What is behind this NSW lake's great disappearing act?
A disappearing lake in New South Wales is a source of mystery for first-time visitors but experts say there is a simple reason why the water levels fluctuate.
Lake George, located about 30 minutes' drive from Canberra, ranges from a vast body of water to a dustbowl depending on the year or even month.
The change has caught many drivers off guard as they drive along the Federal Highway in NSW.
So what is behind the lake's disappearing act?
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Why does Lake George's water appear and disappear?
Lake George is an endorheic basin, which means no rivers or creeks flow out of it.
The lake is replenished by rain and lost through both evaporation and underground seepage.
Professor Brad Pillans from the Australian National University (ANU) compares it to "a bird bath in your garden".
"There are times like the present when it looks like a magnificent lake and there are times where it's very dry," he said.
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When there's no water in the lake, researchers can drive onto the basin floor to take samples to develop a better understanding of the landmark's past.
"We had a big truck on the floor of the lake in 2015 and again in 2017," Pillans said.
"We drilled into the dry lake floor to recover a sediment core that tells us about its long history."
The ANU professor said the lake will remain for the rest of 2023 but water levels will drop if conditions are dry next year.
How deep is the lake?
At its deepest point, Lake George has been measured at 7.5 metres.
Because the basin is shallow and closed off, it accumulates salt from the catchment area, which, when it's flooded, makes the lake one of the saltiest bodies of water in inland NSW.
This earned the lake the name "Weereewa", which in the local Ngunnawal language means "bad water".
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Are there myths surrounding Lake George?
The tragic drowning deaths of five Duntroon naval cadets in 1956 made national news headlines and ignited rumours of an "inland Bermuda triangle" at the lake.
A coroner ruled strong winds and cold temperatures in the catchment contributed to the deaths.
Canberra tour guide Tim the Yowie Man said rescuers searched for the bodies but they weren't found for some time, which resulted in rumours the bodies had vanished.
"As the bodies were slowly found it wasn't big news and people just assumed those bodies weren't found," Tim said.
What makes Lake George a place of significance?
In 1901, Lake George was in the running to be Australia's capital city but the campaign fell flat during a drought the following year.
"A group of senators went out to the lake and it was completely dry," Tim said.
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"They were there with their horses and thought 'this is a swamp at best'."
The lake also attracted royal attention when the late Prince Philip visited for a secret bird-watching trip while he was in Australia to mark Canberra's Jubilee in 1963.
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