The history of the Lake Tekapo area
Approximately 250-300 million years ago the Southern Alps and the area surrounding Lake Tekapo were part of a seafloor valley. Movement of two large plates of the earth's crust has seen the once horizontal seabed, hardened to rock and pushed upwards to form the land it is today.
The glaciers have since retreated back to the valleys at the head of the lake, but are still clearly visible from the air and often accessible by four wheel drive vehicle.
The Mackenzie Basin was free of humans until several hundred years ago with the arrival of the Maori in search of food.
In 1855 James Mackenzie, a Scottish shepherd turned sheep stealer discovered the basin that now bears his name when he, with the help of his dog Friday, drove flocks of sheep inland to avoid being discovered.
In 1857 the first sheep farm in the Mackenzie was built by John and Barbara Hay on the shores of Lake Tekapo. When the lake is low the remains of the old Tekapo Station homestead can be seen on the eastern shores of the lake.
In the 1930s work began on Tekapo power station. Construction was delayed by the event of World War Two, but the station was eventually finished in 1951. The intake for the power station is located on the south-western shores of the lake. Water travels through a tunnel under the hill to the west of the township, to the power station located part way down the Tekapo River.