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touring snowy hydro scheme
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Touring The Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme

When many people think of The Snowy Mountains, they think of endless outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, horse riding and water skiing. And it is true that Kosciuszko National Park and its surrounds are an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise!

But Australia’s premier alpine national park is also home to the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme which is one of the greatest engineering feats of our modern time. The many fascinating historical, social and physical aspects of ‘The Scheme’ provide endless opportunities for sightseeing and learning, and all within the spectacular surrounds of Kosciuszko National Park.

From as early as the 19th century, European explorers saw the opportunity to capture water from the Snowy, Murrumbidgee and Tumut rivers that would naturally flow east of the Great Dividing Range, and divert it west of the divide into the developing farm lands. It wasn’t until early in the 20th century that governments started to seriously contemplate a scheme that could achieve this, and realised that hydro-electricity could also be generated at the same time. They were initially hampered by the fact that it would take the cooperation of two states – Victoria and New South Wales – as well as input and funding from the federal government. Eventually legal, logistical and clerical problems were overcome, advancements were made in engineering, and in 1949, the first blast was detonated at Adaminaby.

The Scheme was completed on time and under budget, which is relatively unheard of today! In the 25 years it took to build, 80km of aqueducts, 140km of tunnels, 16 dams, 7 power stations and 2000km of roads were constructed. Because 98% of The Scheme is underground, there was a lot of tunnelling, often through solid granite, which meant that the work was dirty, wet, noisy, smelly and dangerous. 121 men died on The Scheme, and many say that there were more unreported deaths.

Many of these men were new Australians. Because Australia did not have the expertise at the time for such an ambitious project, many companies from Europe were approached to tender for various parts of the construction. Over 25 years, more than 100,000 men from over 30 different countries worked on The Scheme. Remember that this was immediately post World War II, and one would expect that tensions amongst workers would have been high. Besides some early squabbles between some German and Polish workers, the atmosphere was largely congenial. Most workers were glad to be away from post WWII Europe and were focussed on working hard and enjoying their new life in Australia.

65% of the workforce were from countries including Germany, Greece, Poland, Yugoslavia, Norway, Italy, Ireland and Great Britain. Many men brought their families with them, and the women had to endure the harsh, often sub-zero conditions of the the high alpine. Whole villages were constructed and often included a church, community hall and a school. When work was completed in one area, the whole village was dismantled and moved on to create the next new ‘town.’

Work on The Scheme was finished in 1974, at a cost of $820 million (the equivalent of $6.5 billion today). Many of the European workers stayed on in the Monaro, and some were instrumental in the creation of the modern ski industry of the area. Cooma, which was a sleepy farming town prior to The Scheme, ballooned to a population of over 10,000 replete with bars, night clubs and ‘exotic’ food! It is still said today that Cooma was the birthplace of multicultural Australia.

The Scheme greatly increased the pool of engineering expertise available in Australia, as well as creating several Australian ‘firsts.’ Snowcom was built by the University of Sydney, and was Australia’s first transistorised computer, and the first of a dozen or so computers worldwide. A new system of Rockbolting was developed for use across the ceilings of tunnels that proved to be cheaper and safer than using concrete to support tunnel walls. The Scheme was also the site of the introduction of compulsory seat belts in vehicles, 10 years before the rest of Australia. This quickly proved to be necessary to protect workers from serious injury while operating vehicles in very mountainous terrain.

The Scheme is endlessly fascinating, and while you are in Jindabyne, you can visit museums about The Scheme, sites that are part of the history of The Scheme, and infrastructure that was built during The Scheme and is now managed by Snowy Hydro. The touring route that takes you past most of these places can be seen in the map below. To just drive the whole route would take several hours, so it is best to break it up into a few day trips, and also catch a couple of the sites on the way back home.


Places to visit on The Snowy Hydro Scheme

touring snowy hydro scheme


Lake Jindabyne and Jindabyne Dam wall

The construction of Jindabyne Dam started in the first year of The Scheme – 1949. A large camp was built beside Jindabyne town to house the workers, and in 1953 the camp ‘closed’ and was moved to Tumut. The Snowy Authority had learnt many lessons from the moving of the town of Adaminaby, and in 1961 planning of new Jindabyne commenced. Only a few houses were moved up to the new site, but the whole cemetery was moved! Other houses were demolished, the bridge was blown up, and in 1967, inundation began. With the damming of the ‘Mighty Snowy’, the river was reduced to 1% of its natural flows; something that would not happen today with our increased environmental awareness.

