Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Lifestyle

Home loans made clear

Canberra Tales: Lake George

By Paul Costigan 24 February 2016 15

a-LG_P1160885

Let’s start with the reality of this claim. Lake George is not in the ACT.

But as the lake and its surrounding landscapes are part of the experience of travelling to and from the capital – it is very much part of the Canberra landscape to be enjoyed.

I drive past frequently and have come to admire the changing atmosphere, the variations to the light, the changeable weather and the rolling landscape. In the evenings and mornings, the views across the surrounding hills can be fantastic with clouds and mist anytime of the year.

The lake has an interesting history. There were paddle-steamers and large country houses in the 19th Century. There have been deaths with people being drowned when the weather changed suddenly catching people out in small craft on the open waters.

Probably the last time Lake George was in the national news was when a certain former treasurer complained about the presence of the wind towers on the hills to the east of the lake. The towers are still there, looking great, but that treasurer has departed.

a-LG_P1160878

It has been a long time since Lake George was a lake. It remains very dry and even with the recent downpours – the surface at best took on some surface water but quickly reverted to being an open pasture for livestock.

Many decades ago Lake George was actually full. There were several occasions whereby the waters rose and cut off the traffic into Canberra. I can clearly remember one time when the floods were so extensive all around Canberra that there was just one road left open – being the Barton Highway – with the floods cutting off all other entrances to Canberra.

It was following such floods that it was wisely decided to undertake a major upgrade of the roads beside Lake George. This included raising the roads above known flood levels and introducing run-offs to cater with the heavy downpours that would then run under these roads.

a-LG_P1160879

These works have been a great success as the roads will no longer be subject to such flooding. These are the highways you see today together with the generous shrubbery down the centre of the roads.

At least this is the theory – as since the work was completed a decade or two ago – the lake has essentially been dry. So we are yet to see the water lapping the sides of the raised highway. I am sure it must happen again. Maybe?

a-LG_P1160893

Meanwhile I do urge you to enjoy the views as you pass by the lake. In fact when the gods turn on a real show, as they do frequently, it is well worth the effort to stop the car and to take in the performance.

This is part of an occasional series, Canberra Tales, offering short stories, mostly true but including many urban myths, about intriguing aspects of Canberra. As with any story telling, we welcome other variations, accurate or otherwise, to these tales.

What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
15 Responses to
Canberra Tales: Lake George
Filter
Showing only Website comments
Order
Newest to Oldest
Oldest to Newst
Mess 9:53 pm 29 Feb 16

I remember the lake being full in the early 90’s and I also remember hearing about two fisherman who went missing while fishing and their bodies were never recovered. I don’t know much of the details though.

Also apparently the Lake is haunted.

http://weirdaustralia.com/2011/12/01/an-esoteric-guide-to-australias-capital/
http://the-riotact.com/anyone-aware-of-any-ghost-sightings-on-the-barton-highway/11683

dungfungus 8:30 pm 29 Feb 16

HenryBG said :

dungfungus said :

My resources from Goulburn & District Historical Society reveal there have been many drownings in the lake and while the lake is generally very shallow there is a covering of heavy, black mud on the floor of the lake which makes wading to shore from an upturned boat soon fatigues anyone. The water also has a surprisingly low temperature which induces muscle cramps.

Something worth mentioning would be the very, very frequent head-on collisions that used to occur along this stretch of road prior to it being made into a dual carriageway.

Also, I believe not all drowning deaths in Lake George have been made public.

From Weekend Notes:
“Drowning stories add to the ‘bad water’ theory, and are often noted and recorded at Lake George. Here are some cases that I am aware of: 5 cadets from Royal Military College, Duntroon, lost their lives on 8 July 1956 in a yacht incident. The drowning of the Lynch family. A Queanbeyan family of 3 and a catholic priest set out in a skiff for a picnic, after running out petrol they decided to row, people stood up causing the boat to sink, the only survivor was the priest in January 1958. Milton Simms, a well known, rose grower from Canberra, drowned after putting a hole in his boat. Yachts capsizing sometimes waiting hours for rescue. Two men in their dingy, drowned in the lake in 1992.”
There is a plaque at the lake commemorating the 5 members of the Lynch family who drowned.

Hacketthead 11:51 am 28 Feb 16

I recall the lake being full when we passed it on a trip to Sydney back in 1990.

HenryBG 12:23 pm 26 Feb 16

dungfungus said :

My resources from Goulburn & District Historical Society reveal there have been many drownings in the lake and while the lake is generally very shallow there is a covering of heavy, black mud on the floor of the lake which makes wading to shore from an upturned boat soon fatigues anyone. The water also has a surprisingly low temperature which induces muscle cramps.

Something worth mentioning would be the very, very frequent head-on collisions that used to occur along this stretch of road prior to it being made into a dual carriageway.

Also, I believe not all drowning deaths in Lake George have been made public.

Maya123 5:34 pm 25 Feb 16

nealg said :

I have a few memories of Lake George from the ’60s. I remember the lake full and large waves crashing over the old highway road to Goulburn when we went out there to fish.
There were also speedboat races held on the lake just off Gearys Gap in the mid-late ’60s and one driver, Gordon Holebrook, allowed me to have a ride one day in the back of his Chevy V8 powered boat. Loud and fast, and very non-environmentally friendly 🙂
Gordon’s mechanic, old Al Yelland, lived next door to my parents in Queanbeyan so often the boat was tuned in the driveway there. Very loud!
An interesting connection with Canberra too with Gordon and Al. They built the first miniature train to run at Weston Park. It had an old Ford Prefect engine in it. Not sure if it still exists today.

