The birth of Lake Elizabeth
The Otways' Lake Elizabeth is less than a century old, but its beauty and tranquillity are timeless.
Lake Elizabeth is a newborn body of water, birthed by one unseasonably wet year. It rained relentlessly in 1952 in the Otways. But in June the East Barwon River stopped flowing, and a search party was sent upriver to find out what had become of the water.
They found a landslide had come off the valley wall, creating a dam. By August the river had filled the new lake, created a slipway, and was running again. A year later, after more heavy rain, the top 26 metres of the landslide dam wall washed away leaving a lake only one fifth as big as its first incarnation. Thus we have a perched lake so young, its whole lifespan is known.
Being in the Otways, of course, it’s a lovely drive to get to Forrest, especially from the direction of Geelong. West to Winchelsea over hills lined by windbreaks of sugar gum and cypress, then southwest through the hamlets of Deans Marsh and Barwon Downs, both shedding weatherboards and leaning geriatrically, places for retirees and escapees. Various wattles flank the roads on the inland side of the Otways and the traffic is local, unhurried utes transporting cockies and kelpies.
Forrest was a timber town but is now a green place made of the type of gentle tourism that includes scones, history walks, a microbrewery, a guesthouse, wooden cottages and rusting machinery.
A six-kilometre drive from town into the Great Otway National Park, past the West Barwon Reservoir way below (from which Geelong gets its water) and through stands of messmate and into the towering mountain ash forest brings you to a small camping ground of about 20 sites. There are toilets and contained fireplaces, but the camping is for tents only. A solitary camper is enjoying a cup of tea, last night’s wine bottle on the table, all Eden to himself.