The Kawarau River drains Lake Wakatipu, in northwestern Otago, New Zealand. The river flows generally eastwards for about 60 km and passes through the steep Kawarau Gorge until it joins Lake Dunstan near Cromwell. The Shotover River enters it from the north; the Nevis River enters it from the south. Containing many rapids and strong currents, the river can be dangerous and has claimed many lives.
The Roaring Meg Hydro Scheme discharges into the Kawarau, and at times the lower station has been flooded by the river. A few hundred metres west of the station is a natural bridge where the river narrows to 1.2m wide, which was used as a crossing place by early goldminers. The goldminers were crossing from the Dunedin side on the current Mt Difficulty Station to the northern side on Waitiri Station to get access to the Arrow Goldfields.