Lake George (New South Wales)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lake George
Lake George viewed from the Weereewa Lookout August 2020.jpg
Part of Lake George in 2020 after it was partially filled by several days of rain
Lake George is located in New South Wales
Lake George
Lake George
LocationNew South Wales
Coordinates35°10′S 149°25′E / 35.167°S 149.417°E / -35.167; 149.417Coordinates: 35°10′S 149°25′E / 35.167°S 149.417°E / -35.167; 149.417
Lake typeIntermittent
Primary outflowsevaporation
Basin countriesAustralia
Max. length25 km (16 mi)
Max. width10 km (6.2 mi)
Average depth1 metre (3 ft 3 in)
Max. depth7.5 m (25 ft)
Surface elevation654 m (2,146 ft)

Lake George (or Weereewa in the Ngunnawal language) is an endorheic lake in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia. It is approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) north-east of Canberra located adjacent to the Federal Highway en route to Goulburn and Sydney. Lake George is also the name of a locality on the western and southern edges of the lake, within the area of the Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council.

Geography and hydrology[edit]

Lake George is an endorheic lake, as it has no outflow of water to rivers and oceans.

The lake is believed to be more than a million years old. Originally, small streams drained its catchment into the Yass River, but then the Lake George Escarpment rose due to major crust movement along a strong fault line, blocking this drainage and forming the lake.[1] Lake George has in previous Ice Ages been much larger and deeper.[citation needed]

The thickness of sediment beneath the lake exceeds 250 metres (820 ft), according to a Bureau of Mineral Resources Canberra drilling programme in the 1982/83 summer. The oldest sediments, which lie some distance above the bedrock, were dated at 4–5 million years using spore and pollen analysis and magnetic-reversal stratigraphy.[citation needed]

At 25 km (16 mi) long and 10 km (6.2 mi) wide, Lake George is long, largely flat and extremely shallow, with a very small catchment. Resultant evaporation rates as well as a tendency for strong winds to blow the water back on itself explain the mysterious filling and drying episodes on both short term (hours) and long term (years) time scales that have been observed.

The lake's depth when full can range from 1.5–4.5 metres (4 ft 11 in – 14 ft 9 in); however in many areas it is only around 0.8–1.0 metre (2 ft 7 in – 3 ft 3 in) deep. Its deepest point has been measured as 7.5 metres (25 ft). When full, the lake holds about 500,000,000 cubic metres (1.8×1010 cu ft) of water. Between the late 1980s and mid-1990s, the lake lapped the Federal Highway on its western edge.

Lake George is one of the most studied lakes in Australia. The palaeontologist Patrick De Deckker has commented that "it is actually a depression that turns into a lake when it fills. There’s always water below the lake floor, and amazingly, it is saline, but if you have more rainfall, the lake fills up".


Lake George is the site of an experimental scientific wave behaviour platform established by researchers from the Civil Engineering department of the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

Lake George has been a popular fishery at times, after high water levels and stockings of fish.

Since the 1960s hang gliders have been flown from the escarpment when easterly winds form standing waves. Pilots can then fly along the length of the lake. Unpowered model aircraft are also flown from this area, and powered models are flown from the lake floor.

Wine grapes are grown along the western edge of the lake, on the escarpment. Sheep are grazed on the lake when it is dry or nearly so.

Public art[edit]

Lake George was an important subject for the Canberra artist, Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) who told Kate Davidson in 1996 that she "was enraptured with the feeling of getting out of my car at the top of the range above Lake George and Gundaroo and seeing Australia stretch away under a big dome of sky. Nothing is there, but everything is there. It was very free and uncalculated. You cannot really express it in concrete terms, you have to be elusive and allusive at the same time." (Davidson, Kate and Michael Desmond, Islands: Contemporary installations from Australia, Asia, Europe and America, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1996). Works inspired by Lake George include Pale landscape 1977 (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington), Feathered fence 1978-79 and Suddenly the lake 1994-95 (both National Gallery of Australia), But mostly air 1994-95 (Art Gallery of South Australia) and Lake 1991 (Garangula Gallery NSW). Pale landscape 1977 and Feathered fence 1978-79 were both made with thousands of swans feathers found at a sanctuary at the southern end of the lake in the mid-1970s, the swans are no longer there since the lake dried up.

Zebra herd at the Floriade event

In 2010, Canberra artists Alan and Julie Aston installed a herd of zebra sculptures on the lake adjacent to the highway stop commemorating Kevin "Dasher" Wheatley VC, used as a "Driver Reviver" site. They were named Stopper, Reviver, Survivor, and Dasher. They were a sensation, but the Government of New South Wales ordered that they be removed, following a complaint from the leaseholder of the land.[2] They reappeared at Floriade in September 2010, along with a baby, George.


