The Waikato River (Waikato Te Awa) after passing Huka Falls 6km upstream naturally falls 28 metres in the space of 1 km. This water flow has been harnessed by the Aratiatia Dam to create hydroelectric power sustainably for the region, and the Aratiatia rapids for Rapids Jet!
The gates of the Aratiatia Dam are opened three times a day in winter and 4 times a day in the Summer. The opening of the Aratiatia Dam gates releases 80,000 litres of water per second, passing through the Aratiatia Dam gates create a stunning display but also the adventure ride that is Rapids Jet!
To experience the opening of the gates at Aratiatia Dam there are several great viewing points, on the bridge beside the dam, or take the 5 minute walking track down to the rocks beside the river and up to the ridge line where you can see over the whole area.
Due to the natural breathtaking scenery the Aratiatia rapids have featured in many movies over the years including the Hobbit, let us know if you see any Dwarves floating down stream. It is rumoured a couple liked it so much they stayed!
Here is the Scene from the movie
Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids Walking Track
You can start your walk from Spa Park to Huka Falls and continue the track to Aratiatia Rapids. Or you could drive to Huka Falls, park your car at the car park and walk to Aratiatia Rapids.
The track begins across the bridge. Head left to the last viewing area over Huka Falls. At the back of the viewing area the track climbs onto the cliff tops with magnificent views of the river.
The track then gradually descends and continues along the river to the Aratiatia Rapids. Try to plan your finish when the control gates are due to open.
The walk is a good 4 hours return and winds along very scenic country. The beautiful blue color of the water adds to the natural beauty.
“Watching the gates open and fill the river”
The whole experience is quite spectacular and especially good as it doesn’t cost anything. The gates open and water spouts out and the whole river starts to fill, creating rapids and whirlpools and lots of white water. Eventually all the rocks are covered and the white water subsides somewhat and the river level is several feet high.
Aratiatia Dam Gate Opening times
Summer – October to March
10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm
Winter – April to September
10am, 12pm, 2pm
At Rapids Jet we time our jet boat rides to go half an hour after the release of water so you get the best flows and viewing. We still operate outside these times but book early for our 12.30pm and 2.30pm trips to avoid disappointment.