It was a dark and brooding afternoon as we arrived at Lake Burbury, a man-made lake in western Tasmania that conceals the remains of two ghost towns at its murky bottom. Layers of mountains lined the far shore, rugged silhouettes which faded into mist that crept steadily across the wild country that lay beyond.
My four friends (two were photographers) and I stumbled along the lake’s shore, past sharp stumps and scarlet rocks trying to capture this mood that was so typical of western Tasmania. Flashes fired off intermittently as I stared across the lake, wondering if fish often swam through the old town of Crotty that was swallowed by the lake in the early 1990s.
Lake Burbury formed after the creation of Crotty Dam, which feeds John Butters Hydroelectric Power Station about 10 kilometres further west. Despite its propensity for extreme weather, the lake is a popular fishing spot, having a tip-top supply of tasty trout. Every year on the third weekend in November, the Queenstown Anglers Club holds a popular fishing competition on its shores.
Camping and larking
The lake is also a favoured spot for caravaners and campers, having a good campground with shelter, coin-operated BBQs, a public toilet and boat ramp. Kayaking and canoeing are popular on the lake and given its proximity to Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area – which includes the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park – it’s an all-round good spot to set up camp (provided you’ve got some warm gear).
Underwater ghost towns
Perhaps I would have included both Darwin and Crotty in my Tasmanian ghost town investigation, had they not been drowned for the good of hydroelectricity. Another mining town gone bust, Crotty once had a smelter and a railway which connected it with the North Mount Lyell mine, as well as a few hotels. The smelter allegedly failed, all was abandoned and the only reminder of the place was a band that formed out of nearby Queenstown called the ‘Crotty Ditty Band’.
The town of Darwin had an even more inconspicuous life, allegedly containing a post office that operated for a mere three years.
Perhaps these old towns are lost forever. Although this new lake, which hides their history, is a splendid spot to explore. It lies just down the road from the atmospheric ‘ghost town’ of Gormanston, which I highly recommend for a visit if you ever find yourself in this interesting little part of the world.