Lake Tarawera

Lake Tarawera is the largest of a series of lakes which surround the volcano Mount Tarawera in the North Island of New Zealand. Like the mountain, it lies within the Okataina caldera. It is located 18 kilometres (11 mi) to the east of Rotorua, and beneath the peaks of the Tarawera massif i.e. Wahanga, Ruawahia, Tarawera and Koa. The lake's surface area is 39 square kilometres (15 sq mi).

Lake Tarawera
Lake Tarawera.jpg
Lake Tarawera is located in North Island
Lake Tarawera
Lake Tarawera
LocationRotorua Lakes, Bay of Plenty Region, North Island
Coordinates38°12′S 176°27′E / 38.200°S 176.450°E / -38.200; 176.450Coordinates: 38°12′S 176°27′E / 38.200°S 176.450°E / -38.200; 176.450
Basin countriesNew Zealand
Max. length11.4 km (7.1 mi)[1]
Max. width9.0 km (5.6 mi)[1]
Surface area41.0 km2 (15.8 sq mi)[1]
Average depth57.0 m (187.0 ft)[1]
Max. depth87.5 m (287 ft)[1]
Surface elevation298 m (978 ft)[1]
Lake Tarawera


The lake was substantially affected by the eruption of Mount Tarawera on 10 June 1886.[2][3][4] The lake outlet was blocked for two decades and the lake level increased.[5] The eruption killed over 150 people, and buried the Māori village of Te Wairoa on the southwest shore of the lake.[6][7]

Lake Tarawera, with Mount Tarawera standing behind it

Also assumed destroyed were the famed Pink and White Terraces. However, in February 2011 a team mapping the lake floor discovered what appeared to be part of the Pink Terraces. The lowest two tiers of the terraces were reportedly found in their original place at 60 metres (200 ft) deep (too deep for scuba diving without special gas gear). Subsequently, a portion of the White Terraces was reportedly rediscovered in June 2011. The announcement of the rediscovery of the White Terraces coincided with the 125th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886. It was thought that the rest of the terraces may be buried in sediment rather than having been destroyed.

More recent research questions these earlier findings and reports the Pink and White terrace spring sites instead lie on land (along with a lesser-known Black Terrace spring).[8][9][10][11]

Tarawera means "Burnt Spear", named by a visiting hunter who left his bird spears in a hut and on returning the following season found both the spears and hut had been burned down completely.[12]

The lake is filled primarily by water flowing through the volcanic rocks and ashes, only about 42% being from water flowing in streams, etc.[13] The flows are estimated to be -[14]

Steam rising from Hot Water Beach, Te Rata Bay, as viewed from Tarawera Track
Water flows to Lake Tarawera litres/sec
Rotomahana to Tarawera (including 700 from Rerewhakaaitu and 67 from Okaro) 3018
Te Puroku No. 2 (from rock face spring)[13] 384
Okataina to Tarawera 350
Te Wairoa Stream 310.6
Okareka to Tarawera 245
Jetty Stream (ramp 4) 226
Rotokakahi to Tarawera (including 85 from Tikitapu) 210
Wairua Stream 208
Tarawera Peak Stream rockslide 173.5
Te Puroku No. 1 123
Waitangi Stream 102.3
Tarawera Peak Stream spring 91
Tarawera Peak and Camp stream 64.5
Te Wairoa wharf spring 26.6
Te Whekau Stream 19.5
Orchard Stream 15.6
Other surface flows 10
Waitangui spring 3.9
Spencer Rd Ford Stream 1.5
Total surface inflow 1760
Total surface outflow (Tarawera River) 7240

Lake Tarawera is home to eels and rainbow trout. During the summer it is popular for both fishing and water sports, and also camping as there a number of hot water beaches.

The main hot water sources are in the southern section of the lake at the Wairua Stream, Hot Water Beach and Te Puha and Tarawera fumaroles. There is also a small geothermal area at Humphrey's Bay, to the south of Lake Okataina.[13] Water varies between 37 °C (99 °F) and 90 °C (194 °F).[14]

Lake Tarawera's outflow is at its north east end, into the Tarawera River, which flows northeast into the Bay of Plenty.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Royal Society of New Zealand (1984), Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Vol. 14–15 p. 121. ISSN 0303-6758
  3. ^ Keam, Ron (1988). Tarawera: The Volcanic Eruption of 10 June 1886. Auckland: R. F. Keam.
  4. ^ Nairn, I. and Houghton, B. F. (1986) "Tarawera- the 1886 eruption" in Perry, J. F. (Ed.) Tarawera Eruption Centennial Exhibition 1886–1986, Rotorua District Council, Rotorua, 204
  5. ^ Hodgson, K. A. and Nairn, I. (2005) "The c. AD 1315 syn-eruption and AD 1904 post-eruption breakout floods from Lake Tarawera, Haroharo caldera, North Island, New Zealand" New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 48, 491–506.
  6. ^ Flagler, Bette (2005). Adventure Guide New Zealand, Hunter Publishing (NJ), Illustrated ed. p. 205. ISBN 1-58843-405-2
  7. ^ Keam, Ron (2004). Dissolving Dreams. Auckland: RE. F. Keam. pp. 33–34.
  8. ^ Bunn, Rex; Nolden, Sascha (7 June 2017). "Forensic cartography with Hochstetter's 1859 Pink and White Terraces survey: Te Otukapuarangi and Te Tarata". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 0: 39–56. doi:10.1080/03036758.2017.1329748. ISSN 0303-6758.
  9. ^ Bunn, Nolden, Rex, Sascha (December 2016). "Te Tarata and Te Otukapuarangi: Reverse engineering Hochstetter's Lake Rotomahana Survey to map the Pink and White Terrace locations". Journal of New Zealand Studies. NS23: 37–53.
  10. ^ Bunn, A. R., Davies, N. and Stewart, D. (2018) "Dr Hochstetter’s Lost Survey” Surveying+Spatial, 94, 5–13.
  11. ^ Bunn, A. R. (2019) "Hochstetter’s Survey of the Pink and White Terraces: The Final Iteration” Surveying+Spatial, 99, 30–35
  12. ^ Paul Smitz, Sandra Bao, Pete Cruttenden (2005). Australia & New Zealand on a shoestring, Lonely Planet Publications, 1st ed. p. 603. ISBN 1-74059-646-3
  13. ^ a b c White, P.; Toews, M.; Tschritter, C.; Lovett, A (2016). "Nitrogen discharge from the groundwater system to lakes and streams in the greater Lake Tarawera catchment, GNS Science Consultancy Report 2015/108" (PDF). Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
  14. ^ a b Nicolas Gillon, Paul White, David Hamilton & Warwick Silvester (2009). "Groundwater in the Okataina caldera: Model of future nitrogen loads to Lake Tarawera" (PDF). University of Waikato.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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