Last Modified: 25-6-2021 12:01
By: Christopher Cookson
The Taylor River is a small river in Marlborough, about 23 kilometres long, that has its source to the south of Blenheim on the lower slopes of The Ned in the Taylor Pass area. The river is named after Joseph Taylor, Blenheim's first blacksmith. During periods of low rainfall, particularly over summer, much of the course of the river can dry up, however like many New Zealand rivers, the Taylor can rise rapidly during periods of heavy rain, with a one in three year flood expected to reach 50 cumecs. Originally much of what is now known as the Taylor was known as the Omaka River from Doctor's Creek to its confluence with the Ōpaoa River, with the Taylor a tributary, however the Omaka River was diverted to its current course flowing into the Ōpaoa near Renwick. Over most of its course, the Taylor flows as a single channel within a fairly confined bed, either due to natural geographical features, or due to flood protection work, however for a section upstream of the Burleigh bridge, the bed widens into a broad shingle bed, and when there is sufficient flow, can demonstrate some braiding characteristic of larger South Island rivers.
As a result of recurring incidents of severe flooding affecting Blenheim, which contributed to the town gaining the nickname the Beaver or Beavertown, the Taylor Dam was constructed, and remains the largest flood protection dam in New Zealand. Additional flood protection work involved building extensive stopbanks where the river passes through Blenheim.
Due to its proximity to Blenheim, although the Taylor River is one of Marlborough's smallest rivers, it has more bridges than any other river in Marlborough.
The Taylor River Reserve contained within the stopbanks provides an important recreational area for Blenheim residents, with dog exercising, walking and cycling all popular activities. The river reserve have a network of paths, which extend for ten kilometres as far as the Taylor Dam from central Blenheim. The Blenheim Riverside Railway runs through the reserve from Brayshaw Park to central Blenheim. Another section of track crosses the river and connects Brayshaw Park to the Aviation Heritage Centre.
The river is a highly modified environment due to flood protection and invasion of pest plant species resulting in little of its original natural character remaining. In a 2014 report by Boffa Miskell prepared for the Marlborough District Council, the Taylor River below the dam was one of the lowest rated rivers in Marlborough for natural character, although the rating was considerably improved upstream of the dam.
Large sections of the river margin are populated by willows, however along sections within Blenheim,riverside planting of native vegetation such as harakeke (flax) and paving significant sections of the paths has helped enhance the scenic and recreational value of the river. Much of the river bed is covered in exotic plant species including California poppies, exotic grasses, and fennel. Old man's beard is present along the length of the river, and the major pest grass species, Chilean needle grass is also present in some locations. Upstream of the dam, areas of gorse and broom are present, however in a few sections, mānuka and porcupine bush can be found, and kiokio and koromiko are present near Taylor Pass.
Several fish species can be found in the Taylor, both native and introduced. In the lower reaches where it flows through Blenheim, and maintains a reasonable depth all year round, brown trout can be found. Along the rest of its length, bullies and short finned eels can be found when sufficient water levels are present for extended periods, with the Taylor Dam providing a refuge when lengths of the river dry up during extended periods without rain. Goldfish have been illegally introduced in the Taylor Dam at various times, resulting in expensive pest control operations.
A variety of invertebrates can be found in and around the river, with NZ red damselflies, and dragonflies fairly common. Some introduced water snails are also present.
Paradise ducks can be observed at times in and around the river, and welcome swallows are common immediately upstream of the Taylor Dam. The Taylor Dam itself provides a habitat for a wide variety of bird species, with black swans, Australasian coots, and pukeko breeding around the dam.
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Cookson, C. (2021). Taylor River. Retrieved May, 20, 2022, from https://www.marlboroughonline.co.nz/marlborough/information/geography/rivers/taylor-river/