Lake Ruataniwha

Lake Ruataniwha is a modest but picturesque man-made lake in Mackenzie Country, southwest of Twizel. It was created by a dam on the Ohau River and filled in the late 1970s as part of the hydro scheme. The Pukaki and Ohau Canals mainly feed the lake, which is drained by a canal to Lake Benmore. State Highway 8 runs along the short east end of the lake over the dam.

The lake has also become popular for recreation. There is a commercial campground on the east side of the lake, with a small forest of exotic trees that have proliferated since the lake’s creation. Ruataniwha is also one of two main centres for competitive rowing in NZ, the other being Lake Karapiro in the North Island’s Waikato. As the Lake has become more popular, so has Twizel, which has been expanding towards the Lake.

The easiest access to Lake Ruataniwha from State Highway 8 is along Max Smith Drive. This road follows the north side of the Lake to the Ohau B power station at the head of the Lake. From this road, you can access the forest, commercial campground, and freedom campground to the west.

A shared track runs alongside Max Smith Drive and above the cliff northeast of the Lake, providing excellent views across the Lake. The track then drops to the small exotic forest, following the lake’s edge to Lakeside Road. Allow about two hours on foot to get there and back.

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