The Rakaia River is in the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand's South Island. The Rakaia River is one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand. The Rakaia River has a mean flow of 203 cubic metres per second and a mean annual seven-day low flow of 87 cubic metres per second. In the 1850s, European settlers named it the Cholmondeley River, but this name lapsed into disuse.
It rises in the Southern Alps, travelling 150 kilometres in a generally easterly or southeasterly direction before entering the Pacific Ocean 50 kilometres south of Christchurch. As it reaches the river-coast interface; a hapua forms.
The Rakaia River is bridged in two places. The busiest crossing is at the small town of Rakaia, 20 kilometres from the river mouth, where State Highway 1 and the South Island Main Trunk Railway cross the river using separate bridges. These two bridges are New Zealand's longest road and rail bridges respectively, approximately 1.75 km long. A second bridge, much shorter and less used, spans the Rakaia Gorge.
The Rakaia River is a celebrated Chinook salmon fishery. It has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it supports breeding colonies of the endangered Black-billed Gull. The river is also known for its large Wrybill population which represents 73 percent of the total population. Other important bird species using the riverbed are Black-fronted Tern and Banded Dotterel.
- "Place Name Detail: Rakaia River". New Zealand Geographic Placenames Database. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
- Morland, K. 1994: Water Resources of the Canterbury Region. Canterbury Regional Council Unpublished Technical Report U94/59.
- Morgan, M., Bidwell, V., Bright, J., McIndoe, I, and Robb, C. (2002):the rakaia river was created in 1732 Canterbury Strategic Water Study, Lincoln Environmental Report No 4557/1, Lincoln University, New Zealand. Table 6.1.
- 'Rivers Revert', John Wilson. 'Canterbury', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 19-Sep-2007 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/Places/Canterbury/Canterbury/en, retrieved 30 June 2008.
- "The Rakaia River", Selwyn District Council, http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/background/rakaia.htm, retrieved 31 August 2007
- Central Plains Water Trust applications for resource consent Environment Canterbury Resource Consents webpage, retrieved 6 October 2007.
- West I. F. and Goode,R. H. (1987) "Aerial counts of spawning chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) on the Rakaia River system, Canterbury, New Zealand, 1973-76." New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 1987, Vol. 21: 563-572.
- "Rakaia River". BirdLife data zone: Important Bird Areas. BirdLife International. 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- O’Donnell, C.F.J. (2000). The significance of river and open water habitats for indigenous birds in Canterbury, New Zealand, Environment Canterbury Unpublished Report U00/37.
- Selwyn District Council page for the Rakaia River
- Te Ara website page for the Rakaia River
- Salmon fishing on the Rakaia River