IMPRESSIVE: The incredible Fairbairn Dam spillway.
IMPRESSIVE: The incredible Fairbairn Dam spillway. Contributed

Much more to the local dam

LAKE Maraboon - is it something that we as locals take for granted? The lake has been here since the late 60s with the construction of the dam wall.

As far as Queensland inland rivers and lakes go, it's a pretty impressive piece of water, but how much do we really know about the lake and indeed, how much do we appreciate the critical impact that the lake has on our daily lives?

For those of us who can still remember, cast your mind back to the late 1960s and a Queensland Government under the leadership of the fabled Joh Bjelke-Petersen (1968-87), later to become Sir Joh.

It's fair to say that Sir Joh in his latter years, had gone off the boil, but in those early days of his political career the ground in Queensland reverberated under constant construction, infrastructure and development was forging ahead and still today many older Queenslanders credit Joh with setting Queensland up to be what it is today.

A lasting testament to Joh's endeavours remains right here in the Central Highlands, servicing the needs of agriculture, mining, tourism, and manufacturing and indeed the very people that have made the region their home.

So let's take a closer look at Lake Maraboon/ Fairbairn Dam, the water wonderland that sparkles in the sunlight for many kilometres when seen out of an aeroplane window.

Construction commenced in 1968 as one of the major capitol works projects for Queensland at the time. The construction of Fairbairn Dam was closely aligned to the construction of a number of dams in the late 60s early 70s, a very progressive period for the state. The dam was completed in 1972.

The main embankment, including the sealed road across the spillway, has a height of 46.33 metres and is a total of 823 metres in length. The width at the top of the embankment is 9.1 metres, including the roadway. The width at the base of the embankment is 314 metres wide.

The bit that interests us all is the spillway. The height of the spillway crest is 1.7 metres above the original river bed and has an overall total width of 167.6 metres. Full supply height above sea level is 204.23 metres.

At the time of writing this I am unsure if the recent spillway works carried out will change these figures but I'm sure if this is the case, someone will let me know.

And just a few more points of interest because we really do have an amazing waterway here in our own backyard.

So far, the focus has been on the dam construction, named Fairbairn Dam in honour of David Fairbairn, Federal Minister for National Development at the time. Now let's look at the waters behind the dam wall.

Maraboon, a local Aboriginal name for "where the black ducks fly” was the chosen name for the waters held back by the dam wall, hence Lake Maraboon.

The lake has a capacity of 1,301,100 mega litres: a lot of water when you realise that 1 mega litre is a million litres of water. When full to spillway crest height, this water spreads out across 15,280 hectares with 274 kilometres of coastline with a further catchment area of another 16,320 square kilometres.

Is it any wonder that our lake, albeit looking a little low at just a miserly 25 per cent of capacity at the moment, is such a vital piece of the central highlands puzzle.

So there you go, and you thought that the lake was just there to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon barbecue with friends, have a ski or a fish. Definitely a swim on a hot day and if you are there at the right time, experience a truly magnificent central highlands sunset.

The lake has a boat ramp, a recreational area, caravan and cabin accommodation at Lake Maraboon Holiday Village for those wanting to stay a week or four, a ski and water sports club and Camp Fairbairn Educational facility.

And one last technical fact: the lake has an annual water allocation of 235,123 mega litres, available to the downstream uses of agriculture, mining and for local water consumption.

Yes we really do have an amazing waterway right here in our own backyard.