"The ups and downs of CAPTAINS FLAT" Captains Flat by tiabunna

Captains Flat Travel Guide: 19 reviews and 83 photos

The story is that it all started with a bull by the name of ‘Captain’. Back in the mid 1800s Captain lived on a nearby property, but was prone to wandering. When he’d put a smile on the face of all the cows he could find, he’d head for his favourite grassy flat on the bank of the Molonglo River. Naturally, the area became known as ‘Captain’s Flat’ (then, more recently, the Australian mapping people decided that apostrophes were too difficult, so they dropped them from Australian place names).

Next, gold was found in the area in 1864 and later copper. By the 1880s, two large mining companies were operating. Silver, lead, zinc and copper later became more important than gold and the mining companies merged to form “Lake George Mines”. By 1890 there were six general stores and five hotels. Then …. bust! In 1899, the mines closed when operations became uneconomic for various reasons and most people left.

Things were pretty quiet until 1937 when metal prices again improved and a new “Lake George Mines” company successfully tested a new ore extraction process. Simultaneously, electric power was brought in, the government agreed to build a railway, and a reservoir was built to provide an assured water supply. The town was back in business and again rapidly grew and prospered for many years. Then …. bust again! In March 1962, the mines closed with little warning, as did the company – leaving the town with no apparent future. And, it must be said, also leaving some very substantial environmental problems of unstable tailings heaps; heavy metals leaching into the river; and earlier settlement pond collapses which had spewed their toxic mess downstream.

Although many people left and much of the town was dismantled, those who stayed proudly proclaimed Captains Flat as the town that refused to die. Certainly it now is a shadow of its former heydays when the population rose to over 5000, but it has avoided the ‘ghost town’ status of so many former mining towns. Recently a new chapter is beginning, as ‘The Flat’ is gradually discovered by day tourism: and maybe the whole process is about to enter a new round, as yet another mining company is busily prospecting the area. Could there be another “Lake George Mines” some day?

At under an hour’s easy drive to the southeast of Canberra, ‘The Flat’ merits a visit as a somewhat different ‘off the beaten path’ destination. The colours in the rocks of the old mine workings are interesting and photogenic. Meanwhile, the obvious environmental problems provide a cautionary reminder of the need to take better care of the world than was done in the past. And that’s no bull!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An interesting former mining town
  • Cons:Environmental issues
  • In a nutshell:Worth visiting and leaves a message.
  • Intro Updated Apr 1, 2007
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Reviews (11)

Comments (22)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Feb 27, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    That mine sounds like a real remote place nowadays, and bring your own soap. The tailing piles leave a remembering of the past and fame. You present this area in a nice manner

  • Aug 28, 2009 at 4:14 AM

    Thanks for the great plug. The Captains Flat Webmaster www.captainsflat.org

  • junecorlett's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2009 at 3:31 AM

    I could easily have that Pancake stack on my own - no sharing. Interesting page George.

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Apr 2, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    Interesting story about the ups and down of mining and city development. Interesting accounts also about the environmental situation improving.

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2009 at 6:20 AM

    Thanks George for a glimpseof another interesting rural place to visit. What a wonderful overview, and story about Captain. Lol! One lucky bull he was, making the ladies smile! That gallery/restuarant looks like a must see .

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Oct 27, 2008 at 12:28 AM

    Hi george, now I know why this place is called Captains Flat :) Thanks a lot for showing me around, really appreciate it!

  • fachd's Profile Photo
    Oct 19, 2008 at 4:31 PM

    Interesting old mining town. It has been awhile since I visited Captains Flat, one day I'll go for a ride on my mb to CF. Wow CF has up to date restaurant.

  • DennyP's Profile Photo
    Sep 22, 2008 at 4:00 AM

    great page mate...the story of so many small oz towns isn't it..keep up the good work..take care Denny P..

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Oct 14, 2007 at 7:24 AM

    ah gunther and christine, mates of ours, we have many of his pictures - one on my wall above the desk - i used to have a captains flat page but deleted it in a fit of pique!

  • thedouglas's Profile Photo
    May 7, 2007 at 2:01 AM

    George, you've done it again! Found a little Aussie town, and woven a wonderful story and found some little treasures - of all sorts!

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