Waiau River (Southland)

Waiau River is the largest river in the Southland Region of New Zealand.[1] It is the outflow of Lake Te Anau, flowing from it into Lake Manapouri 10 kilometres (6 mi) to the south, and from there flows south for 70 kilometres (43 mi) before reaching the Foveaux Strait 8 kilometres (5 mi) south of Tuatapere. It also takes water from Lake Monowai.

Waiau River
Looking out on the Waiau River
The Waiau River system
CountryNew Zealand
Physical characteristics
  elevation184 m (604 ft)
Foveaux Strait
0 m (0 ft)

The Upper Waiau River that flows between Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau doubled as the fictional River Anduin at the end of the first film of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, for the scenes where the Uruk-hai chase the Fellowship along the river banks. A proposal that a 2-kilometre (1.2 mi) stretch of river below the area known as Balloon Loop be named the Anduin Reach to honour New Zealand film maker Peter Jackson for his use of the area as the River Anduin was rejected by the New Zealand Geographic Board in April 2009.[2]


The Waiau River is the largest river system in the southwestern corner of the South Island. It has its sources in the Eglinton and Clinton Rivers, both of which are major inflows to Lake Te Anau, one of the two large lakes formed from glaciation which are part of the Waiau's system. Other rivers to flow into Te Anau include the Glaisnock River, Wapiti, Doon, and Upukerora Rivers, as well as numerous burns, of which the largest are the Junction, Woodrow, Ettrick, Snag, and Mackenzie Burns.

The Waiau, so named, flows from the southern tip of Te Anau and meanders for some 12 kilometres along the western edge of a small plain before entering the northeastern corner of Lake Manapouri, the second of the two large lakes in the Waiau system. Manapouri is also fed by the Spey and Grebe Rivers, as well as the Freeman, Awe, and Iris Burns. The Waiau flows out of the lake in the southeast, close to the small town of Manapouri, and shortly thereafter is joined by the waters of the Mararoa River.

From here, the Waiau continues south across a relatively narrow plain, fed by numerous small creeks and burns, the largest of which are the Excelsior, Whare and Redcliff Creeks and the Borland Burn. At Monowai it is met by the Monowai River, the outflow of a further glacially formed lake, also named Monowai. At the Waiau's junction with the small Wairaki River the plain widens. From here the Waiau is fed by numerous other streams and burns, notably the Lill Burn close to Clifden and the Alton Burn, as well as the Orauea River, close to Tuatapere. As the river nears the coast it widens, with several small low-lying islands contained within its channels At its mouth on Te Waewae Bay, the river forms a long tidal lagoon separated from the sea by a narrow sandbar which extends along the coast for several kilometres.

Flora and fauna

There are diverse species in the forested catchment basin of the Waiau River. Vegetative understory within most of the Fiordland National Park includes numerous fern species including the Crown Fern, Blechnum discolor.[3]

Several species of endangered birds live around the shores of Lake Te Anau, and the upper Waiau River, notably the Takahē (Notornis hochstetteri). An area between the Middle and South Fiords called the Murchison Mountains is a sanctuary set aside for these birds. The western shore of Lake Te Anau also holds the Te Ana-au Caves, from which Lake Te Anau derives its name.

Cycle trail project

In March 2007, the Fiordland Trails Trust was established to build a cycle trail along the banks of the Upper Waiau, linking the Township of Te Anau to the Township of Manapouri.

A survey of the “Anduin Reach” was conducted in 2007, and landmark names were proposed based on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It was decided that Anduin Reach should be the place name to help promote the future prospects of the Cycle Trail Project.


  1. Tony Busch. 2004
  2. "Rings fans lose battle to rename local landmarks". The New Zealand Herald. 21 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  3. C. Michael Hogan. 2009


  • Tony Busch. 2004. Trout Fishing: A Guide to New Zealand's South Island, Published by Stackpole Books, ISBN 0-8117-3163-4, 264 pages
  • C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Crown Fern: Blechnum discolor, Globaltwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
  • Bruce fraser. 2009 "Fiordland Advocate 6 March 2009 page 3" Titled Name with a Ring to it
  • Ian Brodie. 2002. The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, Published by Harper Collins, ISBN 1-86950-452-6, 96 pages
  • the New Zealand Herald.2009.
  • the Canberra Times.2009.
  • Top News International.2009.
  • the Dominion Post.2009.

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