Aratiatia Rapids – Scene of The Hobbit

Aratiatia Rapids are formed when the dam gates of the Waikato River are opened a few times a day. The rapids were used in the filming of Peter Jackson's movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Aratiatia Rapids

At the Aratiatia Rapids, the Waikato River falls 28 metres in the space of one kilometre. The surging rapids have been harnessed to produce environmentally sustainable hydroelectric power.

To view the Aratiatia Rapids gradually filling up, make sure you arrive a few minutes before the dam is due to release. There are three lookout points on the high rock bluffs that overlook the river. 

Aratiatia Rapids is not a safe place to swim. The dam can release water at any time and without warning.

Summer release hours - 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm

Winter release hours - 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm


Aratiatia Rapids - Scene of The Hobbit

Escape of the dwarves in The Hobbit movie

Some of the most memorable scenes from Peter Jackson's movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, are the dwarves escaping from the captivity of the Elves by hiding in barrels which were thrown down stream. Filming was done at two locations, the Aratiatia Rapids on the Waikato River, and the South Island’s beech tree-lined Pelorus River in the Marlborough region.

Aratiatia Rapids were an ideal setting for the scene because the spillway turned the otherwise dry gorge into a fast flowing waterfall.

The film crew dropped 20 to 25 barrels down the rapids every time there was a dam release which was at 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm. They worked with a local river company to safely release and retrieve the barrels.

The Hobbit crew spent two days shooting the scene. For your peace of mind, you will be happy to know that no actors or stunt crew were forced into the barrels as they were released on the rapids.

The Hobbit story is about the adventure of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins who goes in search of treasure with 13 dwarfs. The scene shot along the Aratiatia rapids is part of an escape where Bilbo Baggins rescues the dwarfs from elves by hiding them in barrels which float downstream.

Activities near Aratiatia Rapids 

The scenic reserve off Aratiatia Road is a great spot for recreational walking, mountain biking, sightseeing and boating. There are walking tracks, viewpoints, picnic areas and a boat ramp all within walking distance. 

Walk from Aratiatia Rapids to Huka Falls

Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids Walking Track
Time: 4 hours return via the same track

You can start your walk from Spa Park to Huka Falls and continue the track to Aratiatia Rapids. Or you could drive to Huka Falls, park your car at the car park and walk to Aratiatia Rapids. 

The track begins across the bridge. Head left to the last viewing area over Huka Falls. At the back of the viewing area the track climbs onto the cliff tops with magnificent views of the river.

The track then gradually descends and continues along the river to the Aratiatia Rapids. Try to plan your finish when the control gates are due to open. 

Jet Boat to Aratiatia Rapids

Rapids Jet

Another way of getting to Aratiatia Rapids is by jet boat. Rapids Jet is a fun, safe & exhilarating experience which takes you to the base of the Aratiatia Rapids. Feel the adrenalin rush as you shoot through the narrowest canyon on the Waikato River to the Fuljames rapids where scenes from Yogi bear & hobbit were filmed.

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