Historically, the lake has averaged 69% capacity since 1956 which includes the severe drought that has affected capacity over the last ten years. Last summer the lake was still a very comfortable 32% offering many superb anchorages in hidden valleys and creeks to escape to – we have high hopes for the 2010/11 season with lake levels substantially better this winter than over the last decade.
Many people see the water level when crossing the Bonnie Doon Bridge and assume that the rest of the lake is empty, but Bonnie Doon is not a good gauge of the water levels as it is substantially higher than the main body of the lake.
The small town of Darlingford (named after Sir Charles Darling, Governor of Victoria), near the junction of the Big and Goulburn Rivers came into being in the 1860′s after gold was discovered in the area. It had seven hotels, five policemen, a log gaol, shops, post office and a small slab hut used as a school.
Eildon Station, a run of 25,500 hectares, was first started in 1846 by Mr and Mrs Archibald Thom. The name Eildon was chosen by the couple because the area from Darlingford to Thornton reminded them of Mrs Thom’s birthplace, the Eildon Hills near Abbotsford in Scotland.
Harnessing the river catchments in the vicinity of the present Lake Eildon began in the early 1900s. Development of this water resource was undertaken by the State government to provide irrigation water for what was a vast uncultivated area on Victoria’s northern plains. This region has since developed into the largest area of irrigated farmland in Australia and is known as the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District
Construction of the original storage, which was known as Sugarloaf Reservoir, took place between 1915 and 1929. It was modified in 1935 to increase the storage capacity to 377,000ML. However, this reservoir was still limited in its capacity to meet the growing demand for water in the Goulburn Valley and to protect farmers during drought years.
The township of Darlingford was flooded by the building of the early Sugarloaf Reservoir. To house the men working on the reservoir, the new shanty town of Eildon began to arise. The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission built houses for their staff, a large mess room and single men’s accommodation. However, some of the workers were still housed in tents.
Those who brought their families provided their own accommodation by building bag houses made from jute cement bags, split open and stitched together and then painted with a mixture of tallow and whiting as waterproofing. A state school was built and staffed and this building was also used as a community hall and church.
During the construction of the Eildon Dam, approximately 4000 people were housed in the new township of Eildon.
Originally the town comprised 300 permanent houses, pre-cut and fabricated in England but assembled on site.
In 1950, work began to enlarge the storage to its present capacity (3,334,158 ML) which is six times the size of Sydney Harbour. The enlargement was completed in 1955 and renamed Lake Eildon. The Weir also has 135 MW hydro-electric generation capability.
When the Eildon Weir was first completed in 1956 the rain gods must have been smiling on the politicians, literally the lake filled almost to capacity in less than 12 months and became an instant hit with fun loving Melbournians.
Nothing much has changed, the boats are a bit fancier than they used to be and there are definitely more of them, but having fun is still what Lake Eildon is all about. Book your houseboat now.