I too have distant memories of the lake full and the water near the road. Probably the 1960s too.

nealg 12:50 pm 25 Feb 16

I have a few memories of Lake George from the ’60s. I remember the lake full and large waves crashing over the old highway road to Goulburn when we went out there to fish.
There were also speedboat races held on the lake just off Gearys Gap in the mid-late ’60s and one driver, Gordon Holebrook, allowed me to have a ride one day in the back of his Chevy V8 powered boat. Loud and fast, and very non-environmentally friendly 🙂
Gordon’s mechanic, old Al Yelland, lived next door to my parents in Queanbeyan so often the boat was tuned in the driveway there. Very loud!
An interesting connection with Canberra too with Gordon and Al. They built the first miniature train to run at Weston Park. It had an old Ford Prefect engine in it. Not sure if it still exists today.

dungfungus 11:00 am 25 Feb 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

I have driven the new raised roads whilst the water was lapping at the edges, though it must have been easily 20 years ago or more.
Climate change probably caused it to empty but climate change also caused the last ice age to melt too.

Was that “man made” climate change or the normal one?

dungfungus 10:59 am 25 Feb 16

justin heywood said :

Great article Paul.

Old timers tell how treacherous the waters of the lake could be when full. Many people know about the five 5 Duntroon cadets who drowned on the lake in ’56, but there is another story I’ve been told but have never been able to verify.

Two men in a small boat disappeared on the lake one evening, presumed drowned. A passing motorist said that he saw a flame on the lake that night, but there was no other clue as to what happened to the men. When the lake next dried out, the men’s remains were located, along with a partially burnt oar. It is thought the men had gotten into trouble in rough water, and had doused the oar with the motor’s petrol to make a flaming torch in the hope of attracting help, which sadly never came.
Apparently their deaths were the subject of an inquest just a few years ago. Perhaps some rioter knows more of the story. One aspect of the story that I wondered about was the oar. Wouldn’t it have floated away when the tinny sank?

And Dungers, I think that the reason it is so often dry is that the catchment area for the lake is very small relative to the size of the lake.

My resources from Goulburn & District Historical Society reveal there have been many drownings in the lake and while the lake is generally very shallow there is a covering of heavy, black mud on the floor of the lake which makes wading to shore from an upturned boat soon fatigues anyone. The water also has a surprisingly low temperature which induces muscle cramps.
I couldn’t find any direct reference to the two men with the burning oar but perhaps the oar was made from Huon Pine which is heavier than water and that is why it didn’t float.
Regarding your assertation about why the lake is drier rather than wetter, studies of the lake undertaken by geologists and hydrologists have clearly demonstrated that the fluctuation in levels is a normal response to the wide range of climatic conditions encountered in the area.
After heavy rain in 1950, the Bureau of Mineral Resources commenced regular observation of the lake and subsequently initiated a continuing study into other aspects of Scientific interest in the Lake George drainage basin.
The first 20 years of water level observations and meteorological records in the area enabled a reasonable accurate water balance for the lake to be obtained in which the rainfall on the lake, plus run-off into the lake, less the water lost by evaporation can be equated with the change in water storage for any given period.
Changes in the lake are therefore attributable to the natural processes of rainfall and evaporation and there is no need to invoke mysterious and unaccountable phenomena in order to explain such changes.

shellcase 8:27 am 25 Feb 16

My family settled in Bungendore in the 1850’s, my grandfather (born 1887) kept a scrapbook of stories about the lake that were gleaned from the newssheet that used to circulate in Bungendore, the Queanbeyan Age, Goulburn Evening Post and jotted down yarns he would hear around the district.

The local aboriginals called the locality “Weereewa” and to them it is a place of spirits. The local Army regiment, 3 Battalion was named using the anglicised version, “Werriwa”.

Sadly pop’s scrapbook disappeared when he died in 1966.

wildturkeycanoe 6:28 am 25 Feb 16

I have driven the new raised roads whilst the water was lapping at the edges, though it must have been easily 20 years ago or more.
Climate change probably caused it to empty but climate change also caused the last ice age to melt too.

justin heywood 10:42 pm 24 Feb 16

Great article Paul.

Old timers tell how treacherous the waters of the lake could be when full. Many people know about the five 5 Duntroon cadets who drowned on the lake in ’56, but there is another story I’ve been told but have never been able to verify.

Two men in a small boat disappeared on the lake one evening, presumed drowned. A passing motorist said that he saw a flame on the lake that night, but there was no other clue as to what happened to the men. When the lake next dried out, the men’s remains were located, along with a partially burnt oar. It is thought the men had gotten into trouble in rough water, and had doused the oar with the motor’s petrol to make a flaming torch in the hope of attracting help, which sadly never came.
Apparently their deaths were the subject of an inquest just a few years ago. Perhaps some rioter knows more of the story. One aspect of the story that I wondered about was the oar. Wouldn’t it have floated away when the tinny sank?

And Dungers, I think that the reason it is so often dry is that the catchment area for the lake is very small relative to the size of the lake.

dungfungus 9:36 pm 24 Feb 16

switch said :

dungfungus said :

Given that it is sited where annual rainfall is only half the evaporation rate it is destined to remain a dry plain more often than it will be a lake.

Must be Climate Change.

No, what I said is factual.

Masquara 8:53 pm 24 Feb 16

I’ve been told that there are a LOT of tiger snakes on the other side of Lake George… near Panhandle particularly …

switch 6:14 pm 24 Feb 16

dungfungus said :

Given that it is sited where annual rainfall is only half the evaporation rate it is destined to remain a dry plain more often than it will be a lake.

Must be Climate Change.

dungfungus 2:44 pm 24 Feb 16

Given that it is sited where annual rainfall is only half the evaporation rate it is destined to remain a dry plain more often than it will be a lake.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2018 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
the-riotact.com | aboutregional.com.au | b2bmagazine.com.au | thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site