• Rapids - Rapids Jet

    The Mesmerising Aratiatia Dam: Your Next Taupō To-Do!

October 28, 2021

The Taupō region is a mesmerizing holiday destination for dozens of reasons, with its numerous (and powerful) waterways, geothermal features, rocky outcrops and forests adding plenty of interesting natural features.   

One of these awesome scenic spots is the Aratiatia Dam and the Aratiatia Rapids! Surrounded by high rocky bluffs and native bush, this section of the Waikato River is steeped in history and natural beauty, and is one of the most popular natural attractions in the North Island. 

Early history of the Aratiatia Rapids

One of the earliest available photos of the Aratiatia Rapids. Credit: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/aratiatia-rapids (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016 

The name itself – ‘Aratiatia’ – references a zig-zag line of stakes that helped travellers to ascend a steep climb safely, combined with the name of the early Māori explorer, Tia.
Part of the Te Arawa tribe, Tia was a high priest who was said to have passed through the gorge en route to discovering Lake Taupō. Passing through the gorge would have been no mean feat. With the Waikato River naturally falling 28 metres in the space of 1km, the gorge would have been full of pumping, turbulent water that surged through at around 80,000L per second during Tia’s journey. An awesome (and possibly frightening!) sight to be sure.

Harnessing the energy of the rapids: The Aratiatia Power Station

Rapids - Rapids Jet

A segment of the Power Station, seen from the best seat around (in one of the Rapids Jet boats!)

In 1964, the powerful energy of the gorge was harnessed for a hydro-electric dam – a environmentally-sustainable way to create a source of power (enough for around 90,000 homes!).

The dam generates electricity by diverting the river’s headwaters through a tunnel to the power station. Construction of the dam meant that no water flowed over the rapids, but 3-4 times per day the dam releases 80,000L of water that returns the Aratiatia rapids to its normal state. Turbulent, raging and tumultuous, witnessing the dam’s water release truly is a sight to behold. Around half an hour later, the raging water recedes to a gentle, much calmer stream; making for a truly awesome contrast.

See the Aratiatia Dam opening and Aratiatia Rapids for yourself

There’s a hiking trail linking the Huka Falls to the Aratiatia Rapids’walkway, which takes around two-hours one way, and passes through the reserve along the shores of Lake Aratiatia at the very top of the rapids.

Only a five minute drive from Rapids Jet is the dam’s bridge, another awesome vantage point to watch the magic happen, and the one we recommend you definitely stop at before your exciting jet boat ride!

There are also several scenic spots dotted along the bluffs high above this stretch of river. For those that don’t want to jump in a jet boat, witnessing the dam’s release is an awesome way to experience the excitement of this natural powerhouse (make sure you arrive a few minutes before the dam is due to open) while the kids take a spin.

Rapids - Rapids Jet

While we don’t ride on the Aratiatia Rapids themselves, we take you right up to see a segment of them before you power-surf the Nga Awa Purua Rapids!

Swimming is not permitted at the Rapids as the dam can release water at any time, without warning. During summer, the dam releases four times a day; and in winter it decreases to three – release times can be found here.

One of the North Island’s most impressive natural spectacles, the Aratiatia Dam opening, and the Aratiatia Rapids, are must-sees when you’re heading to Taupō. There are not many places where you can witness Mother Nature at her most jaw-dropping from such a close vantage point, and it’s an easy add-on to your Kiwi Taupō holiday.

Some live-action footage from Rapids Jet! Keen to give it a go? Visit us in Taupō this summer season to giving these cascades a whirl. We’ll also give you a thorough tour of this part of the Waikato, with some historical facts and insider knowledge about where some popular films were made along the river! Find out more about The Ride on our website! There’s even an illustrated map with some clues… 📷: @the.travelling.dumplings #rapidsjet #dosomethingnewnz #backyourbackyardNZ #whitewater #taupo #thingstodotaupo #tourismnz #lovetaupo
Experience the Nga Awa Purua Rapids and the Huka Falls back-to-back! Our Rapids Jet and Huka Falls Cruise combo starts with a leisurely cruise to view the Huka Falls, then you’ll get to zoom across the water in one of our jet boats! A perfect outing for the whole family this summer. Head to Prices & Combos on our site to find out more! 📷: @hukafallsrivercruise #rapidsjet #dosomethingnewnz #backyourbackyardNZ #whitewater #taupo #thingstodotaupo #tourismnz #lovetaupo
A fun day out with the family that everyone will enjoy! After some pretty intensive lockdowns across the country, you’re well past due for some fun! 😁 We're curious: what was your favourite part of the Rapids Jet experience? Comment below! #rapidsjet #dosomethingnewnz #backyourbackyardNZ #whitewater #taupo #thingstodotaupo #tourismnz #lovetaupo
A great shot of our toys! 🚤 When they’re not out on the water treating anyone of any age to the ultimate Waikato River adventure, our powerful jet boats are in the shed for routine maintenance and general upkeep. Want to learn more about what’s under the hood? We’ve got some great Quick Facts about the jet boats on the About page of our site! Link in bio! #rapidsjet #dosomethingnewnz #backyourbackyardNZ #whitewater #taupo #thingstodotaupo #tourismnz #lovetaupo
Taupō is more than just its lake (although that’s pretty stunning!). It’s also the perfect place to get the whole family outside and moving, with stunning scenery and walking trails. On Thursday Oct 28 at 5.30pm, get the fam jam strolling for a worthy cause: The Pink Walk Taupō! It’s a 5km leg stretch to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ. Four-legged friends welcome! Maybe we’ll bring Max... 📸: The Pink Walk on Facebook #pinkwalktaupo #rapidsjet #dosomethingnewnz #backyourbackyardNZ  #taupo #thingstodotaupo #tourismnz #lovetaupo
How lucky are we to live in such a beautiful place!!😍🌈
Kia Ora!! We are so happy to let you all know. That Rapids Jet is operating under level two!! For more information or to book, contact the team! We cannot wait to see you all again! ❤️🎉
Check out this stunning shot of the water moving through the Nga Awa Purua Rapids! 🌊
The team are so proud to be ranked #1 of 36 Boat Tours & Water Sports Activities in Taupo, on TripAdvisor! With over 1500, 5 star reviews from our awesome customers! If you haven't already.. come down and see what all the fuss is about!😍
Sunday Funday!! 🎉🚤
Taking a pause.. to take in our beautiful surroundings. 😍 We are pretty lucky to have exclusive access to this little slice of paradise! Come see for yourself. #rapidsjet #adventure #dosomethingnewnz #lovetaupo #scenery #waikato #taupo #tauponz #purenz