The Rangitata River is a braided river fed from the Southern Alps and flowing in a southeast direction, entering the Pacific Ocean just north of Temuka. It’s two main tributaries are the Clyde and Havelock Rivers.
Before the river enters the Canterbury Plains, the river runs through a gorge (known for its grade 5 white water rapids) and is also diverted to the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) for irrigation and hydroelectric generation.
The river along with its tributaries provide great fishing, with chinook salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout and brook char available.
The gravel riverbeds are the nesting habitat for four endangered native birds – Wrybill, Banded dotterel, Black-fronted tern and the Black-billed gull.
Other large tributaries are the Lawrence River, which drains the west side of the Arrowsmith Range, and Forest and Bush Streams, draining part of the Two Thumbs Range, and Potts River. These larger tributaries join the Rangitata in the large glacially excavated basin containing several sheep stations, including Mesopotamia Station, where Samuel Butler established himself in the early sixties.