The foreshore of what is now known as Lake George mainly lies within the traditional lands of the Gundungarra, but its south-western foreshore is at the extreme east of the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people. These two peoples spoke a very similar, if not identical, language. The traditional lands of the Ngarigo people probably also extend to the lake's southern shoreline, in the area now known as Bungendore. The lake lies not far from the traditional lands of the Walbanga people (a group of the Yuin from the upper Shoalhaven catchment), to the east.[3][4][5]

The local indigenous people called the lake Werriwa (originally spelled Weereewa in the journals of the explorers who noted the name), which may mean "bad water"; even when full, the lake is one of the saltiest bodies of water in inland NSW, almost as saline as seawater.[6] However, the name is also similar to regional indigenous word for eagle, which often fly there. In the first federal election, Lake George was included in the electorate of Werriwa, although the electorate now covers part of suburban Sydney as a result of redistributions.

The first European to visit the lake was Joseph Wild on 19 August 1820,[7] and it was named for King George III on 28 October 1820 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who was touring the area as part of a Royal Commission inquiring into the condition of the Colony.[8] Land grants on the northern shoreline of the lake had been made to colonial settlers as early as 1824.[9]

Looking east over a dry lake bed
Looking east across Lake George after prolonged rainfall in 2022

A large and beautiful billabong—Murray's Lagoon—existed at the northern end of the lake, and in the 1850s it was stocked by the landowner (Terence Aubrey Murray) with Murray cod fished out of the Molonglo River at Yarralumla. At some time the billabong overflowed and introduced a translocated population of Murray cod into the lake itself. They bred rapidly and, from the 1850s to the 1890s; Lake George abounded with them.[10] The long Federation Drought commenced in the mid-1890s, and by 1902 the lake had dried out completely. In their search for water to survive in, the Murray cod flocked into the mouths of the few small creeks feeding the lake and died there by the thousands.[11]

Immediately north of the lake, at Currawang, copper ore was mined and smelted at various times, from 1865 to around 1908. For many years, the old mine workings and waste heaps remained exposed and contaminated runoff water was entering Lake George, via a creek that ran through the mining area. After a new lead-silver-zinc ore deposit was identified nearby, in 1973, part of the new work undertaken, from 1987 onward, was to rehabilitate the 19th-century mine workings and stop the contamination of the lake.[12] All mining at Currawang has now ceased.

In 1886, a site was reserved for a village to be known as Murray, on the northern shoreline of the lake, just west of the landform known as Kenny's Point.[13][14] Although the village was surveyed and allotments put up for sale in 1887 and 1910,[15][16] the village seems not to have developed. Its design was cancelled in 1919.[17] It was located just beyond the end of modern-day Lake George Road.[18] To this day there is no town or village on the lake's shoreline.

In the early 1900s, an area immediately to the south-east of the lake and north-north-east of Bungendore, was surveyed as a possible site for the capital city of Australia. The city would have extended from close to the Lake George shoreline to the Bombala railway line.[19][20] Although it had the advantage of an existing railway connection, the site presented difficulties, particularly in supplying it with sufficient fresh water and the variability of the water level in Lake George.[21][22] Instead, the Australian Capital Territory and city of Canberra were established some 30 km (19 mi) south-west of the lake.

One of the original 75 electoral divisions of the Australian House of Representatives in 1901 was named "Werriwa", the original Aboriginal name of the lake. By 1913, it no longer included the lake, and the electorate is currently centred in the south-western suburbs of Sydney.

During World War II, a wooden 'dummy' ship was floated on the lake and used for bombing practice by the Royal Australian Air Force. It is possible that there is still unexploded ordnance settled into the lake bed.[citation needed]

On 8 July 1956 five cadets from the Royal Military College, Duntroon died due to hypothermia in a yachting accident.

Due to the drought in New South Wales, Lake George dried out completely in November 2002, and remained so until February 2010 when it started to refill. The previous time the lake had dried out completely was during a severe drought in the 1940s,[6] although it was partially dry in 1986, leaving large pools of water. When the lake is empty it is used by farmers to graze sheep and cattle. During September 2016, the lake filled for the first time since 1996. In the intervening years the level of water in the lake had never been as high as that in September 2016.

Rain during August 2020 helped to partly fill the lake again after several more years of drought. In December 2021, the Lake was full once again.[23]

The unusual fluctuations in the water level have given rise to fanciful urban myths that the lake is somehow connected to lakes in Peru or South Africa, although NSW government ecologist Justin Nancarrow theorises that the lake may indeed be connected to the nearby Yass River by subterranean aquifers which pass under the surrounding escarpment, and that this connection may explain the salinity of the river.[6]

Wind-power generation[edit]

The 140-megawatt (190,000 hp) Capital Wind Farm completed in 2009 is located along the south-eastern side of Lake George.

