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Photographs of Beetaloo Dam

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Google Earth images
Drone photos of July 2018
Scientific American sketch
Main photo section
Photos of July 2018
Mixed messages
The SA Water page on Mid North South Australian dams states:
"Beetaloo Reservoir is located at Crystal Brook, 19 kilometres east of Port Pirie and was built between 1886 and 1890 to provide a water supply for the Yorke Peninsula. The cost of construction was $331,200. The mid-1880s was a time of high unemployment in parts of South Australia, especially among stone masons and general labourers, so the original plan was to build the new reservoir out of masonry. However, after opening seven new quarries in an effort to find suitable stone for the wall, masonry was abandoned in favour of concrete. In an effort to help the unemployed labourers, the start of the project was rushed to such an extent that the workers and supervisors were already on site before the final drawings had been prepared. Tragedy struck during construction in 1886 when 65mm of rain with hail "the size of tomatoes" fell on the catchment in the space of two hours. A worker named Wilson trying to cross the swollen creek was swept to his death by the resultant floodwaters.

At the time of construction Beetaloo was the largest concrete dam in the southern hemisphere.

Capacity: 3180 megalitres
Length of wall: 210.3m
Height of wall: 33.5m
Type of wall: Curved concrete gravity
Area of water spread: 33 hectares"
The capacity given above is that of the reservoir as originally constructed. It was substantially reduced when the spillway was lowered, around 1978. I have not been able to find any official figure for the reduced capacity of the reservoir.

More information

An article on "The Great Dam at Beetaloo, Australia" is freely available as a pdf file from an 1891 issue of Scientific American. The SciAm article gives plans of the dam and said that around 255 miles (425km) of pipeline carried water from Beetaloo.

Open hours (maybe)

As of July 2018, the viewing area is open to the public from 1st May to 1 November, from 9am to 3.30pm on weekdays and 9am to 5pm on weekends and public holidays (unless it is closed for some reason). If the dam is closed to the public there is a gate that is locked before the first picnic and parking area.

Photography by Dave Clarke

This page created 2014/05/07, last modified 2018/07/11


Google Earth images

Google Earth image A Google Earth image of the dam and reservoir.

The dam is about 20km north of Crystal Brook.

Contact, email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com


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Google Earth image Google Earth again; more detail in the dam wall area

The four sections of the spillway can be seen on the left. The three newer sections are between the four parallel walls. The remaining part of the old, higher, spillway is on the left side of the left-most of these walls.


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Drone photos taken 2018/07/10

Click on (or touch) the images to see in high definition
Dam and reservoir
Beetaloo dam
The original spillway is on the left, the newer, lower spillway is adjacent.


From a different angle
Beetaloo dam
This is a composite of two photos and has made the dam appear to curve in the opposite direction than the actual very slight curve.


The spillway and picnic shed
Spillway area
Picnic shed (and ugly and unnecessary fence that spoils the view) on the left, old spillway adjacent to that, new spillway on the right. The concrete blocks are to slow the water that flows over the spillway and reduce erosion.


Scientific American sketch

From Scientific American A drawing from an 1891 issue of Scientific American. The article was titled "The Great Dam at Beetaloo, Australia".


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Main photo section

Spillways The spillways. The nearer one is the remaining part of the original. The new, lower, spillways were put in around 1978 when there were concerns about the soundness of the wall.

My visit on this occasion followed the Bangor fire of January and February 2014. Some of the fire-damaged trees can be seen in this image.

This, and the next few photos were taken on 2014/05/04.


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The reservoir Beetaloo Reservoir

Looking north from the right abutment of the dam.

There had been substantial recent rain and the reservoir level was fairly high.


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Beetaloo Dam From near the right abutment, the top of the new spillways and part of the main wall.

I believe that the cement required for the wall was imported from Germany in barrels.


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Beetaloo Dam Two of the three sections of the new spillway; the third section, and the old spillway, are hidden behind the walls in the further part of the image.


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Beetaloo Dam The downstream side of the dam wall.

The white material is calcium carbonate that has leached out of tiny cracks in the dam wall. There is very little flow of water through these cracks.

