Sandwiched between the Strathbogie Ranges State Forest and Mount Samaria National Park is Lake Nillahcootie. The Strathbogie Ranges stretch to the north of Bonnie Doon and house gold mines that span from an open pit in Strathbogie to the granite hill tops called Golden Hill; a Chinese mining settlement on the granite ridge-top, overlooking Mansfield. The area is accessed from the north of Merton or east of Yarck. The area also boasts the Crystal King quartz mine active around 1945. If you would like to know more about the Strathbogies, click here. Mount Samaria has campgrounds and some walks to the summit and lies to the west. It holds some great forests and could make a great base for a week of kayaking and walking too, click here for more information. The lake itself, was built in 1967 to harness the flow of the Broken River to create a good water supply in northern Victoria. Click here for more information about Nillahcootie.
The car park was all but deserted and the only other car was near the dam wall. There are good facilities, with a number of picnic tables, an amenities block, and plenty of parking for cars, cars with boat-trailers or caravans and buses. It was so nice to have a peaceful lake.
The mist had cleared and the breeze soon abated and the temperature rose. The mountains on all sides of the lake provide a stunning back drop. There is a small inlet filled with dead trees and rocks under the highway bridge, a few hundred meters from the boat ramp. It provides more interest and looks like a gallery of wooden sculptures.
After the side trip, I made for the far end of the lake, some 5 or 6 kilometers away. The sun beat down and I found it very warm in my full kayaking wetsuit. It is worthy to note the temperature drop heading into winter and the potential for hypothermia if you up-end the boat. Light weight wetsuits extend the season and adds to kayaking heaven.
Halfway along the length of the lake is the Lake Nillahcootie Camp, which boasts professional staff to assist campers. It caters for functions and private groups and has good connections with school groups. The facilities can cater for up to 94 people and they can provide 3 meals a day and cater for special dietary needs. Wheelchair access is available too.
Indoor facilities include a recreation room, dining room, open fire and wood heater, indoor sports equipment, TV & DVD, blackboard, and whiteboard. Outdoor facilities include; canoeing, flying fox, archery, abseiling, barbecues, fishing, frisbee, high and low-level rope courses, golf, open playing areas, raft building, orienteering, rock climbing, swimming and volleyball.
The camp staff can arrange transport to local commercial activity operators, and there a number of them providing sailing, horse riding, and mountain biking. Wow, I think you will need a rest when you go home. For more information about the camp click here.
I have a waterproof camera that mounts on the boat and takes short video clips too, but the resolution is not that high. I braved this trip with my mobile stowed inside a water-tight container. The reflections as the water became still under that blue sky with the nearby mountains provided an idyllic setting. Share the adventures, find a boat and some peace on a perfect waterway.
Please note too, that full-length, light weight wet suits help keep you warm during periods of such low temperatures and hypothermia is a great danger. Seek professional advice before paddling at this time of year. Wetsuits come in 1 to 3.5 mm thinknesses and their protective properties vary greatly. Cold water can sap your strength quickly and death may result, especially if you suffer muscle cramp and sink like a rock. Wind and waves hitting a sea-kayak side-on will flip it over very easily.
There are cafes and service stations at Yarck and Bonnie Doon, and both towns provide a convenient base to explore surrounding areas. There is of course more kayaking to be experienced on Lake Eildon near Bonnie Doon. Come and experience a wonderland.