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Lake Nillahcootie

Lake Nillahcootie is located 235km northeast of Melbourne CBD and 36km south of the Victorian township of Benalla.  The lake was formed after building a dam across the Broken River near the township of Mansfield. The lake is popular for swimming, boating and fishing and the foreshore has picnic facilities. The picnic and boating areas are open to public from 8am to sunset daily. Mount Samaria State Park is located south of Lake Nillahcootie.

The Goulburn Murray Water website states that the name Nillahcootie has come from an Indian language which means ‘Blue house’. Goulburn Murray Water is responsible for the maintenance of Nillahcootie dam and boating and recreational activities around the water. It is also the largest inland boating authority in Victoria. The water at the lake is used for irrigation, domestic, stock, and urban water supply requirements. Lake has a storing capacity of 40,400 megalitres.

Lake Nillahcootie is stocked regularly with fish for anglers and Golden Perch, Murray Cod and Redfin are popular catches here. This remains a popular location for water skiing, canoeing, sailing, kayaking or jet skiing.  Boats can be launched from the main boat ramp near the dam wall. This is the only storage at Broken River and has a catchment area of approximately 422 square kilometres. The Nillahcootie dam which is an earth and rockfill embarkment is 34metres high and has two spillways. One is an Ogee Crested concrete spillway and the other an uncontrolled fuse plug spillway.

The Broken River rises in the Wellington-Tolmie highlands and flows in a westerly direction to Lake Nillahcootie.  From Nillahcootie it flows north to Benalla and then west again, and finally joins Goulburn River near Shepparton.  The Nillahcootie dam across Broken River was built in 1967.

Since 1901, many public representations were made to the Government requesting to build a weir across Broken River at Nillahcootie for irrigation purposes. The Government of Victoria showed interest in building one and many studies were undertaken but nothing happened until the 1960s.

The public desperation is evident from the newspaper reports of those years for the project not kicking off. On 18th July 1919, ‘Benalla Standard’ published a poem with the authors initial of C.E.K



Can you wait a little moment?

Have you got the time to spare?

To listen to my story –

Of the Nillahcootie weir?


The mighty drought lay on us,

Sun shining red and blood,

When Peacock and his party

At Nillahcootie stood.


And one and all said, ‘That’s the place,

No better I declare,

Was ever made by nature

For fixing up a weir.


The need is overwhelming,

The drought is far and near,

There’s ample room you may assume

For water storage here.’


Then spoke our worthy doctor,

‘You see, Sir Alec great,

It’s just for want of water

Benalla’s in this state.


So just you put the concrete in

And make a doughty weir,

Then you will be the finest bird

That ever struct’d here.’


‘Oh, not so first,’ Sir Alec said,

‘ It can’t be done like that.

‘Tis you, yourselves, the rate most pay,

So there you have it pat.’


Then off to bed we went quite late

And in the heat did stew,

While Peacock and his party

Went back to draw their screw.

And drawing it they still are at,

Without a blooming care,

If not, a single tap is done

To Nillahcootie Weir

In 1950 Victorian Minister for Water Supply H.E.Bolt, maintained that his Government’s priority was for big projects and Nillahcootie project is 15 to 20 years off.  In 1963, State Parliamentary Public Works Committee has recommended a storage reservoir to be built at the Nillahcootie B site.  The committee also recommended the Winton Swamp be developed as a storage. In 1967, after nearly 70 years of agitation, the dam was finally built creating Lake Nillahcootie.


Location: Midland Highway, Barjarg, Victoria, 3723

Facilities available at Lake Nillahcootie

Car Parking, Boat Ramp, Fishing, Toilets

Information on Lake Nillahcootie: https://www.g-mwater.com.au/water-resources/catchments/storages/broken/nillahcootie

Fishing at Nillahcootiehttps://www.trellys.com.au/blogs/fishing-locations/fishing-lake-nillahcootie

We leave our readers with another poem appeared in ‘’Tungamah and Lake Rowan Express and St. James Gazette’’ on 19th November 1914 titled, ‘’The Nillahcootie Weir’’ by the same author C.E.K


I had a dream, a dream lust night,

A dream beyond compare.

I dreamed the Government had built

The Nillahcootie weir.

I saw the channels running full

In driest time of year,

And yet abundance was their still

In Nillahcootie weir.

Orchards stood out in verdant green,

And lucerne far and near,

And cattle sleek as eels in mud

Through Nillahcootie weir.

Cases of fruit were piled up high

On railway sidings near,

And engines puffed the steam of strength

From Nillahcootie weir.

People were flocking to the place,

And land was very dear.

All this and morE were brought about

By Nillahcootie weir.

And then I woke! Oh, what a Bell!

It made me feel quite queer.

For not a blessed tap was done

To Nillahcootie weir.

Oh, what a crime! a shameful sin!

To pass year after year,

In wasting what might wealth become,

With Nillahcootie weir.

We spend our money, shed our blood,

To keep our Empire clear.

But works of peace are left to drift

Like Nillahcootie weir.

Unfortunately, they waited another 50 years to see their dreams come true.



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      1. Lake Nillahcootie is located 235km northeast of Melbourne CBD and 36km south of the Victorian township of Benalla.  The lake was formed after building
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