The Jindabyne Dam wall is 72m high, and the lake is the fourth biggest in The Scheme at nearly 700,000 mega litres. Lobbying from many groups earlier this century, resulted in environmental flows of 27% (of the river’s natural flow) being legislated by government and managed by Snowy Hydro. The plume of water emanating from the dam wall during releases is quite a spectacular sight. There is a great viewing platform on top of the dam wall looking north. When you are driving out of Jindabyne towards Cooma, you can pull off to the right, immediately after the dam wall, and walk back over to the north side of the road to the paved viewing area. Alternatively, you can walk 3km along the dirt track from Poo Bay, just behind the Bowling Club, off Cobbon Cr.


Surge Tower

The Waste Point Surge Tank is 13.7km from Jindabyne, and its Surge Tower is a prominent landmark on the Kosciuszko Road. The tank and tower relieve water pressure from the pipeline between Island Bend and Lake Jindabyne. It can be hard to enter the reserve coming from Jindabyne, so it is best to enter on your way back down the hill from Perisher or Charlotte Pass.


Island Bend

22km along Kosciuszko Rd from Jindabyne, you will see the turn off to Guthega (Guthega Rd). 5km along this road, you will come to Island Bend Campground. This is the site of the Island Bend township, established in 1952 and demolished in 1966-68. The township was constructed to house the families of men working on the power station at Island Bend and Guthega Dam. There is not much left of the once bustling town that comprised of houses, roads, a community hall and a church. Island bend is also the site of one of the most infamous accidents of The Scheme, where three men were caught in liquid concrete and died.


Guthega Dam and Guthega Power Station

At the end of Guthega Rd is the small ski resort village of Guthega (part of Perisher Resort) and Guthega Pondage. The dam at Guthega, on the upper reaches of the Snowy River, was the first in the Scheme to be built. Because it was the first, Australia still lacked some of the engineering expertise required, and the Norwegian company Selmer Engineering won the contract. Selmer had extensive experience in similar projects in Norway, where all power is hydro-electric. The Norwegian workers however were not happy with the conditions they encountered – tents as shelter, no hot showers, and margarine instead of butter! The first electricity of the Scheme was generated at Guthega Power Station in 1955 when the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, opened the intake valves to start up the turbines. This intentional early production of electricity helped to dispel public doubts about the cost of the project.


Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre

In 1997, the NSW government and the Victorian State Electricity Commission joined to form Snowy Hydro Trading in order to sell electricity to the National Energy Market. They were joined in 2000 by the Commonwealth Government, and in 2002, Snowy Hydro was corporatised to form Snowy Hydro Limited which now operates and maintains the Snowy Mountains Scheme; recognised as one of the modern civil engineering wonders of the world.

The Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre is a fabulous facility on the north side of Cooma, which houses an extensive photographic collection, models, exhibits and interactive displays about The Scheme’s engineering, history, water management, power generation, the National Electricity Market and the new Snowy 2.0 project. The knowledgeable staff run Visitor Experience Sessions every half an hour from 8am to 4pm. They also have some of the best coffee in town!


Snowy Scheme Museum

Located in Adaminaby, this wholly volunteer created and run museum of the history of The Scheme is a must-see. In three large halls, they have a collection which comprises of machinery, historic vehicles, artworks, photographs, maps, plans, paper records, small tools and equipment, medical equipment and domestic items of The Scheme’s era.

While you are in Adaminaby, you can take a snap in front of the ‘Big Trout’, have lunch at the bakery, and buy local arts and crafts at the CWA shop. You can also see the old bank building that was transported from the old town, and the beautiful St John’s Anglican Church which was relocated brick by brick!



Further north west from Adaminaby, along the Snowy Mountains Highway, is the town of Talbingo. In the small shopping centre, you will find a Snowy Hydro display, and 5km past the village is Tumut 3 Power Station – the biggest in The Scheme. You cannot tour Tumut 3, but there are two fantastic viewpoints up a dirt road behind the power station. From the highest viewpoint, you look straight south down the mighty Talbingo Reservior, the southern end of which will be linked to Tantangara Dam via the Snowy 2.0 project.



The Snowy Hydro town of Cabramurra is quite a sight to see. The original camp was constructed in 1951 on the western side of the hill that now houses the lookout. Considering that the prevailing weather systems come from the south west, the more permanent town was built in a more ‘sheltered’ location. The roofs of the houses are a steep single pitch facing south west, which not only protects from the harsh winds, but also allows for the accumulated snow to quickly slide off.