Capital Wind Farm on the south eastern side of Lake George


Lake George
New South Wales
Lake George is located in New South Wales
Lake George
Lake George
Location in New South Wales
Coordinates35°06′19″S 149°22′17″E / 35.10528°S 149.37139°E / -35.10528; 149.37139
Population118 (2021 census)[24]
LGA(s)Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council
RegionSouthern Tablelands
ParishLake George
State electorate(s)Monaro
Federal division(s)Eden-Monaro
Localities around Lake George:
Lerida Collector Currawang
Gundaroo Lake George Tarago
Bywong Bungendore Mount Fairy

Lake George is a locality covering territory on the western and southern edges of the lake, stretching east to the Bombala railway line. The locality is largely within the area of the Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council, although some hillside areas are in the Yass Valley Council.[25] At the 2021 census, it had a population of 118.[24] The locality is generally rural-residential in character along the lake shore. A former grazier's homestead at Silver Wattle Point now operates as a religious retreat and Quaker meeting house. Located in the eastern section of the locality close to the town of Bungendore are some industrial facilities, including a sand quarry and an electrical substation serving the Capital Wind Farm.


  1. ^ Cartwright, Sarah; Gary Jones (2002). "By George, It Really Is a Lake!" (PDF). Watershed, Issue No. 27 - August 2002. Co-operative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology. Archived from the original (pdf (see pages 9 - 10)) on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2007. Lake George, one of the world's oldest lakes, is shallow and has a history of dramatically fluctuating water levels, despite being closed with no outlet. Originally there was no lake at all, and water drained from the Great Dividing Range west to the Yass River. That was before geological uplift, five million years ago, which formed the Lake George Range — a natural dam blocking the creeks.
  2. ^ Rudra, Natasha (16 July 2010). "Goodbye Stopper, Reviver and Survivor". Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 18 July 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  3. ^ Studies, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (23 July 2021). "Map of Indigenous Australia". Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  4. ^ Royal Society of New South Wales.; Wales, Royal Society of New South (1908). Journal and proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. Vol. 42. Sydney: C. Potter, Acting. Govt. Printer.
  5. ^ "About the Ngambri". Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Woodford, James (30 November 2002). "Getting to the bottom of the Lake George mystery". Sydney Morning Herald.
  7. ^ Canberra's Engineering Heritage, William Charles Andrews, Institution of Engineers, Canberra, 1990 p2
  8. ^ Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1931 (ABS cat. no. 1301.0)
  9. ^ "COURT OF CLAIMS". New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 - 1900). 11 December 1839. p. 1415. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  10. ^ "(Leader:) The Golden Age". The Golden Age. Vol. IV, no. 133. New South Wales, Australia. 26 March 1863. p. 2. Retrieved 7 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "The Fisheries". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 21, 794. New South Wales, Australia. 23 November 1907. p. 14. Retrieved 7 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Currawang mine producing again 130 years on". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 21 March 1992. p. 4. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  13. ^ "SITE FOR A VILLAGE AT MURRAY". New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 - 1900). 2 October 1886. p. 6764. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Parish of Currowang, county of Argyle, land district of Goulburn [cartographic material]". Trove. 1895. Retrieved 8 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "Crown Land Sales". Goulburn Evening Penny Post (NSW : 1881 - 1940). 1 October 1887. p. 8. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Local and General News". Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1907 - 1915). 1 March 1910. p. 2. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  17. ^ "CANCELLATION OF DESIGN OF THE VILLAGE OF MURRAY". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 28 November 1919. p. 6744. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Plan shewing proposed Federal Capital site in the locality of Lake George. No. 5 [cartographic material] : Parish of Currandooly, County of Murray, N.S.W. 1903". Trove. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  20. ^ "An ideal federal city, Lake George, N.S.W. [picture]". Trove. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  21. ^ "FEDERAL CAPITAL SITES - REPORTS RESPECTING PROPOSED SITES AT MAHKOOLMA, CANBERRA, AND OTHER SITES IN THE YASS (LAKE GEORGE) DISTRICT". Trove. Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. 30 May 1906. p. 9. Retrieved 31 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Railway connections and cost thereof in connection with the different proposed Federal Capital Sites [cartographic material] : Map of New South Wales railways ..." Trove. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  23. ^ "Lake near Canberra reappears after years".
  24. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (28 June 2022). "Lake George". 2021 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 30 August 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  25. ^ "Lake George". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 3 August 2017. Edit this at Wikidata

External links[edit]