The Motu River, which rises in the south-western side of the Raukumara Range, drains the southwestern part of the Raukumara Peninsula and flows into the Bay of Plenty 20 miles north-east of Opotiki. The whole of the country through which the Motu flows is mountainous, rising as high as Arowhana (4,724 ft). The rocks are moderately hard Taitai (lower Cretaceous) sandstones, mudstones, and breccias. Much of the watershed is still covered in forest, and the Motu Gorge section of the Gisborne-Opotiki Highway is a well-known scenic drive. Because the whole of the course of the river is confined within a continuous gorge, there is the possibility that a series of four dam sites might be developed to provide hydro-electric power. Some 3 miles from Motu the river plunges over the Motu Falls. In August 1965 the Power Planning Committee recommended the abandonment, at least for some time, of hydro-electric plans for the river.
Early in 1872 the pursuit of Te Kooti led to the upper reaches of the Motu River; however, Te Kooti escaped into the fastnesses of the Urewera Country. Motu means “isolated” or “severed”.