Downstream drift plays a fundamental role in the spatial distribution and community structure of lotic macroinvertebrates. We sampled both benthic and drifting macroinvertebrates at 15 sites, in three sections of river with varying flow alteration along the Tongariro River, New Zealand. Our objectives were to examine whether (i) benthic and drift density were linearly related throughout the river, (ii) the presence of dams affected the propensity of macroinvertebrates to drift, and (iii) drift propensity was related to benthic periphyton biomass or natural longitudinal patterns down the river. More taxa were collected from the drift than the benthos, although drift and benthic samples were generally taxonomically similar, despite some structural differences. Nonetheless, differences were evident between the major groups when assessing density and relative abundance links between the benthos and drift. The presence of dams did not affect the propensity of macroinvertebrates to drift on the whole, nor was propensity affected by periphyton biomass or distance from source. These results suggest that although altered periphyton biomass in downstream sections in the Tongariro River is altering the composition of benthic and drifting macroinvertebrates, drift propensity is unaffected. However, some deviations from linear relationships between benthic and drift density are evident suggesting these links may be taxon specific.