Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu

The Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu flows through rugged forested country in the southwestern South Island of New Zealand. Partly in Mount Aspiring National Park, it flows south-west and then south for 60 kilometres (37 mi) from its headwaters in the Southern Alps and the Dart Glacier, eventually flowing into the northern end of Lake Wakatipu near Glenorchy.[1]

Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu
The Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu near Glenorchy
Native nameTe Awa Whakatipu  (Māori)
CountryNew Zealand
Physical characteristics
SourceSouthern Alps
  elevation1,025 m (3,363 ft)
MouthLake Wakatipu
330 m (1,080 ft)
Length60 km (37 mi)
Basin features
  leftWhitbourn River, Blue Duck River, Routeburn River

Ngāi Tahu called the river Te Awa Whakatipu. It was named as the Dart in the 1860s by a runholder, William Gilbert Rees, who chose the name for the river's swift flow.[2] The current dual name was made official as part of the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.[3]

Several popular tramping tracks are nearby, notably the Rees-Dart Track, which follows the valley of Te Awa Whakatipu and the nearby Rees River.[4] Jetboats operate on the river.[5]

Dart Glacier (source of the Dart River)

The Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu, as many other areas in and around the Glenorchy and Queenstown area, has also been the location for many scenes filmed for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Examples of these locations are Isengard, filmed at Dan's Paddock and Lothlórien in the forests slightly further north.[6]

The upper valley was the site of one of New Zealand's worst light aircraft accidents in 1989, when an Aspiring Air Britten-Norman Islander crashed, killing all ten people on board.[7]

Suspension bridge over the upper Dart River in Otago New Zealand


  1. Peter Dowling (editor) (2004). Reed New Zealand Atlas. Reed Books. Maps 89, 90. ISBN 0-7900-0952-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. Discover New Zealand:A Wises Guide (9th ed.). 1994. p. 443.
  3. "Place name detail: Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu". New Zealand Gazetteer. New Zealand Geographic Board. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  4. "Rees-Dart Track". New Zealand Department of Conservation. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  5. "Jet boat on the Dart River". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  6. "Ring things". Rough Guides. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  7. "08 AUG 1989". Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 4 May 2012.