TUESDAY 27 JUNE KEEP RIVER TO LAKE ARGYLE 69kms
Our pack up and departure was very leisurely, with only a short distance to move, today. It was another hot day.
Keep River National Park was a great place to stay. We felt that we’d covered the Park’s attractions pretty thoroughly. Could have lazed around a bit longer there, just enjoying the place, but we really needed to get onto mains power. So annoying!
The stop and check at the border quarantine point was a routine one – they only checked the fridges. The person on duty told us that vehicle numbers going through, so far this year, were down by about 100 a day, on the average for this time of year. I thought this might be due to the late severe weather, and people’s perceptions of floods and damage up this way.
At the border we “gained” time again – another 90 minutes.
Not far into WA, we turned south off the highway, for Lake Argyle. The country we were passing through was quite rugged.
Lake Argyle is a man-made reservoir on the Ord River, created to provide year-round irrigation water for farming downstream of the dam. A seemingly small dam wall holds back an enormous amount of water in the valleys amid the range country here. Lake Argyle is the largest single water storage in Australia – it would fill at least 18 Sydney Harbours in normal times, and about 70 of them in flood times! The dam was built from 1969-1971, officially opened in 1972, and by 1974 was full – silencing the sceptics who doubted it would ever fill! The wet season rainfall up here can be huge, and the Ord River catchment is a large one.
A creek that flows out of one arm of the Lake acts as a natural spillway and is crossed by a bridge on the road in. Spillway Creek was a raging torrent!
We booked into the Lake Argyle Tourist Village caravan park, for $16 a night. It was adequate – sites were a reasonable size, grassed and there were shady trees.
While John was doing the set up, I did two loads of washing – it had built up, and was a great day for drying. We had lunch and then went driving.
Firstly, we visited the lookouts and sightseeing points around the dam wall and Ord River. The river water leaves the dam via a small hydro electric plant; when the Spillway Creek is flowing, that enters the Ord between the dam wall and Kununurra, some 55kms downstream. The hydro plant helps power Kununurra and the Argyle diamond operation, to the SW.
The Lake is truly vast and impressive, even though one only ever sees a small fraction of it from around here. The only way to really take in its full size would be from the air.
Due to 1999/2000 being the biggest Wet since records have been kept, the Lake was at its highest level ever, although 3 metres below its peak of earlier in the year. That would explain why the Spillway Creek was such an incredible torrent.
We drove back to the Spillway Creek bridge for a look, then took a side track alongside it, to try to get close to where it comes out of the Lake. We did not succeed in driving that far – tracks became rather muddy. But we then walked along the creek and looked. I was trying to cross a little side creek, to get a better view when I saw a crocodile only a couple of metres away! It gave me a huge fright! It was a freshwater one, but still…..Then, a short distance further upstream in my walk, I nearly trod on another! After that, I felt outnumbered and gave up on the exploring.
They were quite big freshies. Apparently, the water was running far too fast for their comfort, so they had taken refuge wherever they could find quieter backwaters.
After that little adventure, it was back to camp.
Tea was sausages, with the veggie mix I cooked up yesterday.
Phoned P and wished her a happy birthday.
Our body clocks were “out” – we needed to adjust to the change in time zone.
At the same time as we booked in today, we booked and paid to go on the afternoon cruise, tomorrow, on Lake Argyle – $35 per person.