Lake Mulwala was created in 1939 when the Murray River was dammed at the Yarrawonga Weir as part of the Murray-Darling Irrigation Scheme. Prior to this paddle steamers would traverse the Murray as far away as Albury to transport a wide range of general merchandise, including timber, wheat and wool. This river traffic slowly petered out with the arrival of the railway in 1886.
In 1842, explorer Hamilton Hume assisted his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hume to form the ‘Yarrawonga Run’.
Built on a sand hill by a lagoon near the Murray River, Elizabeth was the first European to live in north east Victoria. She moved to the area with her nine children, after her husband John Hume was killed by bushrangers in Gunning. Elizabeth named her home ‘Byramine’, meaning ‘rustic retreat’. The design of the house is unique, due to the octagonal central room, or ‘the fortress’, which ensured a clear view out all windows, in case of attack. The homestead remains in its original condition, and is open to the public.
The Yarrawonga Weir was built to raise the water level in the Murray River to ensure diversion of water via gravity. Diversion of water is via two major channels, the Mulwala Canal and the Yarrawonga Main Channel. The Mulwala Canal is 2,880 kilometres long and is the largest irrigation canal in the southern hemisphere, spreading across the southern Riverina plain to Deniliquin and suppling water to 700,000 hectares. The Yarrawonga Main Channel is 957km long and services the Murray Valley irrigation region, from Yarrawonga to Barmah. It supplies water to 128,000 hectares.
Lake Mulwala Facts
Storage capacity = 117,500 mega litres (1/4 of Sydney Harbour)
Area = 4,450 hectares
Length = 489 metres
Distance from Murray source = 528 km
Distance from Murray mouth = 1,992 km
Full supply above river bed = 14.2 metres
Full supply above sea level = 124.9 metres
Lake Mulwala still provides a critical role in the supply of irrigation water and it remains the largest single diversion point for irrigation water on the entire Murray River. However, the lake is now much more than simple water storage, and it has transformed the twin towns of Yarrawonga and Mulwala into very popular holiday destinations with a booming tourism industry. The lake is a recreational haven for a myriad of water-based activities including water skiing, wakeboarding, boating, fishing, swimming, sailing and wind surfing.