Cabramurra has a visitor information centre, souvenir shop, café and bistro that are open to the public. It is definitely worth a stop on your way between Kiandra in the east, and Khancoban or Tumbarumba in the west.


Murray 1 and Murray 2

The visitor centre at Murray 1 Power Station has been undergoing renovations for the last few years. In the interim, Murray 2 Power Station near Khancoban has been hosting visitors and providing a very informative and interesting tour of the facility. Tours are free and are held at 11am and 2pm daily.

Touring The Scheme has something for everyone, so come and see us to experience The Scheme for yourself. Enjoy the attractions of one of the modern engineering wonders of the world, and all while touring through one of the most spectacular national parks in Australia!




Resources Used





Raymond, R (1999) A vision for Australia – The Snowy Mountains Scheme 1949-1999





Top 10 Things To Do In Jindabyne + The Snowy Mountains
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Top 10 Things To Do In Jindabyne

There is more to Jindabyne and the Snowy Mountains than skiing. With a buffet of activities on offer in the region the Snowy Mountains is fast becoming a four season destination.

Visiting the Snowy mountains is no longer a one night stop over, we are noticing a huge increase in tourism to the region where the average night stay is now 3 nights.

We highly recommend using Jindabyne as a base, as the alpine town is nestled at the base of Kosciuszko National Park and makes accessing all activities very easy.

If you are looking for a summer Alpine escape here are ten things we highly recommend you do or see while staying in the iconic Snowy Mountains.

10 Things To Do In Jindabyne

Hike Mount Kosciuszko

Kosciuszko National park spans 6900 square Kilometres and boasts some of the best hiking trails in Australia. With the Great Dividing Range running right through Kosciuszko National park it is the home to the highest mountain in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko, standing at 2228m.

Mount Kosciuszko’s original native name was Kunama Namadgi meaning snow and mountain. It was visited during the summer months by The Aboriginal people from the coast who would feast on the Bogong moth that Migrate to the region every year.

In 1840 polish explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki discovered and gave Mount Kosciuszko its current name in honour of the Polish Military leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko. Strzelecki approached the climb from Geehi which would have been tricky even in today’s modern day, however lucky for you the climb these days has a much easier approach.

You have two options to start your adventure from,  you can start from either Thredbo or Charlotte pass. Thredbo is a 35min drive from the Jindy Inn and gives you the option of catching the chairlift 9am to 4pm to eagles nest where you begin the 13km return walk. Refreshments are available from the middle November to May at Eagles Nest restaurant 10am to 3pm. The walk is rated easy-moderate and will take 4 to 5 hours to complete, walking along a purpose built track that aims to protect flora and fauna, taking you over bubbling streams, fields of wild flowers and past alpine lakes.

If you are not up for the entire walk then it is lovely to catch the chair up on a clear day and just walk to the Mount Kosciusko look-out which is approximately 3.5 kilometres return and then treat yourself to some lunch or a coffee and cake at Eagles Nest Restaurant – which by the way has some pretty amazing views from the window. Read our guide on walking to Mount Kosciuszko via Thredbo.

For the adventurous and those up for a scenic day hike we highly recommend approaching Mt Kosi via Charlotte Pass on the Main Range circuit. The drive to Charlotte Pass from the Jindy Inn is around 45min taking you past Perisher Valley first and then up to Charlotte Pass Ski Resort, where the restaurant is only open during the busy times of summer, so be sure to take food and water for your walk.  During the busy periods you will find a small kiosk open at the Air Tbar that is just past Perisher Valley.

The Main Range track is an 18.6km circuit walk and is a grade 3 and will take you 6 to 8 hours to complete. We recommend completing the circuit anti-clockwise – walking the fire trail section on your return. If you have a mountain bike the fire trail can be done as a return route where you can ride your bike up to Rawson’s pass, where there are bike stands to leave your bike so that you can walk the final route to the summit.

The air is fresh and the scenery magical. Both walks are not accessible from June to October as they are snowbound. Be mindful to check the weather as conditions can change quickly in alpine regions so please ensure you bring all-weather gear plus carry appropriate safety gear, food and water for your hike. There are toilets at Rawson’s Pass.


