The Kawarau Gorge is a major river gorge, located in Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. The Kawarau River flows through the gorge, which is located between the towns of Queenstown and Cromwell, and part of the route of State Highway 6 also follows the gorge.
The gorge begins some 30 kilometres from Queenstown, close to the wine-growing community of Gibbston and the large rock outcrop known as the Nevis Bluff. It continues for some 25 kilometres before the river emerges into the upper valley of the Clutha River close to the settlement of Ripponvale. It is of major historic significance; the Kawarau was the site of much activity during the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s, and the preserved remains of several miner's cottages (notably those of Chinese migrants) can be seen above the banks of the river. The Roaring Meg hydro scheme and Goldfields Mining Centre are in the gorge. Visitors can experience panning for gold at the Goldfields Mining Centre.
The gorge is noted for its natural beauty,[according to whom?] and is also the site of several extreme sports, notably bungy jumping at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, and white-water sports such as kayaking and riverboarding.
A 2004 accident resulted in two hundred litres of hydrochlorite acid spilling into the gorge, the acid cleaned the highway but caused no environmental damage. Three New Zealand Army soldiers died when their Unimog fell 100 m down the gorge into the river, during a training exercise in 2005.
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