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Lake Tinaroo, sometimes called Tinaroo Dam, Tinaroo Falls Dam or Tinaroo Lake, is a man-made reservoir located in northeastern Queensland, Australia. Resting on the Atherton Tableland with an average altitude of 2,461 feet (750 meters), Lake Tinaroo offers a dramatic change of scenery and welcome relief from the heat of the coast. Called a tropical mountain lake, Tinaroo is a nature-lovers paradise. Surrounded by the pine forests of Danbulla National Park & State Forest, World Heritage rainforests and Australian scrub or "bush," the varied scenery creates a perfect holiday destination. While visiting the Atherton Tableland be sure to keep track of your Tinaroos; the name also refers to the lakeside community located on the western shore.
In 1959 Lake Tinaroo was formed by the impoundment of the Barron River running through an elevated plateau called Atherton Tableland. This fertile land was named for John Atherton who settled in the area in 1877. Atherton was attracted by the land's tin mining potential. It is said that when he made his first discovery he yelled "Tin! Hurroo!" giving the lake, dam and local community the name Tinaroo.
Construction of the Tinaroo Falls Dam took from 1953 to 1958 as part of the Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Project. Owned and managed by SunWater, described as "a Brisbane-based water industry company providing water infrastructure and supply services," Lake Tinaroo provides irrigation for more than 160 square miles (414 square kilometers) in the Barron, Walsh and Mitchell River valleys. In 2004 SunWater expanded their water supply business by constructing the Tinaroo Hydro Power Station. To better manage flood events, upgrades to Tinaroo Falls Dam spillway capacity were made in 2010.
Approximately 210 square miles (545 square kilometers) of land were flooded as the lake filled in 1959. Boaters on Tinaroo Lake should be aware that during droughts, weed beds and exposed flooded forests can create substantial hazards. During normal rainy seasons, Lake Tinaroo depths can reach 137 feet (41.8 meters) with a shoreline length exceeding 130 miles (209 kilometers). The 8,649-acre (3500 hectares) lake provides excellent opportunities for sailing, boating, windsurfing, water skiing, jet skiing, canoeing and houseboating. Canoes and boats are available for hire at several sites around Tinaroo Dam. Swimming is considered safe in the cool crocodile-free and stinger-free water.
During the 1980s barramundi fingerlings were introduced into Lake Tinaroo. Because barramundi are unable to breed in the lake's low saline water, Lake Tinaroo continues to be stocked with fingerlings each year. The species thrive in the lake and now weigh in at over 100 pounds. The thrill of reeling in one of these enormous fish makes fishing a major attraction at Lake Tinaroo. Regulations require a "Stocked Impoundment Permit," tagging of barra caught during closed season, minimum size limit of 23 inches (58 centimeters), and maximum of five barra per person. One of the largest and most popular fishing events in Australia is the annual Barra Bash. With substantial monetary prizes in the offering, the three-day Barra Bash attracts several thousand anglers of all ages and will fill the lake with a couple hundred boats. While barramundi may be the largest fish in Lake Tinaroo Falls Dam, it is far from the only species. Anglers will also enjoy chasing silver perch (introduced in the 1980s), eel-tailed catfish, sooty grunter, bony bream, sleepy cod, mouth almighty, archer fish, spangled perch, long tom and crayfish. Tilapia have thrived since being illegally introduced into the lake. If they are caught, they must be destroyed or sizeable penalties can be assessed.
Breathtaking walking paths wind around Lake Tinaroo's shoreline and surrounding mountains. Distances and levels of difficulty range from pleasant strolls to week-long treks. A wide variety of vegetation, wildlife and scenery will be found in every direction. From the north end of Tinaroo Dam a hike into Danbulla State Forest takes you to Lake Euramo, a volcanic crater lake and legendary site of the Aboriginal people. Beyond the southern end of the lake near the village of Yungaburra is a trail to the Curtain Fig Tree, an ancient strangler fig whose aerial roots form an enormous "curtain" as it grows from one tree to the next. To the east and southeast of Tinaroo Lake walkers will find two divided sections of Crater Lakes National Park. The northern section takes you to Lake Barrine and trees estimated to be 1,000 years old. The southern section takes hikers to Lake Eacham, a favorite location for swimming, canoeing and birdwatching.
The north and northeastern shore of Tinaroo Dam is bounded by Danbulla National Park and State Forest. A Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the park's 3,475 square miles (9,000 square kilometers) include rainforests, eucalypt forests, pine forests, wetlands and mangrove forests. Walk the depths of the park or camp in one of the park's campgrounds, and you may encounter one of many rare or endangered wildlife species: the tiny sugar glider that soars from tree to tree; short-beaked echidna, also known as the spiny anteater; red-legged pademelon looking like a small brown wallaby; northern bettong, a member of the kangaroo family; Boyd's forest dragon, a near extinct reptile; and Australia's largest snake, the amethystine python.
Over 200 species of birds are attracted to Lake Tinaroo, its tributaries, and marshes found in Danbulla National Park. Frequently seen along the lake shores are whiskered tern, little curlew, marsh sandpiper, ringed plover, southern boobook, barking owl, rufous owl, barn owl and lesser sooty owl. Birds encountered within the park include the comb-crested jacana, black-faced cuckoo-shrike, Lewin's honeyeater, grey fantail, purple swamphen, white-bellied sea-eagle and spotted catbird.
Resorts and retreats dot the shore of Lake Tinaroo, but the number of towns and villages is limited. The historic village of Yungaburra sits at the southern end of Lake Tinaroo, just over an hour's drive southwest of the coastal city of Cairns. With a population of approximately 1,000, Yungaburra is the largest National Trust village in Queensland. Through the preservation of 18 heritage sites, the community provides a fascinating glimpse into Queenland's architectural history. The local economy is based on tourism, and one of the favorite attractions is the Yungaburra markets. Held the fourth Saturday of every month, visitors can savor locally grown produce and shop the colorful selection of locally produced arts, crafts and clothing. Around the end of October the two-day Yungaburra Folk Festival entertains visitors with music performed by national and international folk musicians.
The small community of Tinaroo is becoming a popular holiday destination. With convenient access to Tinaroo Lake, fishing, swimming, sailing, hiking, mountain biking and birdwatching, there is a growing demand for lakefront properties. Increasing development in both Tinaroo and Yungaburra makes it easy to find holiday accommodations in the form of self-catering holiday cottages, holiday homes, bed & breakfasts (B&Bs), hotels and resorts along the shore of Lake Tinaroo. Less than an hour from Cairns and the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, visitors can enjoy the cool mountain air found in the Atherton Tableland. Come for the forests, water sports or nature's wonders, the choices are endless and waiting for you.
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