Landmarks of Lennox: Lake Ainsworth

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Giant eels and boogie men are stories of Lake Ainsworth in the early 20th century.  Whether life form existed in the ‘Lagoon’ waters, stained to a cola colour by surrounding tea trees, is speculative.

Dorothy Thompson recollects her father’s cattle would not drink there but others remember the aromatic waters being wonderful for washing hair with soap.

Lake Ainsworth is a perched (contained, impervious) lake, with its water source from rain and immediately adjacent wetlands.


Named for James Ainsworth (1843-1924) who selected land on North Creek, the Lake has long been favoured for picnics and swimming.


Sydney Gibbon (Snr) built a diving tower with tea tree poles in the 1940s.  A diving board enhanced the replacement until a lean demanded demolition.  The later pontoon lodged in the western bank during a 1960s’ cyclone.

In an effort to raise interest in the 1922 Lennox Head Estate auction, promoters contracted Messrs Stratford to transport one of the Lake’s first motor launches from Lismore.  The journey by horse drawn wagon took seven hours.

Water ski-ing later became a popular activity on the Lake until two horrific accidents in the early 1960s.

Power and Motor Boats

In 1963 and 1964, two Lennox Head 11 year olds were struck by ski boat propellers in the shallows of Lake Ainsworth.  Clyde Burrows suffered horrific injuries to the face and Joanne Hepburn’s left foot was severely injured.  Operations disrupted their schooling.  Nevertheless, Joanne became a psychologist and Clyde an engineer.


Motors were replaced by wind and people power.


The Lake shows symptoms of being ‘loved to death’ by the volume of visitors, contaminated runoff, unauthorised introduction of fish species and disruption to its drainage by the roadbase of the eastern road.

Volunteers of the Lennox Head Residents’ Association initiated programmes in 1989 to ‘rejuvenate the adjoining sand dunes and replant areas around the Lake’.  There are now shady trees, picnic tables and barbeques.  In 1997 a bubbling aerator was installed to assist in destratifying the waters and reducing frequency of blue-green algae infestations.


Algae and water hyacinth are symptomatic of a Lake which is unable to self cleanse.  Tests by Ballina Shire Council rated water quality in some areas ‘poor’ (2014-15) because of faecal coliform levels, although generally safe for swimming in dry conditions.

Potential solutions include a controversial closure of the eastern road, approved by Ballina Shire Council several times since first moved in 2007 and finally in January 2016.

Sources (Lake Ainsworth):  Thompson D (nee Gibbon) and Stratford F, 2003, Ringing the Bell Backwards, Hilary Wilson (ed), Lennox Head Heritage Committee, Lismore;  Spyker M 2015, ‘Good and Bad News for Water’, The Lennox Wave, November, p18;  Lennox Head Heritage Committee records.

Sources (power and motor boats):  Landcare group, Lake Ainsworth and Surrounds Restoration Project, Lennox Head Residents Association Inc c 1994;  Spyker M 2015, ‘Good and Bad News for Water’, The Lennox Wave, November, p18; Fry H, 2015, ‘Lake Ainsworth-From Ballina Environment Society’, The Lennox Wave, February, accessed 20.01.16;  Lennox Head Heritage Committee

Readers with information on this or other Landmarks of Lennox, please contact Robyn Hargrave by phone 0412 660 994, email