The Rakaia River is in the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand’s South Island. It is one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand. The river has a mean flow of 203 cubic meters per second and a mean annual seven-day low flow of 87 cubic meters per second. It rises in the Southern Alps, travelling 150 kilometers in a generally easterly or southeasterly direction before entering the Pacific Ocean 50 kilometers south of Christchurch. For much of its journey, the river is a braided river, running through a wide shingle bed. Close to Mount Hutt, however, it is briefly confined to a narrow canyon known as the Rakaia Gorge.
In the 1850s, European settlers named it the Cholmondeley River, but this name lapsed into disuse. The Rakaia River is bridged in two places. The busiest crossing is at the small town of Rakaia, 20 kilometers from the river mouth, where State Highway 1 and the South Island Main Trunk Railway cross the river using separate bridges. These two bridges are New Zealand’s longest road and rail bridges respectively, approximately 1.75 km long. A second bridge, much shorter and less used, spans the Rakaia Gorge.The Rakaia River is a celebrated Chinook salmon fishery. Bird species known to be found in the Rakaia riverbed are Wrybill, Black fronted Tern and Banded Dotterel.