Lake Karapiro
Lake Karapiro
Lake Karapiro
Location of Lake Karapiro
Location of Lake Karapiro
Lake Karapiro
LocationNorth Island
Coordinates37°55′43″S 175°32′40″E / 37.92856°S 175.544529°E / -37.92856; 175.544529Coordinates: 37°55′43″S 175°32′40″E / 37.92856°S 175.544529°E / -37.92856; 175.544529
Lake typereservoir
Primary inflowsWaikato River
Primary outflowsWaikato River
Basin countriesNew Zealand
First floodedApril 1947 (1947-04)
Max. length11.0 kilometres (6.8 mi)
Max. width0.9 kilometres (0.56 mi)
Surface area7.7 km2 (3.0 sq mi)
Average depth11.0 metres (36.1 ft)
Max. depth30.5 metres (100 ft)
Water volume0.085 cubic kilometres (0.020 cu mi)
Surface elevation50.5–53.5 metres (166–176 ft) [1]
Karapiro Dam and Lake Karapiro in February 1969.
Karapiro Dam and Lake Karapiro in February 1969.

Lake Karapiro (Karāpiro) is an artificial reservoir lake on the Waikato River at Karapiro, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south-east of Cambridge in New Zealand's North Island. The lake was formed in 1947 by the damming of the Waikato River to store water for the 96-megawatt Karapiro power station.[2] The lake is also one of two premier rowing venues in New Zealand (alongside Lake Ruataniwha in Canterbury) and is the base for the country's high-performance rowing programme.

History and etymology

In about 1600, Te Ihingarangi built a (fortified village) called Te Tiki o Ihingarangi near where Lake Karapiro is today.[3]

In 1830 Ngāti Hauā defeated Ngāti Maru in a battle at Taumatawīwī, two kilometres south of Karapiro Domain. On the orders of the Ngāti Hauā chief Te Waharoa, his dead warriors were cremated, this taking place on rocks beside the Waikato River, the location then becoming known as Karāpiro, from the Māori language words karā, meaning "basaltic stone", and piro, meaning "foul smelling". The site was flooded when the lake created.[4][5] The ten-megawatt Horahora Power Station, 13 km upstream of Karapiro Dam was also flooded with the formation of Lake Karapiro.[6]

Construction of the Karapiro Dam began in 1940, however progress was slow due to labour and material shortages related to World War II. The dam was completed in early 1947, four years behind schedule. Due to the post-war electricity shortages, the filling of Lake Karapiro had to be coordinated to minimise the time between Horahora's decommissioning and Karapiro's commissioning. The lake level reached Horahora on 4 April 1947 upon which Horahora stopped generating and was submerged. The lake was sufficiently filled on 10 April 1947 to allow the first turbine-generator at Karapiro to enter service.[7]

Rowing venue

Sir Don Rowlands Centre
Sir Don Rowlands Centre
Hannah Osborne at the 2018 Christmas Regatta
Hannah Osborne at the 2018 Christmas Regatta

The lake, regarded as one of New Zealand's best rowing venues, hosted the World Rowing Championships in 1978 and 2010, as well as the rowing events for the 1950 British Empire Games.[8] The national rowing championships, then called the Dominion championships, were first held on the lake in 1949. Since the 1980s, Lake Karapiro alternates with the South Island's Lake Ruataniwha in hosting the New Zealand national rowing championships and the New Zealand secondary school rowing championships (Maadi Cup).[9] Rowers who train on the lake mostly live in nearby Cambridge.

An International Rowing Federation inspection panel visited Lake Karapiro in March 2006 and said in its report that it was one of the fairest courses in the world they had seen and that the lake was one of the most picturesque in the world.[10]

The lake hosted the 2010 Rowing World Championships.[11] The purpose-built Sir Don Rowlands Centre was completed in June 2010, prior to the event.[12]

Hydroelectric power

The 96-megawatt Karapiro Power Station is located adjacent to the dam at the head of the lake, and is the eighth and last hydroelectric power station located on the Waikato River. Wateris taken from the lake is passed through three Kaplan turbines in the powerhouse, before being deposited into the lower Waikato River. Each turbine turns a 32 MW generator, and the electricity from the generators is fed into Transpower's national grid. The station is a base load generator due to its need to maintain water flows into the Waikato River system beyond the lake.

Lake Karapiro from the Sir Don Rowlands Centre


  1. ^ "Lake Levels". Mighty River Power.
  2. ^ Lowe, D.J., Green, J.D. (1987). Viner, A.B. (ed.). Inland waters of New Zealand. Wellington: DSIR Science Information Publishing Centre. pp. 471–474. ISBN 0-477-06799-9.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Archaeology". Cambridge Museum. Cambridge Historical Society. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Lake Karapiro – roadside stories". NZHistory. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  5. ^ Gullery, Lawrence (6 February 2021). "Our Truth, Tā Mātou Pono: The desecration at Lake Karāpiro". Stuff. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  6. ^ Martin, John E. (1991). People, politics and power stations : electric power generation in New Zealand, 1880–1990. ISBN 0-908912-16-1.
  8. ^ "Rowing in New Zealand". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  9. ^ "The world comes to Karapiro". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  10. ^ "NZ to host 2010 world rowing champs". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  11. ^ "2010 World Rowing Championships". World Rowing. 7 November 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  12. ^ "Lake Karapiro: Official Opening of the Don Rowlands Centre". Governor-General of New Zealand. 1 June 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2020.