If you’re travelling through the east Kimberley region, there’s one thing you can’t miss - the amazing Lake Argyle, a man-made reservoir that covers a vast expanse of historic Argyle Downs Station.
Only 70km from Kununurra (along sealed, all-weather roads), this incredible lake was created by the damming of the Ord River in 1971, as part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
While you could pack the experience into a day trip, you’ll certainly wish for more time to take in the region’s stunning beauty and enjoy the many recreational opportunities on offer around the lake.
A THRIVING ECOSYSTEM
Before the construction of the dam, the Ord River was a raging torrent during the wet season that shrivelled to a chain of small waterholes during the dry. Once a habitat that was dominated by climatic cycles, the massive freshwater expanse of Lake Argyle these days supports its own thriving ecosystem.
The lower reaches of the Ord River floodplain provide an important wetland area of mangrove forests, lagoons and creeks, while the lake itself is an internationally significant wetland for a huge population and diversity of birdlife, endemic and migratory.
More than 270 species of birds have been recorded in the Lake Argyle region (almost one-third of all the species found in Australia!) The lake is also home to 26 species of native fish, three species of freshwater tortoise and a population of freshwater crocodiles, estimated at some 35,000.
Although saltwater (estuarine) crocodiles have been found in Lake Argyle, the locals consider it a ‘safe’ place to swim (hastening to add that you do so at your own risk). Regrettably, cane toads reached the dam in late 2008, with numbers rising steadily with each wet season.
As you would image, Lake Argyle is a mecca for anyone who loves water-based activities. Fishing draws many hopeful enthusiasts, while sailing, boating and water-skiing are also insanely popular.
To really appreciate the beauty of the lake, and get an understating of the diverse landscape, why not head out on a sunset cruise or scenic flight? You’re guaranteed once-in-a-lifetime views, not to mention some pretty epic photo ops.
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on dry land the several bushwalking trails allow visitors to explore along the surrounding hills and valleys.
It also presents the perfect chance to head out for some birdwatching – where we’d say your chances of spotting some fascinating birdlife is pretty high! Organised birdwatching tours are also available.
Whether you stay for a day or a week, you won’t lack for adventure and excitement at this most beautiful and extraordinary of places in the east Kimberley. Lake Argyle is a real diamond in the rough.
- Plan your trip from April to October when temperatures and humidity are stable and cyclones are unlikely to occur.
- Almost 70 islands protrude from this watery expanse, the largest of which is Hagan Island, approximately 7km by 3km, with a peak (Mt Misery) that rises over 200m above the lake.