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Lake Cargelligo, NSW

Small town at the northern edge of the Riverina

Lake Cargelligo is a quiet rural service town which lies on the banks of a delightful lake. It is surrounded by a prosperous pastoral district where wheat, wool, fat lambs, fruit and vegetables are produced. The town, like many in the area, is more concerned with servicing the local farm community than developing a strong tourism industry thus the main appeal for visitors is the lake itself and a small gem collection located at the Tourist Information Centre.


Lake Cargelligo is located 551 km west of Sydney via Orange, Parkes and Condobolin. It is 168 m above sea-level.


Origin of Name

When the explorer John Oxley passed through the area in 1817 he named it Regents Lake after the Prince Regent who, in 1820, would become King George IV. Subsequently the New South Wales Surveyor-General, Thomas Mitchell, when he surveyed the district renamed the lake 'Cudjallagong' which he claimed was a Wiradjuri word meaning 'large lake' or 'water container'.


Things to See and Do

Lake Cargelligo Pathway and Historic Markers
An ideal way to explore the town is to walk or cycle around the lake on the clearly marked walkway/cycleway. There are also a number of historic markers around town (a map can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre) identifying where the Wiradjuri get their ochre from; where the old gold stamper battery was located; the history of the local railway; and an historic wool wash out at Wooyeo Woolshed.

The Lake, its Activities and the Birdlife
Lake Cargelligo is 8 km long and 3.5 km wide. On average it is 3 m deep. While it is an ideal spot for yachting, fishing, water skiing and swimming, it is also a haven for birds - mallee fowl, pelicans, swans, ducks, geese, and numerous varieties of honeyeater, whistler, woodswallow and grebe. Beyond these popular species it is also possible to see the blue-faced honeyeater, singing bushlark, the letter-winged kite, buff-banded rail, red-winged parrot, yellow rosella, black cockatoo and European goldfinch. There are two excellent, downloadable brochures on the lake's birdlife - Lake Cargelligo and Surrounding Areas Bird List and Bird Lists & Routes. They provide maps, include both the Nombinnie Nature Reserve and Round Hill Nature Reserve. A total of 216 birds are listed on the brochures. Check out http://www.lakecargelligo.net.au/Birdlife.html for more details.

Alf Tyack Collection
The Tourist Information Centre in Foster Street is home to the Alf Tyack Stone, Butterfly and Gem Collection.



* Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Wiradjuri and Ngiyambaa Aborigines.

* In 1817 the explorer, John Oxley, passed through the district and was 'agreeably surprised' by Lake Cargelligo describing it as "the noble lake before me gave a character to the scenery highly picturesque and pleasing".

* When he surveyed the district in the mid-1830s, the New South Wales Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell named the lake 'Cudjallagong' which he claimed as a Wiradjuri word meaning "large lake" or "water container".

* In 1841 Francis Oakes became the first European settler in the district. He settled on a run he named "Gagellaga". By 1848 he had renamed it "Cargelligo".

* In 1850 a town site was reserved but settlement did not proceed.

* In 1873 the town started to boom after a woman who was a cook at a burr cutter's camp found gold near the south-west side of the lake. The town briefly became a mining camp.

* In 1873 John Bow, a one-time bushranger and member of Frank Gardiner's gang who had been arrested for his part in the Escort Rock Gold Robbery, settled in the area. He became a good citizen loaning money to the local Catholic Church and being buried in the local Catholic cemetery in 1895.

* The town was officially surveyed in 1878 and gazetted the following year.

* The gold in the area was not significant and by 1881 mining had been abandoned.

* The village was officially proclaimed in 1885 and land was released for sale.

* In 1887 a little-known bushranger Jack King robbed the royal mail coach en route between Cargelligo and Whitton. He was arrested the next day and jailed for ten years.

* In 1902 the flow of the Lachlan River was regulated and Lake Cargelligo became an important water storage area.

* In 1917 the railway arrived and in 1919 Cargelligo was renamed Lake Cargelligo.


Visitor Information

Lake Cargelligo Tourist Information Centre, 1 Foster Street, tel: (02) 6898 1501.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website - http://www.lakecargelligo.net.au/ - which provides information about accommodation and eating.

