Welcome to Lake Eucumbene
Australia's Premier Year-Round Alpine Water Resort
Old Adaminaby - Anglers Reach - Providence Portal - Buckenderra - Middlingbank - Braemar Bay
Eucumbene Dam was completed in 1958 and the town of Old Adaminaby was inundated by Lake Eucumbene in that year. The reservoir is the largest in the
mighty Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Several buildings were moved from (original) Adaminaby to the new town of Adaminaby (7km away), others
were demolished or left to be inundated. Some residents were reluctant to leave the old town and felt that they had been unfairly dealt with by the Snowy
Mountains Authority. Adaminaby was one of two towns flooded in the course of the Scheme construction. The other was Jindabyne.
The Snowy Scheme commenced in 1949 and was completed in 1974. During its construction, more than 100,000 people from 30 countries worked on the
Scheme which, at the time, cost a record $820 million to complete. Today, the Scheme is operated by Snowy Hydro Limited, whose head office is located in
Cooma. The Snowy Scheme is still recognised as one of the 7 civil engineering wonders of the modern world.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme is still the biggest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia. It was the realisation of a long held desire to
utilise the 'wasted' waters of the Snowy River for both irrigation and power generation. Commenced by the Chifley Labor Government in 1949, the scheme
became the focus of national attention as a symbol of a new modern Australia emerging from the war to take its place alongside other developed countries.
The technological aspects of the scheme were frequently commented on in the media. Great pride was taken in the apparent ability of humans to shape the
environment for the purposes of national development. The flooding of towns and valleys was widely accepted in the 'national interest'. The profound impact of
cultural diversity on the regional towns was often remarked upon. The scheme employed approximately 60,000 workers from overseas, many of whom settled in
Australia. It is regarded by many as a forerunner of present day multiculturalism. Working conditions on the scheme also received considerable attention.
Modern management techniques, emphasising work, speed and efficiency were introduced by the American contractors. The scheme also pioneered modern
workplace safety management. Nonetheless the harsh working conditions in the mountains and tunnels resulted in many deaths and injuries. More about Lake
The history of the Lake Eucumbene Region
Old Adaminaby Returns...
In more recent times, prolonged years of drought and the subsequent demand for irrigation water releases have had a dramatic effect on the landscape of
Old Adaminaby. In July 2007, Lake Eucumbene dropped to just 9.4% of capacity (the lowest it had been since it was filled). As the water fell, many of the
building foundations from the old town resurfaced. This brought memories of life in the old town to many of the residents that were moved. See Historical
Lake Eucumbene water levels
It was an emotional time for many, and wasn’t helped as ‘outsiders’ flocked to see the ruins of the old town – taking many pieces of ‘memorabilia’ that lay
scattered around the receding shore line. Bottles, cans, bricks and pieces of rusting farming machinery of a past generation proved to be a popular target
for ‘scavengers’ – unaware of the effect they had on locals who had lost so much when the lake covered their homes. In an attempt to stop the looters, a
conservation order on Lake Eucumbene came into effect on World Environment day in 2007.
Gold was discovered at nearby Kiandra in 1859. At the time, the area that is now Lake Eucumbene, was a cattle station belonging to the Yorke
and Cosgrove families. The discovery of gold lead to a sudden influx of miners travelling the tracks from Cooma or Jindabyne and through the
area. At the time, only a few huts were located on the banks of the Eucumbene River. This little settlement became a staging post for travellers
during the gold rush - the hamlet of 'Chalker's' was born!
The first store in the area was built by Frederick Stokes at the end of the Kiandra Gold rush in 1861.
The first hotel was built in 1861 and was known as ‘The Travellers Rest’. A second hotel soon followed, but was burnt to the ground in 1862.
The area now known as Old Adaminaby was the only place between Cooma and Kiandra where there was a Post Store, with mail being brought
to the town by pack-horse. At the time, a trip to Cooma cost five pounds, while the long haul to Sydney cost twenty pounds.
The population of the hamlet was 400.
The permanent Post Office was completed in 1883.
An Agricultural Association was established, predominantly for ploughing.
On 25 March 1885, Adaminaby was proclaimed a township. At the time though it was known as ‘Seymour’.
On 9 October 1886, the towns name changed to ‘Adaminaby’ to avoid confusion with Seymour in Victoria.
In 1888, the Government of the day granted 210 acres, with a cash grant of 100 pounds to anyone wishing to settle in the area. Within three
years the land was fenced and was used as a showground, rifle range, racecourse and recreation reserve.
Adaminaby Court House was constructed in 1901.
