Kai Iwi Lakes, North Island, New Zealand

Lake Locations:

New Zealand - North Island - Northland -

Also known as:  Kai-Iwi Lakes

About 10,000 years ago, while the Tasman Sea was rising and the islands that would become New Zealand were being reshaped, depressions in the late Pleistocene sand compacted and filled with rainwater. Three of the resulting basin dune lakes became known as the Kai Iwi Lakes. Ringed with white sand and full of clean, clear water, the lakes have been providing Northland New Zealanders with fish and a place to play for thousands of years.

Lake Waikere, Lake Taharoa and Lake Kai-Iwi make up the Kai Iwi Lakes. At 586 acres, Lake Taharoa is by far the largest. In fact it is the third largest dune lake in New Zealand, and with a maximum depth of 121 feet it is also the deepest known dune lake in New Zealand. Lake Waikere covers 86 acres and is 98 feet deep. At just 52 feet deep at its deepest point, 82 – acre Lake Kai-Iwi is much shallower than the other lakes. Lake Kai-Iwi and Lake Taharoa are connected by a narrow channel, but none of the lakes have inlets or outlets. Their water comes primarily from rainfall, so lake levels are very dependent on the climate, fluctuating as much as two feet over the course of a year. Both Lake Waikere and Lake Taharoa are considered oligotrophic and their water is some of the cleanest and clearest on the North Island.

In Maori, the language of New Zealand’s native people, “kai” means “food” and “iwi” means “tribe.” There is evidence of a Maori settlement and burial grounds around the Kai Iwi Lakes. By the late 1870’s the lakes had become a gum digging area. Gum is resin from the Kauri Trees. The huge trees are only native to New Zealand, and much of the Northland used to be kauri forest. The resin piled up under the trees and was eventually covered over. An industry grew around digging and selling the gum for among many things, the manufacture of varnish. In the early 1900’s, an attempt was made to drain Lake Kai-Iwi for a gum operation dropping the lake’s water levels by six and a half feet, but by the 1920’s most of the gum digging was over. In 1928 land on the east shore of Lake Taharoa was dedicated as a scenic reserve and by 1968 all three lakes and the surrounding land had become the Taharoa Domain.

Today the Kai Iwi Lakes and the Taharoa Domain draws people from all over to fish, swim, sailboard, dive, boat, and play. There are campgrounds and picnic areas, and the lakes are surrounded with white sand beaches. The northeast side of the lakes is covered with pine plantations, and there are miles of trails winding through them and around the lakes. The Kai Iwi Lakes are less than two miles from the Tasman Sea, and there is a trail through the domain and across private farmland to the coast.

All three lakes have boat access, but each has different rules regarding the use of motorboats. The Kai Iwi Lakes Ski Club makes its home on Lake Waikere, and the New Zealand Water Ski Championships are often held at the Kai Iwi Lakes. There is no water skiing on Lake Kai-Iwi. The Northland Fish and Game Council stocks both Lake Waikere and Lake Taharoa with fingerling trout, and the rainbow trout fishing in both lakes is excellent. Trout are the only sport fish in the lakes and they are not present in Lake Kai-Iwi. Native species include the common bully and dwarf inganga which evolved from the salt water inganga after becoming landlocked.

The Northland has been called the “spiritual birthplace” of New Zealand. New Zealand’s founding documents were signed in Waitangi, a coastal town near Russell. The Northland extends from Cape Reinga south to Kaipara Harbour. It is a narrow finger pointing into the Tasman Sea with inspiring coastal views and quaint villages. Visitors can wander through seaside villages, eat in one of the local restaurants, and browse the shops. At the end of the day, return to spend the night at one of many vacation rentals and watch the day close over Kai Iwi Lakes.

Things to do at Kai Iwi Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking

Fish species found at Kai Iwi Lakes

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Kai Iwi Lakes Photo Gallery

    Kai Iwi Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Surface Area: 754 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 230 feet

    Maximum Depth: 121 feet

    Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

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    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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