Lake Rotoiti, South Island, New Zealand

Lake Locations:

New Zealand - South Island - Marlborough -

Lake Rotoiti, in the Tasman Region of New Zealand is a favorite spot for vacations and holidays. Located within the Nelson Lakes National Park, the deep glacial lake is a favored destination for those wishing to engage in all sorts of water-based activities in beautiful and natural surroundings. The small village of St Arnaud at the north end of the lake is the natural starting point for any activity in Nelson Lakes National Park. The tiny town has been geared for visitors since the first hotel was built in the 1800s to provide shelter to sheep herders taking their flocks to pasture and to market. That original hotel is still in use for the same purpose today, but instead of shepherds, its patrons are trekkers, fishermen, skiers and nature lovers.

Located in the northern part of New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Rotoiti is an hour and a half south of Nelson and the Tasman Bay. Nelson Lakes National Park contains two major lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa. As Lake Rotoroa is maintained as a wilderness lake, Lake Rotoiti is the natural destination for those wishing to sail, water ski, powerboat and windsurf. Both lakes are popular for canoeing and kayaking. And fishing, particularly for record-size brown trout, is a favored activity. The heavily forested shoreline and surrounding mountains are native beech forest, with varieties changing as the altitude increases and finally gives way to alpine herbs. The shoreline rises steeply toward Mount Robert on the west side of the lake. Indeed, the entire shoreline is mountainous, scenic and great hiking or trekking country. The lake is exceptionally clean, fed by the Travers River on the south. Lake Rotoiti forms the headwaters of the Buller River, known as one of the premier trout fishing and whitewater rafting rivers in New Zealand. Tourism in the area is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation, which has developed many miles of hiking trails around the lakes and into the surrounding mountains.

Gateway village St Arnaud is rich in vacation rentals, with cabins, cottages, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, youth hostels, campgrounds and luxury private rentals. Two arms of Lake Rotoiti form deep bays at the north end; West Bay and Kerr Bays. Saint Arnaud sprawls along Kerr Bay, where swim docks grace the shallower waters in summer. Real estate is occasionally available at St Arnaud, but the vast majority of shoreline is within the National Park and thus is public land. Saint Arnaud takes its position as vacation headquarters seriously, with fishing guides available to take anglers to their secret hot spots. A water taxi is available to transport fly fishermen to far-flung locations around the shore. Shuttle service transports visitors to locations both along the lake and the Buller River and to the city of Nelson. Two ski areas are located adjacent to the lake, one of which is club-owned but welcomes visitors if they reserve in advance. A glider service provides air tours of the lake and surrounding mountains. Watercraft are available for rental. A visitors center and an educational center provide history, ecology and nature information, particularly for school children who often take field trips here from Nelson.

Just outside of St Arnaud, a large area along Lake Rotoiti is being restored to a pre-civilization natural setting. This ‘Mainland Island’ area is being managed to actively remove all non-native pests and plants to restore the area to its original condition. Here visitors learn that the removal of non-native predators allow rare native birds to increase their numbers. It is hoped that the Mainland Island concept can restore many native species to the New Zealand landscape.

The Lake Rotoiti area is a favorite honeymoon destination. Other visitors come for bird-watching, particularly in the Mainland Island. Hunting is popular in season, with deer, chamois, wild pigs, and rabbits favored prey. Gold Panning is popular in the mountain streams and photographers are never at a loss for subjects. For those who wish to travel a bit farther afield, 4-wheel tracks are clearly marked. Visits above the tree line into the alpine landscape are easily accomplished from Lake Rotoiti. And other visitors travel to Nelson and nearby Abel Tasman National Park with its sculptured granite cliffs and golden beaches. Also popular near Nelson is the Tasman Wilderness in Kahurangi National Park. Parts of Kahurangi are trackless wilderness; others hold multiple trails leading to fishing, kayaking and caving adventures.

A visit to Lake Rotoiti any time of the year will become a favorite memory. Bring your skis or your fishing rod or your mountain bike to the slopes of the St Arnaud Mountains and reserve a vacation rental on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. In fact, bring all three – you may decide to stay and see the lake in all seasons.

Things to do at Lake Rotoiti

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Lake Rotoiti

  • Brown Trout
  • Trout

Lake Rotoiti Photo Gallery

Lake Rotoiti Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Shoreline Length: 14 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,896 feet

Maximum Depth: 276 feet

Trophic State: Microtrophic

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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

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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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.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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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.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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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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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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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.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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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.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- 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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