Karalee Dam was constructed to provide water for slow steam trains en route to Kalgoorlie. The site was chosen mainly because of the granite outcrop; with rain the outcrop becomes a natural catchment area. Construction between 1896–1897, its capacity 10.6 million gallons, 1487 feet above sea level and 25 feet in depth. Retaining walls of granite slab, all cut from the top of the rock and laid by hand, surround the enormous rock catchment.
This enables the water to flow off the rock into the dam via a large semi-circular aqueduct of steel, hand riveted at each joint, which is still in very good condition considering its age and the natural harsh elements. To reflect upon the unbelievable manual labour and horsepower involved in this construction, is well worth the journey.
Trains would stop at Karalee with suspected “hot boxes” and consequent long waits until they cooled down was not a regular occurrence. However, when this happened drivers, crew and many passengers would adjourn to the Hotel.
Karalee railway siding, stone cottages for the station master, railway staff and barracks for the train crew along with the Hotel (which operated until September 1971, some 74 years) were the only buildings established.
The cottages and barracks were eventually dismantled and moved to Yellowdine. The Hotel located between Great Eastern Highway and the narrow gauge railway some 2km south of the dam catered for travellers and woodcutters, cutting timbers for mines and the steam operated pumping station.
After delicensing in 1971 and the license transferred to Kwinana where the “Karalee” name still stands, the Hotel catered for travellers, selling petrol, food and apparel. The walls of the Hotel were decorated with black and white paintings with an aboriginal theme. Vandals have since burnt down this historical architecture.
The Old York Road and telegraph line lie south of the dam. There also remains remnants of the old forge operated during the construction of the railway dams for the many horses. The deep water well and remains of the rock wall, smaller dam and one of Hunts Soaks are located near the old camping grounds used by weary travellers in the 1890s. Hunts Soak was constructed in the 1860s by convicts and pensioner soldiers. A walk over the rock enable the viewer to take in the terrain and vastness of the area with the view to Mt Clara, 2km to the north and Hermit Rock.
Karalee Dam is located off the Great Eastern Highway 34 km east of Southern Cross, heading towards Kalgoorlie, (18 km past Yellowdine Roadhouse). Turn left and continue on gravel for 4.2 kms. The site includes a caravan dump point, toilet facilities and large camping grounds with fire pits for cooking.
Please be mindful of the burning periods in the Shire when camping at Karalee Dam.
Karalee Dam Brochure