5 January 2018

Three Lakes of Waitaki

Beautiful lakes, unique limestone formations, barren rolling countryside, braided rivers - Waitaki Valley has it all!
We loved the Mackenzie country with its peaked mountains, turquoise lakes and tinder dry landscape but the Waitaki District was equally lovely in its own way.
Although geographically the two regions aren’t far apart they do have a few differences.
The first difference I noticed were the many mature trees bordering the lakes. Although like the Mackenzie district the landscape was dry and brown, overall the Waitaki Valley appeared greener. Perhaps there’s more irrigation happening and a better class of soil?
There are three main lakes in the valley. All man-made and created as part of the Waitaki Hydroelectric project.
Lake Benmore, created in the 1960s, was the first of the lakes.

Lake Benmore’s dam is the largest earth-filled water retaining structure in New Zealand. Benmore Power Station is the second largest hydro station in N.Z – Manapouri is the largest.

We drove to the top of the dam and stopped at the lookout to see the bottom part of Lake Benmore. There were a couple of boats on the lake but it was windy, much windier than Lake Aviemore below.

The head of Lake Aviemore is sheltered under Benmore's dam, making it a popular spot for boats and water skiers.

The dogs were feeling the heat, so we headed just below the dam to Lake Aviemore where it was sheltered and easy access for a swim. The water was warm, clear and very inviting – darn I left my togs at the rig!

Next we drove across Benmore's dam and stopped on the other side to look down the massive spillway.

The photo above was taken looking up at Benmore Dam, the white motorhome traveling across gives an indication of how huge the dam is.

We wound our way around ‘Lakeside Drive’ following the edge of Lake Aviemore. There were so many camping spots – some with only a few caravans, tents, and/or campervans and other spots were like tiny villages. Some campers were well set up - with wind shelters around their camp sites, boats parked along side, it all looked very organised and no doubt many precious memories in the making.

Lake Aviemore got windier as we traveled along, on one section of the lake we saw kite surfers and wind surfers reaching great speeds.

The third lake was Lake Waitaki. Lake Waitaki is the smallest, oldest and farthest downstream of the three man-made lakes of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme. It's popular for water-sports and fishing.
It was good for me walking beside the dams because I’ve always had a fear of hydro dams, all that water and the speed and power that it can move. Hopefully having a basic understanding of how they operate, and being near the lakes and dams has made my fear lessen somewhat.

It was a good day out. We got home in time to have dinner and then packed the dog fencing away to get a head start on the next day ... off to explore Central Otago.

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