The Gordon Dam, also known as the Gordon River Dam, is a major gated double curvature concrete arch dam with a controlled spillway across the Gordon River, located in South West Tasmania, Australia. The impounded reservoir is called Lake Gordon.

Gordon Dam
Gordon Dam.jpg
The double arch wall of Gordon Dam holding back Lake Gordon
Gordon Dam is located in Tasmania
Gordon Dam
Location in Tasmania
LocationSouth West Tasmania
Coordinates42°43′50″S 145°58′35″E / 42.73056°S 145.97639°E / -42.73056; 145.97639Coordinates: 42°43′50″S 145°58′35″E / 42.73056°S 145.97639°E / -42.73056; 145.97639
Construction began1964 (1964)
Opening date1978 (1978)
Owner(s)Hydro Tasmania
Dam and spillways
Type of damArch dam
ImpoundsGordon River
Height140 m (459 ft)
Length198 m (650 ft)
Elevation at crest310 m above sea level
Width (crest)2.75 m (9 ft)
Width (base)17.7 m (58 ft)
Dam volume154×10^3 m3 (5×10^6 cu ft)
Spillwaysno spillway on Lake Gordon, spill is via Lake Pedder at serpentine dam (250 cubic meters/second)
Spillway typeControlled
CreatesLake Gordon
Total capacity12.4 km3 (3.0 cu mi)
Catchment area1,280 km2 (494 sq mi)
Surface area278 km2 (107 sq mi)
Gordon Power Station
Coordinates42°43′48″S 145°58′12″E / 42.73000°S 145.97000°E / -42.73000; 145.97000
Operator(s)Hydro Tasmania
Commission date1978; 1988
Turbines3 Fuji x 144 MW (193,107 hp)
Installed capacity432 to 450 MW (579,322 to 603,460 hp)
Capacity factor0.9
Annual generation1,388 GWh (4,997 TJ)

The dam was constructed in 1974 by the Hydro Electric Corporation (TAS) for the purpose of generating hydro-electric power via the conventional Gordon Power Station located below the dam wall.[1][2]

Features and locationEdit

The Gordon Dam wall, constructed with 154 thousand cubic metres (5.4×10^6 cu ft) of concrete, is 198 metres (650 ft) long and 140 metres (460 ft) high, making it the tallest dam in Tasmania and the fifth-tallest in Australia.[3] At 100% capacity the dam wall holds back 12,359,040 thousand cubic metres (436,455×10^6 cu ft) of water; making Lake Gordon the largest lake in Australia.[4] The surface area of the lake is 27,800 hectares (69,000 acres) and the catchment area is 2,014 square kilometres (778 sq mi). The single controlled spillway is capable of discharging 175 cubic metres per second (6,200 cu ft/s).[1]

Approximately 48 arch dams have been built in Australia and only nine have double curvature. Gordon Dam is almost twice the height of the next highest arch dam, Tumut Pondage.[4]: 5–6 

Power stationEdit

Water from the dam descends 183 metres (600 ft) underground into its power station, where three turbines of 144 megawatts (193,000 hp) generate up to 432 megawatts (579,000 hp) of power, covering about 13% of the electricity demand of Tasmania.[5] The first two turbines were commissioned in 1978, before the third was commissioned a decade later in 1988.[6]

The power station is fueled by water from Lake Gordon. Water from Lake Pedder is also drawn into Lake Gordon through the McPartlans Pass Canal at 42°50′51″S 146°11′45″E / 42.84750°S 146.19583°E / -42.84750; 146.19583 (McPartlans Pass Canal).


In 1963, the Australian Government provided an A$5 million grant to Tasmania's Hydro-Electric Commission to build the Gordon River Road from Maydena into the Gordon River area in the South West Wilderness region.[7] Construction was underway by 1964, and within three years, the Tasmanian State Parliament approved the Gordon River Power Development with little in house opposition in 1967. Power operation began in 1978, a third generator was added in 1988.

