Two young men were out hunting a wallaby, but they missed the animal with their spears and instead hit a sacred Flame tree. When they pulled the spear out of the tree, a caterpillar came out. The young men began to cut down the tree to bring out even more caterpillars. They had hardly cut down the tree before the earth began to shake. The young men were not allowed by the clan to be out hunting and had now angered the creator god Yamini (the rainbow serpent). The sky turned orange and all the people at home in the camp were swallowed by the earth and drowned.(Freely translated from a 10 year old aboriginal legend)
There was cackling under the table. We had settled down at the picnic site at Lake Eacham each with their own lunch box. We have hardly sat down before we have a friend. Our friend under the table had spied on our bread. We had read that there would be plenty of Australian bush hen here by the lake, but it couldn't be one like this, could it? This looked more like a regular… rooster?
Lake Eacham (and also nearby Lake Barrine) was created nearly 10 years ago by a giant explosion when groundwater hit the hot magma in the volcano below us. There must have been a real natural disaster in the area. Such an event, which even created a legend that has passed on from mouth to mouth through generation to generation among the aborigines of the area and is still being told. The explosion created a so-called maar – a lake in a volcanic crater, filled with fresh water.
Here, at 750 meters above sea level, the temperatures are cooler than the tropical coast. It would be a nice walk around the lake. Just over 20 degrees in the air, bright sun and a murmur of birds.
We collected our backpacks and went down to the water. Here in northern Australia, you always need to be aware of the lake's inhabitants before jumping into the water. The saltwater crocodiles up here are not to be trifled with. Although they are usually very lethargic in the winter, you don't want to risk meeting one croc in the water. We could see several young people swimming. Lake Eacham is home to only one small freshwater crocodile, something the Australians don't seem to be afraid of. Freshwater crocodiles can only grow three meters long.
There were plenty of fish and turtles in the lake, it was perfectly bubbling under the surface. I almost got a little excited when I saw several archer fish swimming around scouting for prey. Most people who have ever had a freshwater aquarium at home have probably seen spitting fish in the aquarium store. The fish that hunt insects by spraying water on them where they sit on leaves and branches above the surface. Then when the insect falls into the lake, they are easy prey. I found myself wondering how far they can spit. I really hoped I didn't look like a fly with my sunglasses on.
The rainforest around the lake was thick and filled with birds. There weren't many places where you could go down to the lake along the hiking trail, here on the path with all the roots of the forest you instead enjoy the shade of the trees and all the colorful birds around you. We saw a few parrots, but none of the small musk kangaroos or pythons that are otherwise common here.
Because Lake Eacham was not created 'naturally', there is no inlet or outlet into the lake. The only water that comes to the lake is through the rain that falls during the summer months. The water only leaves the lake through evaporation. The water level in the lake can therefore differ by up to 4 meters between the rainy winter and the hot and rainy summer. In the early winter when we were here, the hiking trail around the lake was dry and nice. It is usually not in the summer.
In several places around the lake we see large piles of sticks and soil that look like they have been hastily raked together. Nest of the Australian bush hen. But not a bush hen in sight. What does a bush hen really look like?
We are approaching the parking lot again. The rooster is no longer there, but something that looks like a red-headed turkey meets us happily clucking. But wait, was this an Australian bush hen?! The one I had read about and hoped to see? But we had seen such everywhere in Queensland...
How do I get to Crater Lakes National Park?
Lake Eacham is in Crater Lakes National Park i Atherton Tablelands, on a dormant volcanic plateau west of Cairns i Queensland. The area is part of the world heritage Queensland's Wet Tropics which includes a large area of national parks between Cooktown and Townsville.
Crater Lakes (and Lake Eacham) are 6 miles southwest of Cairns.
What do I need to think about?
There is no service at Lake Eacham, so you need to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Watch out for nettle tree (gympie gymy)! In the rainforest around the lake there are nettle trees (looks more like a bush?) with large heart-shaped leaves. If you come into contact with the leaves, they burn like stinging nettles, but 100 times worse...
If you encounter the freshwater crocodile, do not poke it, but please tell the national park ranger where and when you saw it.
Do you want to read more?
Want to read more about Crater Lakes and Lake Eacham? Look into Queensland Government page about Lake Eacham.
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Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.