Lake Coleridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lake Coleridge
Lake Coleridge looking north-west from the southern end
Lake Coleridge looking north-west from the southern end.
Location of Lake Coleridge
Location of Lake Coleridge
Lake Coleridge
LocationSelwyn District, Canterbury region, South Island
Coordinates43°17′S 171°30′E / 43.283°S 171.500°E / -43.283; 171.500Coordinates: 43°17′S 171°30′E / 43.283°S 171.500°E / -43.283; 171.500
Native nameWhakamatau (Māori)[1]: 62, 64 
Primary inflowsHarper, Wilberforce, Acheron
Primary outflowsRakaia River (via Coleridge Power Station)
Basin countriesNew Zealand
Max. length11 km (6.8 mi)[2]
Max. width4.8 km (3.0 mi)[2]
Surface area47 km2 (18 sq mi)[2]
Max. depth200 m (660 ft)[2]

Lake Coleridge (Māori: Whakamatau) is located in inland Canterbury, in New Zealand's South Island. Located 35 kilometres (22 mi) to the northwest of Methven, it has a surface area of 47 square kilometres (18 sq mi). The lake is situated in an over-deepened valley formed by a glacier[1]: 16  over 20,000 years ago in the Pleistocene era. It currently has no natural outflows. There is a small settlement at the lake.[3]


Early colonial explorers found the shores of the lake covered in mānuka (or kānuka), kōwhai, cabbage trees, flax and general swamp plants. The lake was also surrounded by Southern Rata trees, and native beech trees. The lake itself was fairly lacking in aquatic plants due to a lack of nutrients. The lake was known for a population of large eels.[1]: 29 

Human activity has significantly changed the ecology. Colonial settlers introduced game fish including rainbow trout, brown trout, Atlantic salmon and Chinook salmon.[1]: 32  The changing water levels caused by the operation of the Coleridge Power Station killed most of the kānuka in 1914 and rata in 1923.[1]: 143  In modern times a mixture of native and introduced plants surround the lake, including matagouri, broom, gorse, briar, coprosma and biddi-biddi.[1]: 25 


Lake Coleridge pictured from close to the Coleridge Power Station looking north.


The area of the lake was formed by glacial erosion, probably during the Waimaungan, Waimean and Otiran glaciations.[1]: 19  The lake sits close to multiple geological fault-lines, including the Porters Pass Fault, the Cass Fault and the Blue Hill Fault.[1]: 19 


There is evidence of Māori activity in the area dating back potentially as far as the 13th century, with some nearby archaeological camp fires and moa bones carbon-dated to between 1340 and 1420 AD.[1]: 62  While the area would have initially been thickly forested, large fires destroyed most of the vegetation between 1200 and 1400.[1]: 36  Later the lake became an important stopping place for coastal tribes making the difficult journey between east and West Coast to obtain pounamu, due to the abundant eels, weka and water fowl that could be used to replenish stocks on the long journey.[1]: 62 

Colonisation and modern times[edit]

Original map of Canterbury by Joseph Thomas on which Lake Coleridge was first named by the settlers.

The Lake was named by the chief surveyor of the Canterbury Association, Joseph Thomas, on a sketch map prepared in early 1849. It commemorates two early members of the Canterbury Association, Edward Coleridge and William Coleridge, who were first cousins and both nephews of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.[1]: 68 [4][5] Two further members of the Coleridge family joined the Canterbury Association in June 1851, i.e. after the lake had been named: John Taylor Coleridge (a brother of Edward), and John Coleridge, one of John Taylor's sons.[4]

The lake is the site of one of the country's earliest hydroelectric schemes, the Coleridge Power Station, initially completed in 1914 and built mainly to supply power to Christchurch.[6] The project makes use of the difference in altitude between the lake and river (the lake is 150 metres or 490 feet higher). Both the Harper and Wilberforce rivers have had some of their flow diverted into the lake, with up to 100% of the Harper's flow diverted for the power station. The power station is still operating today.

The lake was the epicentre for the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck on 26 June 1946.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Britten, Rosemary (2000). Lake Coleridge: The Power, the People, the Land. Christchurch, New Zealand: Hazard Press. pp. 382 pages. ISBN 1877161888.
  2. ^ a b c d Suggate, Richard (1966). "COLERIDGE, LAKE". In McLintock, A. H. (ed.). An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2021-01-04.
  3. ^ "Lake Coleridge". Selwyn District. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b Blain, Rev. Michael (2007). The Canterbury Association (1848-1852): A Study of Its Members’ Connections (PDF). Christchurch: Project Canterbury. pp. 22–25. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  5. ^ Hight, James; C. R. Straubel (1957). A History of Canterbury. Vol. I. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. pp. 118, 121.
  6. ^ "Lake Coleridge Power Station". IPENZ Engineering Heritage. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  7. ^ "GeoNet - Quakes". GNS Science. Retrieved 18 March 2017.

External links[edit]