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8 suggestions
  • On January 26, 1938, as the first rally against Australia Day was held, 25 Indigenous men were told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.

    Government officials had selected the best dancers and singers from Menindee mission in far-west New South Wales and told them they were required to perform cultural dances in Sydney.

    What they were sent to take part in was a re-enactment of the landing and proclamation of Captain Arthur Phillip at the 150th Australia Day celebrations.

    Ngiyaampaa elder Dr Beryl (Yunghadhu) Philp Carmichael, born and raised on the mission, was only three at the time, but her memory of the fear in the community never left her.

    “Whether they were taking them away to be massacred or what, no-one knew.

    “The community went into mourning once they were put on the mission truck.”

    The men returned a week later, but Dr Carmichael said it was many years until they would talk about their experience.

    ‘They came back very quiet,” she said.

    “It was only in the late 70s they started saying something about what it was like down there.

    “We knew whatever happened down there really hurt them and we didn’t question them.”

    It is speculated that part of the reason for bringing Indigenous people all the way from Menindee was because those in Sydney refused to take part.

    In Sydney plans were afoot to hold a rally on Australia Day; the Aborigines Progressive Association would declare it a ‘day of mourning’.

    Aboriginal rights leaders William Ferguson and John Patten published the Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights! pamphlet on January 12, 1938.

    In it they declared, “We do not ask you to study us as scientific freaks … the superstition that we are a naturally backward and low race … shows a jaundiced view of anthropologists’ motives”.

    Those in power at the time seemed eager to keep the Menindee men well away from activists, keeping them locked away in police barracks.

    The incident was detailed in a biography on William Ferguson, written by Jack B Horner in 1974.

    Dr Carmichael said there had been whisperings of the movement on the mission, and a direct link to Mr Ferguson.

    “Most people on missions couldn’t read and write; that made it really hard for them to understand the government documents they were throwing around,” she said.

    “Old Bill [Ferguson], because he knew his brother Duncan was back on the mission, he used to send messages back to him.

    “But in the end the mission manager found that out, picked the old fella [Duncan] up in a truck and dumped him over the hill [outside the mission boundary].”

    Mr Ferguson attempted to get word to the Menindee men while they were in Sydney but, as elaborate as they were, his efforts were unsuccessful.

    They were eventually allowed a closely supervised visit from two female relatives.

    The men soon discovered their duties would include playing the part of Aboriginal people fleeing British soldiers.

    While the activists may have gotten their message through to the performers, discouraging them from taking part in the re-enactment, the men were left with little choice.

    Dr Carmichael said when it came to performing traditional dance, the men were troubled to find they would be led by an Aboriginal actor who did not speak their language or know their culture.

    “The government unknowingly or knowingly put up a big Aboriginal, good looking fella as the leader of the dancers and they didn’t even know him. He wasn’t from Ngiyaempaa,” she said.

    “That really devastated the people and they refused to dance.

    “It was the toughest time of their lives, I think.”

    Eighty years on, as debate continues around whether January 26 is celebrated or mourned, Dr Carmichael said she was happy to have survived, even though she was sad about the past.

    “We were brought up to tolerate a lot of things and to give thanks for being alive,” she said.

    “I’m just glad I survived with my culture intact and am alive to teach and pass it on.

    ‘We should strive for peace, between all nations. We need to come together as people.”

    Gary Hinkley
  • Is there a train to the Lake now?

    sue cassidy
  • Absolutely epic town is to be added

  • Definitely the best free camp at Frogs Hollow on the lake front. It’s an absolute must to visit the Large Draught Horses, Steve and Jan are legends they will take you back in time with their passion, dedication and hospitality. Don’t miss it.

    Margaret Durante
  • Please are you able to let me know any information of a little known bushranger Jack King who robbed the Cargelligo to Whitton mail coach in 1887. Extensive research on my part has revealed virtually nothing. I am researching for a book in UK and hoping to devote some writings to the lesser known of the later bushrangers,
    Many thanks, Philip Griffin

    Philip Griffin
  • Can you use a metal detector for gold prospecting in the area ?

    Malcolm Johns