Construction of the dam started in 1935 but had to be suspended in 1942 due to World War II. The dam was finally completed in 1959 and holds a 904,000-megalitre reservoir of water at full capacity.
The site for the dam was first recommended by Henry Plantagenet Somerset after the 1893 Brisbane Floods. Henry Somerset sent riders on two occasions to warn Brisbane of the impending flood in 1893 from his Caboonbah Homestead which had extensive views of the Brisbane and Stanley Rivers. The first rider was Harry Winwood, a local bullock driver who rode to Esk with a telegram for the post master general, but not a soul was warned. The second rider Billy Mateer had better luck when he rode to North Pine to raise the alarm and warn Brisbane residents.
In 1906 Henry Somerset invited the water board to inspect the Stanley Gorge after suggesting for a number of years that a dam across the gorge would provide flood mitigation in the Brisbane Valley and increase water storage for the city of Brisbane. It wasn’t until 1933, when the then government adopted the Brisbane River flood mitigation and water supply scheme to generate employment during the depression. By 1935 hundreds of men had started work on the Stanley Dam and accommodation was constructed for up to 1000 workers and their families. It was at this time that the residents requested that the name of the dam be changed to Somerset in honour of Henry Somerset who had the foresight to propose the site.
Today Somerset Dam is a recreational paradise, offering three day use areas at the Spit, Kirkleagh and Westvale Road. A number of popular recreation activities including, boating, skiing, jet skiing, canoeing, sailing, swimming and fishing are permitted on the dam for the enjoyment of visitors.
Pick up a copy of the Somerset visitor guide at one of our visitor information centres in Esk, Fernvale and Kilcoy for a comprehensive map of Somerset Dam and the region or contact Seqwater for more information.
Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 2000, Heritage Trails of the Great South East, Fergies Image Press, Brisbane.