Featuring Lake Tekapo

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The history of the Lake Tekapo area

New Zealand glacierApproximately 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 last ice-age, 15,000 to 18,000 years ago, saw huge glaciers of ice longer than the length of the lake, depositing large volumes of rock at it's terminal, resulting in the damming of the valley and the formation of Lake Tekapo behind it.

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.
The Moa (a large flightless bird now extinct) and other birds were hunted and eels fished for in the area.
The Maori called the area Takapo, meaning "To leave in haste at night". The current name, Tekapo is possibly a corruption of Takapo.

Statue to the working dog in Lake TekapoIn 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.
Authorities were finally able to capture Mackenzie, but struggled to take control of the sheep due to his highly intelligent dog. It is alleged Friday continued to drive the sheep without his master's control until finally being disabled by the authorities.
A bronze memorial to working collie dogs, such as Friday, was commissioned in 1968 by local farmers and now stands on the shores of Lake Tekapo near the Church of the Good Shepherd.


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.
A hotel was established in 1861 and a ferry was set up to cross the Tekapo River. Twenty years later construction began on the first bridge.

Construction of the Tekpo A power turbine housingIn 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.
The lake level controlled by gates constructed on the Tekapo River, was raised, the existing bridge demolished and the hotel re-sited to its current location.
Today Lake Tekapo is flourishing under the effects of tourism and continues to grow as more people discover the magic of the undisturbed beauty of the Mackenzie.



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