History of Lake Okataina
|Legends tell of the Patupaiarehe, the fairy people who dwelt around the shores of this area in ancient times. The Maruiwi followed these early inhabitants, a people with a highly developed culture who may have originated from settlers that arrived with Toi, an early Polynesian explorer. The forbears of the Ngati Tarawhai subsequently arrived, their descent stemming largely from the ancestors of the Te Arawa canoe.
In 1931, it was this tribe, the Ngati Tarawhai that gifted the lake and surrounding lands to the Crown for the purposes of a scenic reserve.
Previously, the lake and its immediate vicinity were the centre of Maori activity, with many of the peninsulas being former sites of fighting pa. One famous pa name Te Koutu, was situated at the northern end of the lake. The famous chief Te Rangitakaroro commandeered this particular pa. It is this same person who was responsible for the naming of this lake.
Okataina – a place of laughter
As legend goes, Te Rangitakaroro was said to be sitting on a rock (now submerged), when a joke or some form of witty repartee was told. The rock was thereafter named ‘the place of laughter’. Later, the name was transferred to the lake which was known as Te Moana I kataina-a-Rangitakaroro (the sea where Te Rangi-takaroro laughed).
The joke told long ago has now been forgotten, yet the laughter remains enshrined in the name Okataina (the place of laughter).
Water levels in Lake Okataina
Due to the continually rising lake levels, many of the pa sites that were previously situated on the shores of Lake Okataina are now submerged. Lake Okataina has no major outlet for water to escape, except seepage from Otangimoana to Tarawera. The water level is said to fluctuate drastically when a major earthquake takes place. In the last hundred years or so however, the lake has risen over 30 feet and is said to be the main reason for the Ngati Tarawhai people moving away from the area, before the turn of the last century.
Lake Okataina Flora and Fauna
Today, the Okataina scenic reserve can be found largely in its natural state. The podocarp-hardwood forest contains fine examples of rimu, totara, tawa, rata, kahikatea, rewarewa, inland pohutukawa and konini. As well, numerous varieties of the ‘lower and ground story’ species can be found here such as vines, ferns and mosses.
The area is also abundant in native and exotic bird life with pigeon, duck, swan and many of the common smaller species inhabiting the area. Sightings of our national icon, the kiwi, have been reported at various spots around the lake. Wild pigs, deer, wallabies, possums and glow worms can also be seen. For information on bush walks and tramping in the Lake Okataina area, please click here.
Lake Okataina is widely regarded as a premiere fishing destination. This is due largely to the abundance of rainbow trout that can be found here. Click here to read more about fishing on Lake Okataina, during your stay at our Rotorua lodge accommodation.