Lake Walk

The beautiful lake Jindabyne was originally the mighty snowy river that meandered its way through the old township of Jindabyne. In 1964 Old Jindabyne was moved and the new town was built in anticipation of the mighty snowy river being dammed to create beautiful Lake Jindabyne. The area was flooded in 1967 as a part of the snowy mountains scheme. In recent times wonderful trails have been built to take in the beauty of this lake.

A purpose built foot path runs from Strzelecki park in Jindabyne to the Discovery caravan park near the turn off to Thredbo. This is an easy walk that is roughly 3.5 km one way and would take 1.5hours return depending on your fitness level. This path is a shared trail and can be used to ride bikes, skateboards and is also accessible for wheelchairs. For the adventurous, a single trail continues on past the Discovery Caravan park to hatchery bay. This is a purpose build mountain biking trail but takes in the country side for those wishing for a longer walk around the lake. Keep an eye and ear out for mountain bikers and be sure to move off the trail if you are continuing to Hatchery Bay.


Stand-up Paddle Boarding On Lake Jindabyne

Lake Jindabyne is a great spot for stand up paddle boarding. If you are new to SUPing then Lake Jindabyne is the perfect place to get comfortable as there are no currents, the water is usually flat and on most summer days the water is like a mirror where you can see your reflection off the water.  Sacred Ride is a local shop who can cater to all your water sports need. With two locations, one in the centre of Jindabyne and also a location right on the lake these legendary locals will have you covered to hire your SUP, safety equipment and easily get you out on the lake. You can spend your time practicing techniques or adventure out to one of our two islands, Lion Island is the larger of the two and Cup Island is the smaller one. Curiosity rocks is also a great place to paddle to as well. For SUP and Kayak rental contact Sacred Ride on 1300 736 581 or  sacredride.com.au.

Alternatively if you would like to try Yoga SUP [which by the way is a lot of fun] check out The OM Collective for a timetable and booking online.



Lake Jindabyne is fed by the Snowy River, Thredbo River and Eucumbene River. Most of the water entering lake Jindabyne is run off from melting snow, so one would believe it is freezing year round in our beautiful lake. But by the time Mid December comes around the snow has melted, the temperatures are warming up and so is the temperature of the lake.

There are several beautiful swimming areas around the lake a really you can swim in most areas of the lake. The clay pits is one of the most popular places to lounge by the lake and partake in water sports. You get there by following Kosciuszko Road to the larger round-about in town and turn towards the lake. There are several areas to the left and right that are perfect to set up for a day of water activities or a quick swim out to the islands and back. One of our favourite areas to go swimming is also Rushes Bay in East Jindabyne – read our quick guide to getting to Rushes Bay here.


Horse Riding

If you haven’t seen the classic movie ‘The Man From Snowy River’, I’m sure you would of heard of this iconic film depicting the rugged and harsh environment of the Snowy Mountains, back in the day of the early pioneers. After watching this movie, I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to experience riding horses in the Alpine regions. Gone are the days where you can ride horses in the National Park but you most certainly can ride horses in the country side surrounding Kosciuszko National Park. There are several horse riding opportunities around the snowy mountains. Thredbo Valley Horse Riding is situated only 10min from the Jindy Inn along the Alpine way. Thredbo Valley Horse Riding offers 1, 1.5, 2 & 3 hour horse rides. There are half day adventures available as well as 10min pony rides for the little ones under 8 years of age. Thredbo Valley Horse Riding is contactable on 02 562142 or thredbovalleyhorseriding.com

For the more adventurous at heart Snowy Wilderness is located 29km from Jindabyne and backs onto Kosciuszko National park. Snowy Wilderness run 2 to 5 multi day horse treks along with 1hour, 2hour, 3hour and half day horse rides. For information & bookings please call 1800 218 171 or go to their website snowywilderness.com.au


Wild Brumby Distillary

In the European Alps where it is too cold to make traditional wine, the distilling of schnapps proved to be the perfect replacement. Schnapps became a popular après drink for skiers to warm them up after a day on the mountain.

Monica and Brad the owners of Wild Brumby Distillery, pulled on Monica’s Austrian Grand Father’s knowledge of schnapps distilling, teaching Brad these methods to bring Austrian schnapps to the Snowy Mountains.

If tantalising your taste buds is what your into, then the Wild Brumby Distillery is an absolute must on your visit to the Snowy Mountains. You cannot go past the free Schnapps tasting with 3 Australian awards and 4 international awards for their fabulously distilled Schnapps, they sure have coined the market for schnapps in Australia.

