Competitors will ride the path of hydro-energy in Waipā. Take in the rolling farmlands of Roto-o-rangi. The area was originally home to 14,000ha of swamp land called the Moanatuatua peat bog. It was created around 25,000 years ago when the Waikato River first broke through at Karāpiro and began discharging water and volcanic material into the Waikato Basin through the Karāpiro Gorge. Peat makes for fertile soil and when European settlers arrived the area was drained for farmland and became the area you can see today.
The race then hits the mighty Waikato River. Watch from one of Waipā’s recreation areas as riders make their way from Lake Arapuni, past Horahora and finish at the last hydro installation at Lake Karāpiro – home to a wealth of both European and Māori history.
Horahora was originally home to the first hydro-electric dam and power station, long before Karāpiro was built. The Horahora Power Station was built in 1910-13 by the Waihi Gold Mining Company to supply the Victoria Battery at Waikino in the Karangahake Gorge and Martha’s Mine in Waihi. The power station was flooded in 1947 when the Karāpiro Power Station was complete and now sits below the waters of Lake Karāpiro.
Lake Karāpiro is a man-made lake and the last of nine hydro stations between Taupō and Hamilton. The Karāpiro dam began construction in 1940 and took 700 men seven years to build. The project was originally only intended to take three years but it was delayed by shortages in manpower, materials and machinery caused by World War II.
Karāpiro is named after an important Māori battle that took place in the area. In the early 1800s Ngāti Maru from the Hauraki Gulf fled south as they faced invasion by Northland’s Ngā Puhi. They were given refuge in Waikato by Ngāti Hauā, but tensions soon mounted between them as the refugees showed no signs of returning home once Ngā Puhi had left. The result was the large battle of Taumatawīwī in 1830. Ngāti Hauā won the battle and burned the bodies of its dead warriors to prevent them falling into Ngāti Maru hands. The cremation took place on rocks beside the Waikato River. The name Karāpiro comes from the word ‘karā’ meaning rock, and ‘piro’ meaning putrid smell.
Lake Karāpiro offered opportunities for sporting and other recreational activities in the area. In 1950 its connection with rowing began, when it hosted the Empire Games rowing events. The event attracted more than 20,000 spectators to watch just five races. Lake Karāpiro continues to host high profile rowing and other sporting events today.