I am a amateur freelance writer from Sydney. My passion is Aboriginal history, Australia and its unusual places. My aim is to share my knowledge to better your experience. Thank you
Published September 19th 2013
Is Lake George really 'bad water'?
Lake George, otherwise known as Weereewa (the lake's Aboriginal name meaning 'Bad Water') is situated 40 kms north east of Canberra on the Federal Highway in NSW. It was named in honour of King George III, by Governor Macquarie on 28th October 1820.
Lake George is an Endorheic lake - it has no outflow of water to rivers and oceans. My theory is Lake George is a bowl, which joins underground water storage between the lake and soil - this is my opinion only, we are only seeing the top view, especially when it rains and fills, so when there is no water, grass still grows because of the underground water ducts. This does explain the high salt salinity. But the question still remains for scientist to prove, so it is still surrounded in mystery as how it fills and empties sometimes within hours.
Lake George dates back over a million years in age. Small streams from the Yass River once flowed into Lake George. Due to being on a major fault line, over the years the escarpment rose around the lake, isolating Lake George.
Lake George is 25kms long and is 10 kms wide. Levels can vary from 1.5 - 4.5 metres, 7.5 metres at its deepest point and in shallow areas, 0.8 - 1 metre in depth. The lake's capacity, when full, can hold 500 000 000 cubic metres of water.
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.
Maybe the 'bad water' comes from the Aboriginal Dreamtime Story of a bunyip, who haunts swamps and billabongs. The Pajong, of the Ngunnawal people resided here when the area was abundant with food. The Spirits of Lake George, included Birik, a real bad spirit that terrified and tormented people.
Lake George was supposedly one venue, used for defence practice blowing up boats during WWII, there is a small chance unexploded practice shells are still in the floor of the lake, so be careful. Canberra at once stage was considered at the eastern side of Lake George, until they settled on the ACT. Lucky for Canberra as in 2002 Lake George was totally dry. In 2010 small puddles of water was all I could see.
In my time, I have seen this lake with grass and sheep grazing on it, seen hang gliders, remote control planes when the lake is dry, fishing, yacht racing, and row boats. I've seen it at full level overflowing the shoreline in 1990's. Watched tow trucks recover cars from the Lake over the years when full. I find Lake George an exciting place, when travelling, will it be full, partial water or will sheep be grazing, fence lines that become dangerous submerged objects when full. They even grow grapes on the western edge. I love exploring this area. The Mirramu Dance Company has danced on and by the lake for years. Since 1999, Weereewa Festival has also made Lake George its home.
Due to high winds which is perfect for the sorry to say large, ugly 67 , eight story high turbine, wind farm visibly seen from the Federal Highway on the eastern side of, Lake George, offers little protection from the elements. A drivers spot was created for driver survivor and what a scenic spot to stretch your legs, have a picnic, and let the kids roam and have a day trip.
Hi Anne, thanks for the article. In the interests of accuracy Milton Simms, the rose grower mentioned in your article, lived into his seventies and died in his home overlooking the dry bed of Lake George. Greg Simms, Bungendore