Lake Tali Karng: the sacred, hidden lake
Tali Karng is a magical-sounding name for a freshwater lake nestled between hills, high up in the Victorian Alps. Accessible only by foot, it is known as the ‘hidden lake’. It is an extraordinary place of stillness and beauty that is worth the considerable effort required to get there.
However, it was not always still and quiet here. This is the site of a massive landslide that is believed to have occurred around 1500 years ago when tons of rock collapsed into what is now known as the Valley of Destruction. This landslide, which created the lake, is likely to have severely impacted on the Traditional Owners, the Gunaikurnai, whose connection with this land dates back at least 30,000 years.
Tali Karng is a sacred place to the Gunaikurnai people. However, permission has been given for visitors to undertake this signature walk provided they do not camp at the lake itself overnight. Visitors are requested to keep in mind the sensitive nature of the site and treat the environment with utmost care.
The views and landscape of Tali Karng and its surrounds are so magnificent it is easy to appreciate its special cultural significance. With a depth of up to 50 metres and fed by the Snowden and Nigothoruk Creeks and by the melted snow that runs off the Wellington Plains, the water in the lake is very cold.
To reach the lake is an epic walk to be undertaken by hardy and experienced bushwalkers who are fit, self-sufficient and well-prepared. The scenery changes from snowgum forests with towering trees to grassy plateaus that are home to native alpine grasses, until you reach the hills that surround the lake itself. It is possible to go right down to the shore of the lake, and even take a swim if you are brave enough!
There are three main routes to walk to the lake. The easiest route is via McFarlane Saddle and Wellington Plains, which is 13km each way or around a 9 hour return walk. The Wellington River/Clive Lanigan Track route is 17km each way, or around 13 hours return. It does involve 16 river crossings so it is not for the faint-hearted! The longest and most challenging route is 20km each way via Tamboritha Rd; it requires remote navigation skills and climbing over Mount Margaret to the Dolodrook River, where there is a campsite. This route is not marked or maintained and the going is slow so it's best to carry plenty of food and water.
Out of respect for Indigenous culture, no camping is allowed at the lake itself. There are plenty of alternative campsites nearby, such as the popular Nyimba Camp en route to the lake at the south end of the Wellington Plains where a toilet is provided. Camping is also available at many pretty sites along the Wellington River below the lake.
The closest town to the lake is Licola, which is about 250km from Melbourne, on the banks of the Macalister River. As the gateway to the Alpine region, its general store stocks maps as well as food and fuel supplies.
Tali Karng is a spot that deserves the attention of all avid hikers because its natural beauty - far away from traffic and noise - provides an ultimate bushwalking and camping experience. Knowing that it has special significance to the Gunaikurnai people makes you aware that it is truly a privilege to be allowed access to this sacred lake steeped in culture and mythology. The fact that it takes effort, time and dedication to get there seems entirely appropriate.