About Lake Karapiro New Zealand

Picturesque Lake Karapiro is one of fairest rowing courses in the world and is the last of 8 hydroelectric power stations on the mighty Waikato River New Zealand that has its origins at Lake Taupo and ends its journey at the Waikato Heads south west of Auckland. The lake regarded as one of New Zealand's best rowing venues hosted the World Rowing Championships in 1978, the 1950 British Empire Games and the 2010 World Rowing Championships. Lake Karapiro and Domain have ‘raised’ many Olympic rowing Champions and is home to water sports, cycling, beach volley ball and athletic events held throughout the year.


Lake Karapiro, New Zealand

Location North Island
Coordinates 37.92856°S 175.544529°ECoordinates37.92856°S 175.544529°E
Lake type reservoir
Primary inflows Waikato River
Primary outflows Waikato River
Basin countries New Zealand
Max. length 11.0 kilometres (6.8 mi)
Max. width 0.9 kilometres (0.56 mi)
Surface area 7.7 km2 (3.0 sq mi)
Average depth 11.0 metres (36.1 ft)
Max. depth 30.5 metres (100 ft)
Water volume 8.5 cubic kilometres (2.0 cu mi)
Surface elevation   50.5–53.5 metres (166–176 ft) Current lake level

Lake Karapiro is an artificial reservoir lake on the Waikato River, 30 kilometres (19 mile) south east of the city of Hamilton in the North Island of New Zealand. The lake was formed in the 1940's by damming the Waikato River to store water for the 96 megawatt Karapiro hydroelectric power station.

The lake regarded as one of New Zealand's best rowing venues hosted the World Rowing Championships in 1978, the 1950 British Empire Games and the 2010 World Rowing Championships.

A FISA inspection panel had visited Lake Karapiro venue 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.


'Kara' means stone, 'piro' means evil-smelling. According to legend, Karapiro was the stronghold of the chief O-Te-Ihingarangi, and was where the Ngati Haua and their Tauranga allies made a defensive pact during the land wars of 1864.

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. Water for the power station up to 362 cubic metres per second (12,800 cu ft/s) at full power, is taken from the lake and 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 transmission grid. The station is a base load generator due to its need to maintain water flows into the Waikato River system beyond the lake.

The ten-megawatt Horahora Power Station at Horahora, 10 km upstream of Karapiro Dam, part of an earlier hydroelectric power scheme, was flooded with the formation of Lake Karapiro.


  1. Viner, A.B., ed. (1987). Inland waters of New Zealand. Wellington: DSIR Science Information Publishing Centre. pp. 471–474. ISBN 0-477-06799-9
  2. "NZ to host 2010 world rowing champs"The New Zealand HeraldNZPA. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2011
  3. Mighty River
  4. Martin, John E. (1991). People, politics and power stations : electric power generation in New Zealand, 1880-1990ISBN 0-908912-16-1

External links

rowing at lake karapiro


Lake Karapiro is a popular recreational lake well known for its rowing events. However many people also enjoy kayaking, wakeboarding, skiing, swimming, fishing, boating and yachting on the lake. Sporting and recreation clubs are situated along the shore of the Mighty River Domain. 

The domain is also host to triathlons, duathlons and long distance swimming races. Every Wednesday night in summer there is a triathlon and duathlon run by the Waikato Cycling Sports Academy that anyone can enter. It is for all ages and fitness levels. 

Here are some more activities in the area: 

Karapiro Rowing Inc www.karapirorowing.com/
Rowing NZ www.rowingnz.com
Cambridge Rowing club www.cambridgerowing.org.nz
Waka Ama NZ / Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa Inc www.wakaama.co.nz
Karapiro Ski Club www.skikarapiro.co.nz
Cambridge Yacht Club www.yachtingnz.org.nz cambridgeyc@xtra.co.nz
Karapiro Kayak club www.karapirokayakracing.org.nz
Karapiro Sand Court www.beachvolleyball.co.nz
Waka Ama Outrigger Canoeing www.taaniko.co.nz/te-mana-visions/
Karapiro Half Ironman www.karapirohalfironman.co.nz
Tri-Sport Karapiro errol@onyabike.co.nz
Active Sport Hire www.activesporthire.co.nz


Waikato River Trails

The Waikato River Trails are one of the 18 Great Rides under Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail.

waikato river trails

From 100% Pure New Zealand...

Experience Māori culture at Lake Karapiro

Visitors at the 2010 World Rowing Championships got an authentic taste of one of New Zealand’s most significant Māori cultural and historic regions - all without leaving Lake Karapiro’s shores. 

From the opening ceremony when majestic war canoes or waka make a rare appearance on Lake Karapiro, through to a traditional Māori welcome ceremony and an on-site marae - the importance of the Waipa region in shaping New Zealand history will be very apparent. 

Experience Māori 
Ngati Koroki-Kahukura and Ngati Haua - the mana whenua / local people and spiritual guardians of the Karapiro part of the Waikato River and co-hosts of the world championships have created an ‘Experience Māori Arena’ at the venue to share their culture with visitors. 

Hundreds of volunteers from local iwi / tribes will be part of the experience - running on-site guided tours telling stories about Karapiro’s history and how it got its name, as well as the history of Maungatautari mountain, the significance of the Waikato river, and sharing aspects of Māori culture, food and arts and crafts. 

While an Aotearoa New Zealand Māori experience is available on some marae / Māori meeting grounds throughout the country, the idea of bringing the marae to the World Championships venue is an innovation. 

Experience Māori’s Lee-Ann Sperling-Muntz says that as well as offering a practical solution because of access to the rowing event, the project is a taster for the coming 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. 

She says local iwi want to provide an experience that gives people a better understanding of the whanau / family, the place and the history - with interactive experiences.

lake karapiro new zealand

The jewel in the crown of Cambridge & Lake Karapiro Region (part of the Waipa District), is Lake Karapiro our international World Class water sports venue, offering 7.7 square kilometres of flat water for canoeists, water-skiers, yachties, boaties and of course rowers. The area has undergone a multi million dollar upgrade due to the World Cup Rowing Championships in 2010. A must for all to view!

Lake Karapiro Domain is only 6 kilometres south of Cambridge in New Zealands' North Island and only 2 km off State Highway1. Lake Karapiro is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the lake and surrounding scenery.  There is a boat ramp at the domain that is open for public use during the year unless there is a lake closure due to an event. 

Lake Karapiro is famous for rowing and has been the training ground for many of New Zealand's top rowers. There's always something new to try at the Lake though, and many school groups take the opportunity to enjoy some great sporting education. Corporate groups utilise the Lake's facilities for team building exercises, including the high ropes challenge, orienteering, sailing, kayaking, rowing, ecology and equine trips. With several walking tracks nearby, the area is ideal for tramping during the cooler months. 

History of the Karapiro Dam

History of Maori and the Waikato River - 1956


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