At around the time that the spillway was lowered a diamond drilling rig was used to drill a number of holes from the top to the bottom of the dam and cement grout was injected in an attempt to reduce the seapage. I don't know if this achieved anything.


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Beetaloo Dam Looking back toward the spillways and right abutment from about the centre of the wall.


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Beetaloo Dam There had been three unusually big rains in 2014 to the time of these photos. The first was in mid February, then early April, and the last – a few days before these photos – in late April-early May.

The reservoir would have overflowed if water had not been released. Water was still being released when these photos were taken.


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Beetaloo Dam A telephoto shot from near the left abutment


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Beetaloo Dam Downsteam side of the dam


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Beetaloo Dam Downsteam side of the dam


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Beetaloo Dam Downsteam side of the dam from the south-east. Some of the bushfire damage from the Bangor fire of January and February can be seen in the foreground and background.


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Beetaloo Dam The four sections of the spillway. The remaining part of the original spillway is on the left.

There is a large and deep erosion channel which was washed out many years ago just behind where I was standing when I took this photo.


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Beetaloo Dam Part of the new spillway is in the foreground, the old spillway in the background.


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Beetaloo Dam Spillway


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Beetaloo Dam Downsteam side of the dam


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Beetaloo Dam The old spillway. Since a new spillway was built at a metre or so lower level in about 1978, this one would only spill water in rare and extremely high flows.


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Beetaloo Dam

Photos taken 2015/09/06 when the dam was overflowing

The new viewing area and the (quite unnecessary and very annoying) new fence.

Note the gap large enough for people to squeeze through beneath the fence on the right. By July 2018 this had been blocked with barbed wire, but a large gate to the left of this area was being left open for fishers to enter.


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Beetaloo Dam The overflowing dam


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Beetaloo Dam The overflow itself


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Beetaloo Dam The full reservoir 2015/09/06


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Photos of July 2018

Picnic shed area
Picnic shed
Showing the fence and open gate
Click (or touch) for a high definition image

I think it was in early 2018 that a government decision was made to open the three reservoirs in the Mid North of South Australia – Beetaloo, Baroota and Bundaleer – for recreational fishing.

So after going to great expense to build about 700m of fences to keep people out (incidentally spoiling their views of the dam and reservoir) the gate was left open; but only for licensed recreational fishers; all others still were told to keep out.

Spoiled view and blocked hole
Barbed wire
Barbed wire blocking a place where people used to crawl through (before the gate was left open).
Dogs aren't allowed into the picnic area, I can't imagine why. This one couldn't read the signs.


Mustn't let kids have fun; they might bump their heads.
Cave
Our kids used to love playing in this little cave.


Not to be taken literally
Sign
Signs such as this have been displayed in Laura and several places in the Beetaloo Dam area. While they say that "All visitors require a current RecFishSA fishing permit" I believe that this is only if you want to go beyond the viewing area that overlooks the dam. SA Water seem to have a lack of saying one thing on their signs and meaning another – see below.

There is beautiful bushwalking country near and upstream of the reservoir, but again, people aren't allowed in. Why? Who knows?

Dogs too are not allowed; no swimming, no camping. Why? Who knows?

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Mixed messages, October 2016

 
Net page
I decided to visit the reservoir on 2016/10/18 because the recent rains would have filled it; in most years there is not enough run-off for it to fill.

I looked up the Net page to check that it would be open to the public (it has been open to the public during the non fire-ban season, so far as I know for the last several years, and this is outside the fire-ban season).

The Net page (a part of which is shown on the right) said it was open.

 
Sign
So I drove to the reservoir. I came across the sign shown on the right 7km before the reservoir; again, it said that the reservoir was open, but then it said that it was closed as well as open (it brings to mind Schrodinger's cat doesn't it).

I continued on until I came to a closed gate. I asked a bloke who was with a team doing some fencing on the far side of the gate what the story was. He told me that SA Water were working on the road into the reservoir and that the area was closed to the public while the work was done.


What of another reservoir in the same region, Baroota?

 
Net page
There's Schrodinger's bloody cat again!

Not open to the public, but feel free to visit any time of the day or night!