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Much of Marlborough is semi-arid, however a number of rivers flow through the region, in valleys, many resulting from the numerous fault lines that run through the region. The largest river is the Wairau, with the Awatere and Pelorus Rivers also being significant. Each of these major rivers also have a number of smaller tributaries.

Two tributaries of the Wairau, the Branch and the Waihopai Rivers have modest hydroelectric schemes owned by Trustpower which contribute to electricity supply in the region.

While much smaller than the three largest rivers, the Taylor River and Ōpaoa rivers are especially significant to Blenheim.

Under the old provincial boundaries, Marlborough extended south to the Conway River, and the Clarence River fell within the region. Under current local government administrative boundaries, these rivers now fall within the Kaikōura District, however they remain relevant to Marlborough from a historical perspective.

Marlborough Rivers Overview

An overview of the river systems found in Marlborough, New Zealand.

Acheron River

The Acheron River is a remote Marlborough river that flows south from its headwaters near the Acheron Saddle through Molesworth to its confluence with the Clarence.

Avon River

The Avon River is a tributary of the Waihopai River in Marlborough, with its headwaters near the Avon Saddle.

Awatere River

The Awatere River is one of Marlborough's major rivers to the south of the Wairau.

Branch River

The Branch River is a major tributary of the Wairau. Water diverted from the river is used to run a hydroelectric scheme owned by Trustpower.

Castle River

Castle River is a small tributary of the Awatere River, with its source in the Molesworth area of Marlborough.

Clarence River (Waiau Toa )

The Clarence River, the longest river in Marlborough, has its source as the outlet of Lake Tennyson, and reaches the sea in northern Kaikoura District.

Fairhall River

Fairhall River is a small river with its source in the Brancott Valley in Marlborough.

Flaxbourne River

The Flaxbourne River is a small river in the eponymous Flaxbourne district near Ward, reaching the sea at Ward Beach.

Grey River

The Grey River is a tributary of the Awatere River, with its source in the Back Grey Hills, and its confluence near Upcott Station.

Hodder River

The Hodder River is a tributary of the Awatere River in Marlborough, with its source in the Inland Kaikōura Range to the south of the Awatere Valley.

Kēkerengū River

The Kēkerengū River is a small river in the Kaikōura District that reaches the sea approximately half way between Blenheim and Kaikōura.

Kennet River

The Kennet River is a tributary of the Awatere River, with its source in Marlborough's high country in the Molesworth area.

Leatham River

The Leatham River is a tributary of the Branch River in the upper Wairau Valley.

Medway River

The Medway River is a tributary of the Awatere in south Marlborough.

Omaka River

The Omaka River is a heavily modified small river of the Wairau Plain that is a tributary of the Ōpaoa River.


Onamalutu is a small valley with a magnificent kahikatea forest remnant. The Onamaulutu domain is a popular picnic area.

Ōpaoa River

The Ōpaoa (Opawa) River is a spring fed river on the Wairau Plain which passes through Blenheim.

Pelorus River

The Pelorus River is one of the three major rivers in the Marlborough region. Pelorus Bridge is a popular reserve and location used in filming The Hobbit.

Rai River

The Rai River is the main tributary of the Pelorus River, formed by the confluence of several smaller rivers, flowing through Rai Valley, till it meets the Pelorus River at the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve.

Taylor River

The Taylor River is one of the iconic features of Blenheim, dividing the town, and providing an extensive recreational reserve.

Tuamarina River

The Tuamarina River is a small tributary of the Wairau that drains the Para wetland.

Tummil River

The Tummil River is a small river in south Marlborough flowing from its source at Lake Alexander into the Avon River.

Waihopai River

The Waihopai River is the largest tributary of the Wairau River in Marlborough, NZ

Waima (Ure) River

The Waima (Ure) River is the southernmost river fully within the current Marlborough District.

Wairau River

The Wairau River is Marlborough's largest river at 170km in length, and drains an area of 2600 square kilometres.

Wakamarina River

The Wakamarina is a tributary of the Pelorus River with its confluence at Canvastown. Significant amounts of gold were found in the river in 1864

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