Canberra Tales: Lake George


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 recent 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.


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.


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?


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.

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