HISTORY OF LAKE WENDOUREE
The plaque on the monument opposite Pleasant Street school states, Near this spot
was the camp of the first resident of Ballarat, William Yuille. In the autumn of
1838 the young Scotsman drove his flock of sheep to the shores of the swamp which was
first known as Black Swamp because it was dark with thickly growing reeds. To the miners
it was known as Yuilles Swamp.
A squatters diary of 1850 records that there were many Koories camped around the
swamp and by a little stream that ran down from it. Hundreds of kangaroos and emus fed on
the grassy plateau.
The name Wendouree comes from the aboriginal word wendaaree which means
go away. A story is told that when William Yuille asked an aboriginal woman
the name of the swamp, that was her reply.When Ballarat was first surveyed in 1851 by WS
Urquhart the swamp was recorded as Wendouree.
In ancient times Lake Wendouree was originally a stream which flowed to the west but a
lava flow caused it to be dammed on three sides and it now drains to the east, eventually
into the Yarrowee River.
WATER SUPPLY AND INDUSTRY
In 1851 a dam was built across the lake outlet and several times the bank was raised to
provide Ballarat with a permanent supply of water.
In 1858 a pipe was laid underground from the Rockery to the Water Works in Sturt Street
opposite the Town Hall. From the standpipe carters filled their wagons with lake water and
sold it on the goldfields down on the flat.
Industries were set up around the Lake - bluestone quarries at View Point and St
Patricks Point, two flour mills, a lemonade factory, plant nurseries and four large gold
mining companies. Deep leads under the lake were mined until 1875.
Thirteen hotels were located on Wendouree Parade which was first surveyed as a road
reserve in 1855. The Lake View is the only one which remains.
CREATION OF A LAKE
An underground pipeline from Kirks Reservoir, installed in 1860-61, provided the
first constant source of supply to retain the lakes water level. However, in the
early 1860s there were only a few square metres of clear water on Wendouree
Swamp, and in order to hold the first aquatic sports in 1864, members of the
Ballarat Rowing Club cut a course through the reeds with scythes.
Prisoners from the Ballarat Gaol cleared a path around the lake and enclosed it with a
hedge and a picket fence, the last of which was removed in 1928. The old gums were felled
and English trees, reflecting the taste of Ballarats founders, were planted.
In the drought year of 1869, the lake bed was cleared by burning the reeds and the bed
itself was deepened. A causeway was built from the eastern shore to the gardens to section
off wildlife and water sports areas. As the embankment was porous it disintegrated when
the rains came again.
The reed beds and islands provide sanctuary for a variety of wildlife. In one day a
keen bird watcher could see at least 40 different birds. Of the recorded 166 species, the
most commonly seen waterbirds are: Black Swan, Black Duck, Dusky Moorhen, Swamphen, Coot, Musk
Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Silver Gull and Little Pied Cormorant. Information boards at
the Fairyland Wetland Walk provide details about species and habitats.
About 100 native water-rats are scattered around the shore and are sometimes seen in
Fairyland at dawn and dusk. The diversity of pondlife is rich and attracts numerous school
groups making visits for environmental science field studies. Audio visual kits of plant
and animal life are available for school and public display from the Ballarat Field
Lake Wendouree is one of the few urban lakes in Australia which is ecologically sound.
Its biological health can
be attributed to the lakeweed which reduces
the effects of harmful urban sediments flushed into the lake after heavy rain. The reed
beds decrease turbidity thus maintaining areas of clear water.
While the native weed (Water-milfoil) and reeds (Tall Spike-rush) perform these natural
functions biodiversity is assured. However, to prevent the lake from reverting to a swamp
and to cater for the wide range of recreational water sports, a seasonal weed cutting
regime is necessary.
In 1865 the first steamboat was launched and by 1870 boating had become almost a
mania with complaints made about dangerous racing and constant whistling.
The 108-year-old Golden City Paddle Steamer is the only survivor of a fleet of 15
steamers which ferried passengers from View Point across the lake to the Botanical Gardens
and provided moonlight cruises with singing and dancing. Some of the nostalgia of that
bygone era can still be experienced with a ferry ride on the Begonia Princess.
horse drawn trams began carrying visitors to the Botanical Gardens in 1887.
The volunteers of the Ballarat Tramway Museum have preserved fifteen trams and
memorabilia from Ballarats tramway era. The vintage electric tramway operates
Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays from 12 noon to 5.00 pm.
