Ever been to Cameron Corner and either stopped at Fort grey or just whizzed by ?.. did you know there is a massive lake system tucked just behind the dunes near the campsite ??...we were there recently and saw it bone bone dry. Yet in the past we have seen it totally full with masses of birds.
It’s hard to imagine an oversize wetland area tucked up in the northwest corner of NSW, yet it holds significant value for many birds and endangered animals. Several threatened species have been recorded within the area that include snakes, ducks and bats. Lake Pinaroo and surrounding wetlands covers an estimated 2000 acres which when in drought can take up to 6 years to dry out due to not having an overflow, it simply just dries up. Listed as a Ramsar site in 1996 it is one of 12 located in NSW. These significant wetland sites are listed world wide to protect the biodiversity of the wetlands, water birds and animals that are found within.
Lake Pinaroo is very important to the arid area of the north west as it holds water longer than any other wetland within the region allowing birdlife to survive for longer periods. It also allows migrating birds to ‘stop over’ on their way past. An estimated 61 species of birds have been recorded as well as bats, rare snakes endangered plants.
Explorer Charles Sturt set up base camp and a stockade beside the lake in 1844 for his exploration of the Simpson desert looking for an inland sea, these can still be found as well as the remains of the old Fort Grey homestead and windmill. The original homestead was closer to the waters edge but in 1974 when the lake was in flood, strong winds produced high waves and destroyed the homestead. It was moved to where it lies today but was destroyed again by waves.
During his time here the lake was dry and on his journey he carved several letters, his name and the date of 1845 into a Coolabah tree. The letters S and an arrow were an indication of Sturt's travel. It’s only when the lake is in drought that this tree can be accessed by a 3km walk across the lake bed. The tree died finally died in the 1956 flood and in 1990 NPWS have put up steel posts supporting several tree limbs to stop them from falling and potentially losing this significant part of Australia's history. It’s only when you stand under this tree and see the water mark way above your head that you realise just how much water this lake can hold.
If you do decide to explore the Lake Pinaroo walking trail when the lake is dry there are sign posted areas highlighting Aboriginal Cooking Heaths and at the centre of the lake there are remains of The Well. This bore was sunk for the Fort Grey homestead when the area was in severe drought. All that remain now are rusty shells of boilers, tanks and plates. It was once a wood fired boiler that was able to pump water to the surface for the inhabitants and their stock in the area using a walking beam for the lift of the water.