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|Native name||Rangitīkei (Māori)|
|• location||Kaimanawa Ranges|
|• elevation||1,480 metres (4,860 ft)|
|Length||253 kilometres (157 mi)|
|Basin size||3,948 square kilometres (1,524 sq mi)|
|• average||66 m3/s (2,300 cu ft/s)|
|• left||Mangamaire River, Whakaurekou River, Kawhatau River, Mangawharariki River|
|• right||Moawhango River, Hautapu River|
Its headwaters are to the southeast of Lake Taupō in the Kaimanawa Ranges. It flows from the Central Plateau south past Taihape, Mangaweka, Hunterville, Marton, and Bulls, to the South Taranaki Bight at Tangimoana, 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Whanganui. The river gives its name to the surrounding Rangitikei District.
In 1897 the river flooded and all the bridges over it (Vinegar Hill, Onepuhi, Kakariki railway bridge and Bulls) were damaged or destroyed. Port of Rangitikei, at the mouth of the river was also washed away and never rebuilt. Other notable floods were in 1882, 1917, 1936, 1958, 1965 and 2004. Until 1908 a ferry linked Tangimoana to Scotts Ferry. Onepuhi, or Onepuehu, bridge was shown on the 1941 map, but missing from the 1968 and later maps. Further decking for the 807 ft (246 m) long Onepuhi bridge was suggested in 1958.
The river is a popular leisure and recreation area for jetboating, white water rafting, kayaking and fishing, and includes public camp grounds along its banks, including Vinegar Hill, New Zealand. Its sheer vertical "paapa" (clay) cliffs (unique to this part of New Zealand) and deep canyons provide the perfect setting for adventure activities such as bungy jumps and flying fox rides. The cliffs, which display oxygen isotope stages, have been incised into the soft Quaternary, 2.6 to 1.7 million year old, marine sediments as the land has risen since the last ice age. The rise has left 19 terraces, which have been mapped.
Both rainbow and brown trout throughout the river system with fish in the upper reaches reaching trophy size (i.e. over 4.5 kg) with the average through the rest of the system being around 1.5 to 2 kg. Fish numbers are good throughout the system though there are fewer fish per kilometre in the upper reaches. This is made up for by the quality and size of the fish being larger in this section.
- NIWA Water & soil miscellaneous publication no. 48 (1983)
- "Environmental monitoring data for Rangitīkei". Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA). Retrieved 7 March 2021.
- "THE FLOODS IN THE RANGITIKEI. WANGANUI CHRONICLE". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 21 April 1897. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
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- "RANGITIKEI RIVER IN FLOOD. WANGANUI CHRONICLE". Wanganui Chronicle. 10 July 1917. p. 7. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
- "MANAWATU RIVER IN FLOOD. MANAWATU HERALD". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 27 February 1936. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
- "New Zealand Flooding ( 1958-02-21 )". hwe.niwa.co.nz. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
- "Manawatu District Council Coastal Reserves Management Plan" (PDF). 2007.
- "Tangimoana flood response put to test". www.scoop.co.nz. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
- Alexander, David (February 2012). "THE RANGITIKEI RIVER, ITS TRIBUTARY WATERWAYS, AND OTHER TAIHAPE WATERWAYS" (PDF).
- "Series: NZMS1 Marton Sheet: N143". www.mapspast.org.nz. 1968. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
- "Bridges: Feilding Cliff Road Via Stanway Main Highway No 308 - Rangitikei River-Bed at Onepuhi Bridge, Showing Foundation Test Bores | Archives Central". archivescentral.org.nz. 1949. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
- Parliament, New Zealand (1959). Parliamentary Debates.
- Ballance, Peter (2009). "New Zealand geology: an illustrated guide" (PDF). Geoscience Society of New Zealand.
- TIM NAISH & PETER J. J. KAMP (1995). "Pliocene-Pleistocene marine cyclothems, Wanganui Basin" (PDF). University of Waikato.
- "Soil Bureau map 142-1 River Terraces in the Rangitikei Basin" (PDF). 1972.
- Rangitikei River Trout Fishing "Rangitikei River Trout Fishing "[dead link]