Attracting twenty thousand passengers each year, it is one of Ballarats most
popular tourist attractions.
Many generations of local residents and visitors have fond memories of pleasure trips
to the lake. It has long been a social centre of family and community life in the
The old-world charm of the area makes it an increasingly popular venue for family
reunions, rallies and gatherings of all kinds. Half a million visitors annually come to
major events such as the Australia Day celebrations and the Begonia Festival, as well as
to enjoy picnics and barbecues.
All age groups can enjoy strolling the bluestone paths in rustic Fairyland and
experiencing the natural beauty and the ever-changing light on the water of Lake
Wendouree. Views across the water of magnificent sunsets or the distant volcanic cones of
Mt Warrenheip and Mt Buninyong are framed by mature Elms, Oaks, Pines and Willows.
Location: 120 km west of Melbourne
Surface Area: 238 hectares
Circumference: 6 km
Maximum depth: 2 metres
Capacity: 3860 megalitres
Foreshore area: 16 hectares
Height above sea level: 450 m
In 1870 the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society was formed in order to stock the Lake
with a variety of fish to provide sport for anglers. A windmill once pumped lake water to
the nearby Fish Hatchery.
Lake Wendouree has enjoyed the reputation of being one of Victorias most popular
inland fishing destinations. Since the turn of the century the Department of Fisheries and
Wildlife has managed the stocking propgram.
1n recent times the annual release of Brown Trout has been consistently around 6000
with occasional supplementary releases by the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society. The
fish most commonly caught are Trout and Redfin.
Monitoring indicates excellent water quality. However in summer, fluctuating levels of
contamination have been detected in localised areas close to the shore where swans and
other waterbirds congregate. For this reason, and because of the possibility of foreign
objects on the lake bed, swimming is not recommended.
Boating has long been an important sport and leisure activity on Lake Wendouree which
hosted the rowing, kayaking and canoeing events for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
The Lake Wendouree Aquatic Association coordinates a full calendar of regattas and
other sporting events which include yachting, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, sailboarding,
swimming, as well as cycling, athletic and triathalon events.
The track around the lake provides an interesting 6 km challenge to walking, cycling
and running enthusiasts who complete the circuit in their thousands each week,
irrespective of the weather. For serious athletes, the record for running the 6 km lap of
the lake is 16 minutes and 10 seconds set in 1992 by Marathon Olympian Steve Moneghetti.
There are a number of restrictions on activities around the lake. Most importantly:
dogs must be kept on leads at all times
horse riding is forbidden
power boat speed limit is 8 km per hour
Enquiries regarding Lake Wendouree should be directed to:
City of Ballarat
Phone number for the City of Ballarat: 5320 5500 email firstname.lastname@example.org
GUIDE TO LAKE FEATURES
|1. The Olympic Rings (1956)
2. The Spit - end of rowing
3. Waterlily Lagoon - silt retardation trap
4. Ballarat Tramway Museum (1971)
5. Windmill Drive picnic area
6. King Edward Pavilion (erected 1911)
7. Fish Hatchery Pump House
8. Ballarat Community Adventure Playground
9.Bandstand (erected 1921)
10. Begonia Princess Ferry
11. Almieda Pavilion (former penny arcade 1907)
12. Lake Pavilion - kiosk, restaurant (1890)
13. Fairyland Wetland Walk (interpretation signs)
14. Ballarat High School Boatshed
15. Ballarat Grammar School Boatshed site
16. Durham Point
17. Start of 2000 m rowing course
18. Fly Fishing Jetty
19. Overflow to Gnarr Creek - water level contro
19. Ballarat City Rowing Club (1871)
|21. Wendouree (1884) Ballarat (1861) Rowing Club
Ballarat & Clarendon College Boatshed
23. Ballarat Canoe Club
24. Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum
25. Gills Restaurant
26. View Point (constructed 1881)
27. George Tonner Pergola 1925 (rowing pioneer)
28. Lake View Hotel (established 1875)
29. Ned Williams Stone Memorial 1900 (aquatic
30. Rockery (built 1904) - old filter beds
31. Edgewater Cafe-Kiosk
32. Yuilles Monument
33. Girl Guides Water Activities Centre
34. Sea Scouts
35. Ballarat Yacht Club (established 1877)
36. Greenbanks Weed Cutter Shed
37. Ballarat Fly Fishers Club
38. St Patricks Point - St Patricks Boatshed
The content on this page was produced by Jenny Burrell, sketches are by Graeme