A waterfall comes to life...
Several times a day, the dam gates of the Waikato River are opened, which turns a dry gorge into a magnificent waterfall before your eyes. There are several excellent vantage points on the high rock bluffs that dominate this turbulent stretch of the river.
At Aratiatia, the Waikato River falls naturally 28 metres in the space of one kilometre. This surging water has been harnessed for environmentally-sustainable hydroelectric power.
There is a scenic reserve off Aratiatia Road which is used for recreational walking, mountain biking, sightseeing, and boating. There are walking tracks and viewpoints, picnic areas, toilets, and a boat ramp. A scenic two-hour hiking trail between Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Rapids offers excellent views of the Waikato River. It passes through a 142 hectare reserve on the shores of Lake Aratiaitia at the top of the rapids.
The Aratiata Rapids were also used for a scene in Peter Jackson’s latest movie The Hobbit in which film crew dropped 20 to 25 barrels down the rapids from a dam's spill gates each time there was a dam release. The scene is part of an escape where Bilbo Baggins rescues the dwarfs from elves by hiding them in barrels which float downstream.
The scene was the only part of The Hobbit to be filmed in the area and don't worry - no actors or stunt crew were forced into the barrels.
Summer release hours: 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm