potential of this part if the continent was made
by the explorer Alexander Forrest in 1879, following previous exploration in the area by William Dampier in 1699. Lt Philip King in 1819 and George Gray in 1837 and 1840.
Forrest's glowing report of approximately 10 million hectares of fertile land created great interest, especially among eastern cattlemen, who were at the time constantly seeking new-watered pastures on which to settle. Their treks sometimes amounting to journeys of up to 5600km across the trackless north with the vast mobs of cattle, have become epics of Australian history.
Foremost amongst these were the Duracks, Buchanans and Osmonds who took upto 3.5 years to complete their journey, and who suffered hardship to reach this land and lay the foundations of what were to become the cattle empires of the Kimberley.
The damming of the Ord River was the first contemplated in 1939 and work commenced on the 20 years later with the building of the Diversion Dam and the township of Kununurra some 106km south east of the port of Wyndham.
In 1941, the West Australian government established a small experimental farm on the banks of the Ord River while its engineers investigated possible dam sites upstream. In 1945, the farm was abandoned and The Kimberley Research Station was established on Ivanhoe plain, part of the 15000ha now irrigation from the Diversion Dam.
Stage One: Diversion Dam By 1958 the WA government was convinced of the viability of an irrigation scheme on the Ord. The Federal Government agreed to share the cost of stage one and this was completed in 1963 at a cost of $20 million. 1966 had allocated 31 farms. The irrigation project suffered initials setback, but is now extremely successful and grows a huge variety of produced.
Stage Two: The Ord Dam The second stage was the construction of the Ord River Dam to provide a major storage reservoir called Lake Argyle at a cost of $22 million. This was officially opened in 1972. As a part of stage 2 a further 200ha were allocated on the Packsaddle Plain and 5 farms were released in 1974.
Stage 3: The Hydro Power Station Aside from providing a reliable source of power to the region, the project has had a positive effect on tourism. It is the only commercial hydro power station in W.A. Replacing fossil fuels previously used to generate power. The hydro station harnesses a resource that would otherwise go to waste, which is environmentally a far better option. The power station was designed using 4 turbines and two 15 mega-watt generators to produce more than 220gigawatt hours of electricity per annum. At present the power station provides power for the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham and to the Argyle Diamond Mine.