The Crater lakes of the Atherton Tablelands were formed by volcanic activity less than 20 000 years ago.
Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine are twin volcanic craters which have filled with crystal clear, clean water to a depth of up to 65 metres. The Mount Hypipamee Crater is a volcanic vent formed by a massive explosion of subterranean gas.
The lakes are surrounded by complex rainforest with a wide variety of plant, animal, and bird species. Fish and turtles may be observed in the clear water from specially constructed viewing platforms. Walking trails lead around the lakes and through interesting parts of the rainforest.
Lake Barrine features a historic tea house and lake cruises. The lakeside walk features twin 1000 year old Kauri pines only 80 meters from the teahouse and accessible by wheelchair and families with small children.
Lake Eacham has picnic and barbecue facilities and a swimming pontoon. A National Parks information center is also located nearby.
Both Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine are protected as national parks and are listed as globally significant environments to be protected under the World Heritage Convention, and fall under the Wet Tropics Management Authority. More information on the national parks can be found at Lake Eacham, Crater Lakes National Park and Lake Barrine, Crater Lakes National Park
Lake Barrine was proclaimed a scenic reserve in 1888. Although the names of Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham look and sound English, they are actually anglicized forms of the aboriginal names. There was some controversy over the spelling and pronunciation that should be adopted, with Archibald Meston arguing they should be spelled Yeetcham and Borrang. A writer in The Brisbane Courier 7 January 1919 wrote:
"Why doth the heathen rage? Likewise why doth Mr. Meston wax wrathful because he finds that the two Yungaburra lakes do not carry his brand?
From the days of early settlement in north Queensland and the Atherton Tablelands, the Crater Lakes, and especially Lake Barrine were popular scenic spots. The status of scenic reserve, however, was not enough to protect the surrounding forest. When Mr. L. MacIntosh Ellis, the newly-retired director of forestry in New Zealand visited north Queensland in 1929, he told an interviewer:
It is a great pity that Lake Barrine reserve, that glorious forest treasure house, should continue to be ravaged by the ax, saw and fire of the timber-getter...It is without doubt the finest outstanding example of forest now remaining in the Queen State, and, in my travels through Australasia, I have not seen a primeval forest to compare with its unique, impressive, natural charm, unless it be that thousand years old Waipon Kauri forest in New Zealand,.."
1929 'LAKE BARRINE RESERVE.', Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954), 7 November, p. 7, viewed 20 October, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170056442
In 1931 the Lake Barrine and District Fish Acclimatization Society was formed and founded a fish hatchery on the lake. In August of that year, 30 000 trout fry were transported north by ship from Ballarat.
In 1932, the novelist Vance Palmer visited Lake Barrine and wrote an article The Romantic Lake Barrine in which he said
what a surprise to find a deep and brimming tarn, held in the crater of an extinct volcano as in a cup, and girdled by the most luxuriant jungle it has been my good fortune to see! Whatever romantic glamour surrounds the word "lake" in poetry belongs to Barrine.
Palmer also noted that perch had been introduced to the lake and had started to thrive. He made no mention of the trout.
In 1934, the Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine scenic reserves were gazetted as national parks. Mr. Harry Bruce, member for the Tablelands wrote from Brisbane to the Cairns Post announcing:
"Sir, for some time past, at the request of local bodies in the district, I have been in communication with the Minister for Public Lands with a view to having the Lakes Eacham and Barrine Reserves declared National Parks. Information is now to hand from the Minister for Lands, in response to my personal recommendation, to the effect that he has approved of action being taken to have these areas proclaimed National Parks..."
1934 'Lakes Eacham and Barrine.', The Northern Herald (Cairns, Qld. : 1913 - 1939), 26 May, p. 2, viewed 21 October, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article150248477