Five reasons to love Lake Karāpiro
A taonga, a source of power and a hub for water sport lovers, the picturesque Lake Karāpiro lies just six kilometres south east of Cambridge.
Karāpiro is a hydroelectric lake on the Waikato river, that feeds into the Karāpiro Dam and supplies power to the region. The dam was constructed in 1947 and was the second of eight built as a result of the Waikato hydro scheme, part of a government programme at the time to lock in electricity resources for a national power grid.
Although a source of electricity was created, a number of special places with deep meaning for tangata whenua were subsequently flooded in the making of the dam. Read more about the heritage of Lake Karāpiro on page 5.
For the people of Cambridge today, Lake Karāpiro offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures and a stunning backdrop to call home.
1. Witness sporting legends in action
As Waikato’s premier water venue, the Lake sees a number of national and international sporting and cultural events each year and the centre of the action is the Lake Karāpiro Domain.
Perhaps most famous for being the home of Rowing New Zealand, it also hosts canoeing, kayaking, waka ama, dragon boat racing, powerboat racing, water skiing, wake boarding and yachting events. Tens of thousands of visitors head here every year to witness atheletes compete on this world-class lake.
As well as being a hub for athletes and spectators, Lake Karāpiro can be enjoyed recreationally and is a great spot for boating, water skiing, duck shooting, sailing, swimming and picnicking. Podium Café is also a fabulous stop for coffee or brunch.
At the southern edge of Lake, up the Pokaiwhenua Steam is an ancient like world with towering rock formations, ferns and trees draping over the edges. This magical spot is home to millions of twinkling glowworms.
Only accessible via the water and of course only seen at night, take a kayak or a guided glowworm tour run by one of two local operators, Riverside Adventures or The Boatshed Kayaks to enjoy the full adventure safely with storytelling adding to the expereince.
A popular fishing spot, the upper reaches of the lake are home to trout! Each year, Fish and Game release around 2000 rainbow trout and 500 brown trout into the lake. The best fishing is said to be around the head of the lake where the water leaves Arapuni Dam.
It’s not uncommon to land trout over 10 pounds, with rainbows averaging 2kg and brown trout nearly 4kg. During October and November, the fishing can be hot, especially after dark, as big fish feed insatiably on smelt. Horahora Road provides great access for anglers from the shore. The stretch of water from the Little Waipā upstream is also a great spot to try your luck!
4. Take in the sparkling waters from dry land
Te Awa the Great New Zealand River Ride is the longest continuous concrete path in New Zealand and the stretch between Cambridge and Lake Karāpiro is around 15 kilometers long.
An easy ride or walk, created for both cyclists and pedestrians, the path offers a different perspective of the Waikato River and Lake. Finish a section of this ride with a stop at Podium café, with magnificent views over the lake.
5. Blue health
We know intuitively that taking a stroll along the beach or a river feels good. It’s a great way to unwind and reset. Research also suggests that simply being near or living by a body of water has immense benefits to our physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Although scientists don’t know exactly why that is yet, one theory is that it reflects our evolutionary biology. In other words, we have evolved with an intimate connection to nature, and it is only really in the last 200 years that people have been increasingly removed from nature.
Gaze upon, walk or cycle along or float on this beautiful lake for a dose of ‘blue health’ and stay connected to nature.