Huge undeveloped area
Extending from Southern Cross in the north west, through to Coolgardie in the north east, Lake King in the south west and Salmon Gums in the south-east the Forrestania/Lake Johnston area is approximately 40,000 square kilometres in extent, or approximately 1.6% of the total area of Western Australia. It is about the size of Switzerland.
It is part of what is known as the Great Western Woodlands. Salmon gums and gimlet gums prevail. Soil type is an important determinant factor in vegetation
Vermin Proof Fence
The Vermin Proof Fence east of Hyden coincides with the line of rainfall required for successful farming. Farmers have taken up the land to the west, except for reserves. Undeveloped country east of the fence consists mainly of salmon gums and mallee – kofa country.
Gold discoveries and other attempts at settlement
The discovery of gold in the greenstone belt around the Forrestania/Lake Johnston area in 1915 attracted some settlement. Mines were worked all along the outcrop to the south for a few years but nothing rich was discovered and the activity petered out. The mines were re-worked from the 1980s and Forrestania remains an active mining area.
Owing to the low rainfall in this area (250-300mm p.a.) there has been virtually no agricultural settlement. Attempts at farming were tried in the late 1950s with two large pastoral leases being taken up in the vicinity of Lake Johnston. They were finally abandoned due to the lack of a reliable water supply. However, mining activity has developed in the north of the area at Southern Cross, Marvel Loch and Coolgardie.
Frank Hann, one of Western Australia’s most active explorers, named the Johnston Lakes – a feature of the area – in September 1901 after the Surveyor General of the time, H.F. Johnston.
© Kim Epton 1987-2018
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