Lake Inverell was born in 1938 when the Macintyre River was dammed to store water for the town of Inverell. In Gaelic, Inverell means the meeting place of the swans. The name still holds true today but the swan is just one of the many creatures that thrive in this nourishing place.
Lake Inverell, Macintyre River
9 kilometres / 2.5 hours
Lake Inverell Kayak Facility, Lake Inverell Drive, Inverell
GPS: 29°47’28.9″S 151°08’17.0″E / -29.791361, 151.138061
Large car park
Open, reservoir/flowing, light traffic, shallow areas
Lake Inverell’s significance as a wildlife sanctuary was recognised in 1983 when it was made a nature reserve. Its importance as a human sanctuary was acknowledged in 2020 when its facilities were upgraded to include a riverside boardwalk and viewing platform, walking trails, picnic facilities, and one of the best places to launch a kayak or canoe that you are ever likely to see. Nobody needs to get wet feet when they launch into Lake Inverell.
Lake Inverell looks a lot more like a river behind a weir than a lake behind a dam. The dam wall is low in relation to the surrounding land so the water stays close to the original course of the Macintyre. The area close to the dam is open and can get blowy but the majority of the trail is sheltered.
The dam wall is immediately to the right of the launch site. You are headed in the other direction.
The boardwalk and viewing platform in the newly upgraded Lake Inverell Reserve occupy the northern (left-hand) bank during the initial stages of this trip. That is also the northern side so the light is usually very good for land-based photographers who are looking to capture images of the water and the incredibly alluring people who use it. Don’t forget to doll up for the occasion. You might just be Inverell’s next top model.
The nature reserve ends around 700 metres from the trailhead but the refuge given to wildlife continues for much longer in the form of the Barayamal National Park. Almost the entire northern bank is protected for the purposes of wildlife conservation.
The black swans that gave Inverell its name usually make an appearance before too long. As do Australian pelicans and pied cormorants. Some of the other residents may take a little longer and a keener eye to spot. Lake Inverell is also home to white-bellied sea eagles, turtles, rakali, platypus, and highly prized freshwater fish like Murray cod and golden perch.
The best time of day to paddle is first thing in the morning. The joy of watching the sun peep over the horizon is reward enough for throwing the bed covers back early but this is also when most of the non-human inhabitants are at their brightest. Watching a platypus in the wild is one of those extraordinary experiences that makes everything else in life melt away.
There’s not much to know in terms of navigation. The waterway splits in two twice. The main course of the Macintyre River goes to the right at the first and the left at the second. The other alternatives don’t go far but the second is still worth exploring because it is a good place to see rakali. Technically, the rakali is Australia’s largest water rat but the name rat doesn’t do it justice. In the hearts and minds of people who know and love it, the rakali is more like Australia’s otter and this is a great place to see why.
You will know you have reached the upstream end of the paddle trail when the seemingly still water is replaced by either a noticeably flowing stream moving the opposite way from where you want to go or nothing more than a trickle. If there are rapids, push through them as far as you can. Not because you have anything to prove. Just because the further you go, the more fun it is coming back.
Carp, golden perch, Murray cod
Tatts Hotel, 123 Byron Street, Inverell, (02) 6722 3437
Fossickers Rest Tourist Park, Lake Inverell Drive, Inverell, (02) 6722 2261
Nature is imagination itself.William Blake