Just driving toward Lake Argyle, amidst stunning scenery of rugged, red rocky hills, and we knew we were in for a treat!
The impressive Lake Argyle is 90 km south of Kununurra, in the beautiful East Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Lake Argyle was formed following the construction of the Ord River Dam between 1969 and 1971. This is a particularly impressive timeframe when you consider that work could only be undertaken in the dry season each year.
The 98.5 metre-high dam wall comprises an earth-filled impervious core to allow a degree of movement and flexibility (as it is built on a fault line), and is surrounded on both sides by rockfill. Almost all of the dam construction used locally available resources, from a quarry near the far side of the dam wall – making it relatively cheap to build ($22m). Thanks to some above average rainfall wet seasons during and shortly after construction, the new Lake Argyle filled to capacity in 1973. Lake Argyle is about 70 kms long and 40 kms wide, and it’s current level is the equivalent of about 11 Sydney Harbours (although, if at full supply level, would be almost double that capacity!).
The Ord River Hydro Power Station is at the base of the dam wall, and supplies electricity to the nearby Argyle Diamond Mine and the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham.
Of course, no visit to Lake Argyle is complete without a swim in the beautiful infinity pool at the Lake Argyle Resort. Sadly, we wimped out, as the pool temperature is currently a chilly 15 degrees C, and the outside temperature wasn’t much warmer, courtesy of equally chilly 35 km/h winds which brought the apparent air temperature down to 12 degrees. So, nobody was even prepared to dip into the pool long enough to take a quick selfie and get out again! On the plus side, nobody was in the way, so we could get a great shot of the pool with a view!
Next up was a wonderful four-hour sunset cruise on Lake Argyle, where we were introduced to the lake and dam, and learned all about it’s construction and critical role in providing irrigation to the region’s agricultural industry.
The cruise allowed us to get up close to many freshwater crocodiles, basking on the shore.
The late afternoon sun brought out the beautiful red colours in the rocky islands of Lake Argyle – which number between about 50 and 70 (depending on water level height).
The rocky islands revealed the water level marks over the years. The 2019 water level is the lowest in many years, courtesy of a relatively poor 2018-19 wet season.
There was an opportunity to swim in Lake Argyle, along with the estimated 30,000 freshie crocs that inhabit the lake! Alas, only a handful of intrepid souls braved the waters – not because of the crocs, but because of the freezing wind and occasional white caps! Those who stayed onboard (including us) sipped wine and nibbled on cheeses and dips, watching on intently while the intrepid swimmers shivered their way back onto the boat.
It was a very pleasant way to watch the sun slowly set on another glorious day in a spectacular part of Western Australia.