Lake Wendouree situated in Ballarat covers an area of 238 hectares and has a circumference of 6km. The parkland around the lake spans over 18hectares in total. When the European settlers arrived, Lake Wendouree was a shallow reedy swamp with plenty of wild life. For thousands of years it was the camping place of nomadic Wadawurrung people from the Kulin nation. Over the years, the swamp was gradually turned into a Lake, English Parkland and an aquatic recreational facility.
In 1861, an underground pipeline was installed from Kirk reservoir to supply water to the lake. In 1869, a major drought struck the region and the Lake became dry. Making good the opportunity, the reeds were cleared by burning and the bed was deepened by removing the soil. During that time the lake bed was also used to train racing horses. To add a British Parkland appearance to the foreshore, old gum trees were felled and replaced with English trees. The lake was artificially created and is fed by stormwater from the urban catchment.
The name Wendouree is believed to have come from the aboriginal word ‘wendaaree’, meaning ‘go away’. The story being that, when the first settler of Ballarat, William Cross Yuille asked a local indigenous woman its name, she replied ‘go away’, which was mistaken for its name. When WS Urquhart first surveyed Ballarat, the swap area was recorded as Wendouree.
W.C. Yuille occupied the land on which Ballarat is built today and erected his hut on the shores of what became known as “Yuille’s Swamp”, later Lake Wendouree. It was used as Ballarat’s main water supply until 1862. With the arrival of more European settlers, the surrounding district was divided into sheep stations. Boat sheds were built which housed aquatic sporting clubs. Today it is one of Ballarat’s most popular tourist attractions.
In the late 19th century the lake became centre of recreational life in Ballarat. By the 1870’s pleasure steamer plyed its waters taking day tripper from View Point to the Botanical Gardens. Giant yachts were specially designed for the lake. The sporting tradition continued into 20th century with Lake Wendouree being the Canoeing and rowing venue for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Electric tramline from the city completely encircles the lake. Wild water fowl of many descriptions abound, and black swans grown tame through un-molestation add beauty to the scene.
The Lake is also home to a wide variety of bird and aquatic species. Nearly 170 bird species frequent the area. The lake is also abundant with fish including Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Mosquito Fish and Carp. Moreover, the Lake is regularly stocked with Trout by the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society to encourage recreational fishing. The Ballarat Botanical Gardens situated opposite the parklands add extra value to its tourism potential.