The Wild Brumby distillery have also created a Vodka with a difference plus an award winning Gin using Mountain botanicals and local produce.  Stroll the grounds taking in the beautiful sculptures that adorn the the area outside of the restaurant. Enjoy the decadent selection of lunch and desert from the restaurant while sipping a cocktail made from their famous schnapps. You can also peruse the cellar door to take a bottle of your favourite schnapps, Vodka or Gin home. Open 10am to 5pm daily and located on the Alpine Way at Crackenback Valley.


Snowy Hydro Visitors Centre

In Adaminaby, October 1949, the first blast commenced the start of what has been labelled one of the worlds modern engineering marvels. The Snowy Hydro-electric scheme brought 100 000 men and women from 30 countries to the area to build 16 major dams, 145km of tunnels and pipelines, 80km of aqueducts, 9 major power stations, 33 turbines that produce hourly 4500 gigawatts of clean renewable hydro-electric power.

The scheme also diverts water from the Snowy, Eucumbene and Murrumbidgee rivers, west, to the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers to counteract severe drought. There is so much more to this amazing scheme than just this basic information and you will find everything you need to know at the Snowy Hydro visitors centre on the Monaro Highway, Cooma. Every half hour their very knowledgeable staff run a visitor experience session 7 days a week to answer all of your questions. The Discovery Café is open the same times as the centre 8am to 4pm and we have  on good authority it’s one of the places to go for coffee in Cooma.  You can phone the Discovery centre on 02 6453 2888


Mountain Biking

The Snowy Mountains have been blessed with an amazing crew of keen mountain bikers that have put in the hard yards with council to get funding and projects off the ground to build some amazing mountain biking trails in our area. Thredbo, Lake Crackenback, Bungarra and now Cooma boast some world class single tracks. In Jindabyne itself we have direct access to trails that go in both directions around the lake. The hatchery bay trail is one of our easiest trails and this can be accessed by following the path that runs along the lake to the discovery caravan park. At the Discovery Caravan park to locate the continuation of the single track follow the road to the green shed near the boat ramp. To the left of the shed you can see the single track that winds through cattle grazing land on fairly flat terrain. Ideal for the beginner mountain biker.

From hatchery Bay the trail now links up with the TVC [Thredbo Valley Crackenback] trail where you can ride all the way to either Crackenback Resort or continue up to Thredbo.

For those with a little more pump in their legs heading towards the dam wall along the lake from Poo Bay will link you up with the Mill creek shared trail. This trail is slightly more advance but still ok for a beginner to intermediate rider. The Mill creek trails will take you to Tyrolian village and has several offshoots, for a little bit more of a thrilling ride for the more experienced rider.



Yoga gives you the ability to strengthen the mind, the body whilst promoting flexibility and deep relaxation. Quieting the mind allows a calmness to spread throughout the body which then reduces stress that then contributes to a more peaceful lifestyle. The focus directed in each yoga pose allows this to happen naturally. Lengthening of muscles and the movement of joints brings ease of movement to the body and generally reduces pain associated with modern day society and aging bodies. For  a small town Jindabyne has many Yoga schools that are all fabulous in their own right. The Jindy Inn’s pick is The Om Collective who run yoga classes at the local sailing club by the lake and also run 3, 4 and 7 day yoga retreats. Why not take in the sites and do yoga in one hit by combining a yoga class into your morning walk along the lake path that literally takes you right past the sailing club. If your new to yoga or don’t like crowds, try a private session with one of our instructors. Spots are limit so to secure your spot book and pay direct online over at theomcollective.org



Last but not least after all of these fabulous activities that have got your blood pumping, your muscles moving and the mind clear; your next step is to treat yourself to a relaxing massage to wash away any aches and pains to which will aide in recovery so that you can be ready for your next adventure. The Jindy in has a massage Therapist on call to come to your room, specialising in Remedial Massage, who has almost 20 years experience. Jindabyne Mobile Massage has been helping clients in the area since 2000 and a massage with them should definitely be on your list. You can contact them on 0412 033 742 or jindabynemassage.com.au



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Alpine Safety

Exploring the backcountry of Kosciusko National Park is both iconic and beautiful. However, conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and it is essential that you are well prepared. Please find the Alpine Safety guidelines fact sheet from National Parks. Don’t forget to plan and prepare before you head out.