The Taylor Dam is a flood protection dam and recreational reserve located to the south west of Blenheim.
Most of the year, the Taylor River only has a modest flow, and even dries up over sections of its course, however it can rise very rapidly during heavy rain. As a result, Blenheim was flooded in numerous occasions, and this contributed to the town originally being named The Beaver.
In March 1963 the Marlborough Catchment Board began planning for the construction of the Taylor Dam and work took place between 1964-1965 as flood protection for Blenheim. Land was purchased from Meadowbank Station to provide materials. Officially opened on 30th November 1965, the structure is the largest earth flood protection dam in New Zealand. The dam itself is constructed of compacted earth and rock, however a concrete outlet provides controlled release of water while limiting peak flow. An earth and rock spillway also exists to provide a channel for overflow in the extremely unlikely event of the dam becoming full.
Behind the dam, a small lake has formed, and provides an important habitat for waterfowl, with black swans, coots, mallard ducks, pukeko, paradise ducks, shags and other species present. Around the lake, other bird species include piwakawaka (fantails), welcome swallows, and the occasional harrier hawk (kāhu). Eels are also present in the lake, and brown trout have been released in the past. A large variety of invertebrates inhabit either the lake itself or surrounding vegetation including dragonflies, damselflies, and several butterfly species. Problems with undesirable pest species including Canadian pondweed, crack willow, and rudd, tench and goldfish being illegally introduced into the lake have required control programs at various times.
Although not suitable for swimming, the lake has been used for model boat regattas.
Picnic tables are provided at various locations in the reserve and swings and toilet facilities are available in the north west corner of the reserve.
Dogs are permitted at the Taylor Dam provided they are kept on a leash.
Numerous large trees are planted around the lake, providing shade in summer, although most of the trees are introduced rather than native species. Various species of oak, pine, and willow are among those present. An area of native shrubs is located near the toilets.
To the south, upstream from the dam itself is a large flat area with mature pine trees a few minutes walk from the end of the vehicle track around the dam. This area is the former Omaka Domain recreation reserve.
To the north, the Taylor Dam reserve connects with the Taylor River Reserve which provides a walking and cycleway that extends to Riverside Park in central Blenheim.
In 1980, a drowning occured in the dam when an individual became entangled in pond weed in the lake.