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Waka tīwai being recovered from Lake Ngāroto in 1965; a photo of the lake and its boardwalk in 2016.
At 90 hectares, Lake Ngāroto is the largest of 17 peat lakes in the Waipā district. These lakes were formed around 19,000 years ago, after the Waikato River abandoned its original course through the Hinuera Valley to the Firth of Thames and flowed into the Waikato basin.
The diversion of the river caused vast quantities of river silt and gravel to pour into the Waikato lowlands blocking the mouths of valleys. Water built up behind these new barriers creating lakes.
Peat-forming plants dominated the vegetation that grew around the lakes and as the peat built up, it influenced water conditions and colour.
A number of pā were once found around Lake Ngāroto. Some were probably seasonal fishing camps and two man-made island pā sites are still visible (now well above the water level as the lake level has lowered).
Taurangamirumiru, a hilltop pā, is visible from Pāterangi Road, between Sing and Bowman Roads. This was the ancestral home of Ngāti Apakura from the beginning of the 16th century and remained so for three centuries. It was here that Waikato and Ngāti Maniapoto, along with their allies, assembled for the Battle of Hingakākā.
In 1906 Uenuku, a hugely significant and ancient taonga, was found in Lake Ngāroto, along with other items. Numerous items have been recovered from the lake over time including a waka tīwai and hoe (a paddle). Uenuku is cared for at the Te Awamutu Museum.