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Lake Taupo is a lake situated in the North Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker. With a surface area of , it is the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand, and the largest freshwater lake by surface area in Oceania.

Lake Taupo has a perimeter of approximately 193 kilometres, a deepest point of 186 metres. It is drained by the Waikato River (New Zealand's longest river), while its main tributaries are the Waitahanui Rivermarker, the Tongariro Rivermarker, and the Tauranga-Taupo River. It is a noted trout fishery with stocks of introduced brown trout and rainbow trout.

Lake formation and volcanism


The lake lies in a caldera created following a huge volcanic eruption (see supervolcano) approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years. It has predominantly erupted rhyolitic lava although Mount Tauhara formed from dacitic lava.

The largest eruption, known as the Oruanui eruption, ejected an estimated 1,170 cubic kilometres of material and caused several hundred square kilometres of surrounding land to collapse and form the caldera. The caldera later filled with water, eventually overflowing to cause a huge outwash flood.

Several later eruptions occurred over the millennia before the most recent major eruption, which occurred in 180 CE. Known as the Hatepe eruption, it is believed to have ejected 100 cubic kilometres of material, of which 30 cubic kilometres was ejected in the space of a few minutes. This was one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5,000 years (alongside the Tianchi eruptionmarker of Baekdumarker at around 1000 and the 1815 eruption of Tamboramarker), with a Volcanic Explosivity Index rating of 7. The eruption column was twice as high as the eruption column from Mount St. Helensmarker in 1980, and the ash turned the sky red over Romemarker and Chinamarker. The eruption devastated much of the North Island and further expanded the lake. The area was uninhabited by humans at the time of the eruption, since New Zealand was not settled by the Māori until several centuries later at the earliest. Taupo's last known eruption occurred around 210 CE, with lava dome extrusion forming the Horomatangi Reefs, but that eruption was much smaller than the 180 CE eruption.

The 180 eruption was one of the largest in recorded history. The skies and sunsets formed from this eruption were noted by Roman and Chinese observers. Any possible climatic effects of the eruption would have been concentrated on the southern hemisphere due to the southerly position of Lake Taupo

Underwater hydrothermal activity continues near the Horomatangi vent, and the volcano is currently considered to be dormant rather than extinct.


Much of the watershed of Lake Taupo is a beech and podocarp forest with associate understory ferns being Blechnum filiforme, Asplenium flaccidum, Doodia media, Hymenophyllum demissum, Microsorum pustulatum and Microsorum scandens, and some prominent associate shrubs being Olearia ranii nd Alseuosmia quercifolia.

Native faunal species in the lake include northern koura or crayfish (Paranephrops planifrons) and kokopu or whitebait (Galaxias species). The lake is noted for stocks of brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), introduced from Europe and Californiamarker respectively in the late nineteenth century. There has also been a subsequent introduction of smelt (Retropinnidae species) as a food for the trout.

A community of sponges and associated invertebrates live around the underwater geothermal vents.


NASA satellite photo of Lake Taupo

Tourism is a major business for the area, attracting over 1.2 million visitors per year. The fact that the lake is the largest fresh water lake in Australasia (and sometimes advertised as the largest in the southern hemisphere), and approximately the same size as Singapore, ensures its popularity. The busiest time is the high summer season around Christmas and New Year.

The lake area has a pleasant temperate climate. Maximum temperatures range from 24°C in January to 15°C in July, while the night temperatures range from 16°C in summer down to 5°C in winter. Most rain falls in summer.

The area hosts popular events like the annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, a cycling tour around the lake. Going around the lake takes about four to ten hours, depending on the cyclist. Hundreds of volunteers from the Taupo township help out to ensure the event's success.

Taupo is also host to the Oxfam Trailwalker, a charity ultra-challenge held each April on a 100 km course.

The region is also famous for the sport of skydiving.


See also


  1. Climate, History and the Modern World, Lamb,H. (1995), Routledge
  2. C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Crown Fern: Blechnum discolor,, ed. N. Stromberg
  3. Taupo on
  4. GHCN Climate Database, Goddard Institute of Space Studies,

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