The Taylor River has its source to the south of Blenheim between The Ned and Taylor Pass. 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. The river is a highly modified environment due to flood protection and invasion of pest plant species. 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, with the Taylor a tributary, however the Omaka River was diverted to its current course flowing into the Ōpaoa near Renwick.
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. Both the construction of the dam and other alterations to the river, make it a highly modified environment with little or none of its original natural environment remaining.
Additional flood protection work involved building extensive stopbanks where the river passes through Blenheim. The resulting Taylor River Reserve contained by 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 as far as the Taylor Dam from central 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.