain, though locations of level crossings can be discerned.Ngāti Moki marae, a marae (tribal meeting ground) of Ngāi Tahu and its Te Taumutu Rūnanga branch, is located in Southbridge. It includes Ngāti Moki wharenui (meeting house).

Waimakariri Gorge

The Waimakariri Gorge is located on the Waimakariri River in inland Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand.

The height of the Waimak gorge bridge is 30m.

Like its neighbour, the Rakaia River, the Waimakariri runs through wide shingle beds for much of its length, but is forced through a narrow canyon as it approaches the Canterbury Plains.

Much of the gorge is followed by the Midland line. The Waimakariri Gorge Bridge was built in 1876 by William Stokes. Until the early 1930s, it carried the Oxford Branch railway line connecting Oxford and Sheffield.

Wilberforce River

The Wilberforce River is a river in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. It is located in western Canterbury and is naturally a tributary of the Rakaia River, but like the Harper River, it has had some of its flow diverted into Lake Coleridge as part of a hydroelectricity project. This diversion boosted the output of the Coleridge Power Station and was established in 1977.An early proposal for the route of the Midland Line railway from Christchurch to Westland involved extending the Whitecliffs Branch to the West Coast via the Wilberforce River and Browning's Pass. This was one of the proposals rejected in favour of a route via Arthur's Pass.

Rakaia (Cholmondeley) River
Administrative areas
Towns and settlements (upstream to downstream)
Major tributaries (upstream to downstream by confluence)
Lakes in catchment
(upstream to downstream by location or tributary)
Other features (upstream to downstream)
Longest New Zealand rivers


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