Adaminaby grew rapidly in the early 1990d. It housed three churches (Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian), a public school (which still stands
today as a residence), a convent, large general stores, a police station, a court house, a picture theatre and several hotels. There was a ball
each Friday night and a dance on Saturday night. The Kyloe Copper Mine boosted the town's economy and Adaminaby was starting to look as if
it would rival Cooma in size.
By 1920, Adaminaby had a watchmaker, cafes, tea rooms, cabinet maker, a doctor, a hospital, a newspaper, two schools, a showground and a
racecourse. The Kyloe Copper Mine boosted the town's economy
The population of Adaminaby in the 1940s was 750, although the town also provided for hundreds of people living in the nearby rural areas.
Over its 100 year history, Adaminaby grew but changed little. It was never connected to the electricity grid, water supply or sewerage system.
Residents used kerosene lamps and candles at night, and several businesses had diesel generators. Rain water was collected in tanks and
there were a number of wells.
Residents remember Adaminaby as a close-knit, friendly community where winters were harsh and heavy snowfalls were a regular occurrence.
They didn't know it at the time, but Adaminaby was about to change - forever.
* Photos/commentary: National Library of Australia (Old Adaminaby), Powerhouse Museum, Monaro Pioneers, Environment NSW, Darren Giles.
On 17th October 1949, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was officially launched in Adaminaby. Soon after, it was announced
that Adaminaby would be flooded to make way for the creation of the Snowy Mountains Schemes largest dam – Lake Eucumbene. The
Scheme was created to divert the waters of the snowy mountain rivers inland to enhance agricultural production in the drier interior regions,
and to provide peak electricity generation for Australia cities, including Canberra.
Residents of the old town were given the choice of three locations for a new town, including one that would overlook the new lake
(Eucumbene). Surprisingly, the residents chose a site on the main road (its current location), arguing the position would ensure the town had
a secure future on the highway and that the site was warmer and more sheltered, being 120m lower than the old site.
In January 1954, the residents endorsed Adaminaby's new location in a referendum.
Adaminaby was on the move!
The first house relocations to 'new Adaminaby' (7km to the NE and some 120m lower in elevation) took place in 1956 and, within 18 months,
all buildings to be relocated to the new town had been removed. These included St Mary's Catholic Church with was dismantled brick by
brick in the old town and rebuilt in the new town. In all, 102 buildings were removed from Old Adaminaby. The removal task was painstakingly
slow, made even more difficult by one of the wettest years on record and heavy winter snows.
Some farming families were reluctant to leave their properties and some stayed until water was lapping at their doorsteps. People found they
had to abandon all sorts of things, including stoves and farm equipment when the water cut off road access to their properties.
A key benefit of the new site was that residents were connected to town water, sewerage and electricity, something that wasn’t never
available in the original town.
Snowy Mountains Scheme announced.
Residents of (original) Adaminaby chose new site (7km to the NE) in a referendum.
Relocation of 100 houses & 2 churches from Old Adaminaby.
Snowy Hydro Electric Authority demolished buildings that were to be submerged.
Flooding of the Eucumbene valley started, to create Lake Eucumbene.
Construction of Eucumbene Dam completed.
Water level reached the outskirts of Old Adaminaby.
Lake Eucumbene at full capacity.
Lake Eucumbene fell to a record low of 9.4% of capacity.
Lake Eucumbene Completion Timeline
Lake Eucumbene in the early years
(Almost) The End...
The new lake provided good opportunities for water sports and a number of tourism ventures were established around its shores. It was also stocked with
trout and became a popular fishing location boosted by its proximity to the Murrumbidgee River, already well known by anglers. Several areas around the
lake were set aside for holiday cabins.
Unfortunately, as the lake rose, native animals were trapped on islands with the water rising around them. People remember the islands covered with
kangaroos and seething with snakes. There were some efforts to relocate the kangaroos but reports were that success was limited.
Sir Edward Hallstrom, benefactor and active trustee of Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo, together with Sir William Hudson, established a kangaroo refuge on one
of the islands in Lake Eucumbene, not far from the dam wall. Hallstrom Island, as it became known, was primarily for the seven albino kangaroos which he
donated but there were also some Great Eastern Grey kangaroos there as well.
The Snow Mountains Authority promoted the island, as well as Grace Lea Island which was a refuge for kangaroos and emus, as tourist attractions and
people could take a launch from Old Adaminaby over to the islands, feed the animals, continue to the dam wall and then return to Old Adaminaby.
The refuges were closed down in 1987 after many animals were killed illegally by shooters and an attempted relocation resulted in the death of many