The broad Waitaki River is fed by the snowfields and glaciers of the Southern Alps, and its principal tributaries come from the alpine lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. With these and numerous other tributaries it has a catchment area of almost 12,000 sq.km. It forms the boundary between the Canterbury and Otago regions.Two gigantic hydroelectric schemes have transformed both the course of the river and the landscape. On the upper course of the river, near Twizel, there is the Upper Waitaki Power Development Scheme, and on its middle course are the Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki hydroelectric stations, each supplied by an artificial lake created by damming the river. Much of the river's course is now a chain of lakes. The water stored in the lakes is also used for agricultural and horticultural irrigation in the arid plains on the lower course of the river.There are fish ladders at the dams for the benefit of trout and salmon anglers - and of the fish.
Maori Rock Paintings, Takiroa, New Zealand
At Takiroa, near Duntroon (on the south bank of the river), are very fine rock paintings by nomadic Maori tribes. They are easily accessible from Highway 83.
Twizel, New Zealand
A few kilometers south of Lake Pukaki, on the Twizel River in the Mackenzie highlands, is Twizel (pop. 1,800), originally a camp for construction workers on the Upper Waitaki Power Development Scheme. Under this project the water level of lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau was raised by the construction of dams, the lakes were linked by canals and lower down, in the middle Waitaki Valley, other dams were built, creating artificial lakes like Lake Benmore. In the course of these developments, which were highly controversial, a holiday and leisure complex, the Mackenzie Hydro Lakes, was established round Twizel. This offers excellent facilities for fishing, boating and cruising on the lakes. In recent years a number of skiing centers have also been developed.