An ancient summer trail follows the course of the Tākaka River from the river mouth to Cobb Valley to the Wangapeka track. This linked the southern end of Golden Bay with the West Coast and Kawatiri. The Cobb Valley limestone caves were used by Ngāti Apa tīpuna as urupā and remain tapu today.
Ngāti Apa lived in a series of pā and kāinga along the Tākaka and valued the Tākaka as an important mahinga kai. Its pure water was once abundant in fish such as upokorokoro (grayling or native trout), as well as inanga, kōkopu and tuna; and birds such as kererū, kiwi, kākāpō, weka, korimako (bellbird) and kōkō (tūī). There were also extensive Ngāti Apa cultivations associated with the river.