In 1879 the Falls of Awotonga were destroyed by 200 pounds (91 kg) of dynamite to free the navigation of the river for shipping. There was a water column of 150 m. Other parts of the river had been cleared in the same manner in previous years.
The crystal-clear waters of the Waihou River provide ideal fishing. The river supports large populations of rainbow and brown trout. A survey conducted in 2009 showed that the upper section of the river supported over 700 fish per kilometre.
A painting of the Waihou River, entitled Dibsell's Landing, by John Philemon Backhouse