The completed Gordon Dam was the only dam built on the Gordon River, despite the support of Tasmanian politicians such as Eric Reece, Robin Gray, and others to build the Franklin Dam further downstream. The construction of Gordon Dam resulted in some flooding of the connected Lake Pedder as planned. Subsequent opposition to restore Lake Pedder failed after a Parliamentary inquiry in 1995.[8]

The dam was designed with Dr. Sergio Guidici as the chief engineer. He went on to be involved with the design of the Crotty Dam in the West Coast Range, one of the last significant dams created by Hydro Tasmania during its unabated dam-building era.

The dam is connected with the Gordon River Power Station, 183 metres (600 ft) under the surface of the switch yard.[9]

In 2015, the Perth-based YouTube channel How Ridiculous broke the world record for the world's highest basketball shot at Gordon dam, though this record has since been surpassed by How Ridiculous themselves twice over.[10]

2015–2016 Tasmanian energy crisisEdit

Due to an extreme drought in 2015 and the untimely failure of the related Basslink power feed, electricity production needs had drained the lake to its minimum operating level in March 2016.[11][12] The water level fell 45 metres to a record low of six per cent capacity.[13] Pictures document the dramatic effect.[13][14] After repair of Basslink and record rainfalls, Lake Gordon levels had recovered to -28 metres by January 2017.[11][15]

Engineering heritage awardEdit

The dam is listed as a National Engineering Landmark by Engineers Australia as part of its Engineering Heritage Recognition Program.[16]

See alsoEdit

Gordon Dam bridge
Coordinates42°43′50″S 145°58′34″E / 42.7306°S 145.976°E / -42.7306; 145.976
Width2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in)


  1. ^ a b c "Register of Large Dams in Australia" (Excel (requires download)). Dams information. Australian National Committee on Large Dams. 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Gordon Power Station Fact Sheet: Technical fact sheet" (PDF). Energy: Our power stations. Hydro Tasmania. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Australia's Highest Dams" (PDF). The Australian National Committee on Large Dams Incorporated. Archived from the original (pdf) on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2008. The five tallest dams listed in order of decreasing height are: Dartmouth Dam, 180 metres (590 ft), Victoria; Thomson River Dam, 166 metres (545 ft), Victoria; Talbingo Dam, 162 metres (531 ft), NSW; Warragamba Dam, 142 metres (466 ft), NSW; Gordon Dam, 140 metres (460 ft), Tasmania
  4. ^ a b "Gordon Dam, Tasmania: Submission for an National Engineering Landmark" (PDF). Engineers Australia. September 2000. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  5. ^ "The Gordon Catchment". Hydro Tasmania.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Gordon Dam: National Engineering Landmark" (plaque). Engineers Australia. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  7. ^ Thompson, Peter (1981). Power In Tasmania. Australian Conservation Foundation. p. 19. ISBN 0-85802-064-5.
  8. ^ "Gordon - Pedder Energy". Hydro Tasmania. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  9. ^ Townsend, Clif (14 June 2015). "The Gordon River Underground Power Station". Hyrdo 100. Hydro Tasmania. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  10. ^ WORLD RECORD Basketball Shot 126.5m (415 ft) - How Ridiculous
  11. ^ a b "What caused the 2015/16 energy challenge in Tasmania?". Hydro Tasmania. Archived from the original on 27 June 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  12. ^ Denholm, Matthew (15 March 2016). "Fighting to keep Tasmania's lights on in energy crisis". The Australian. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  13. ^ a b Gramenz, Emilie (31 March 2016). "Tasmanian energy crisis: Lake Gordon dam level fall captured in dramatic video". News. Australian Broadcast Corp. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  14. ^ AAP (29 March 2016). "Stark images reveal dire state of falling water level". Mercury. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Lake Gordon at Intake" (PDF). Hydro Tasmania. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Gordon Dam, Gordon River, 1974-". Engineers Australia. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Southwest National Park".