Mount Schank - Mount Gambier's little brother.
Overshadowed by its famous neighbour, the Blue Lake, Mount Schank is a dormant volcano that looks like a small hill halfway between Mount Gambier and Port MacDonnell. By geological standards it’s a young volcano, first erupting between 4500 and 5000 years ago.
Geologists believe it formed following two phases of volcanic activity. A smaller crater, which can be seen from the southern side of the rim, is a remnant of the first phase.
The trail up the outside of Mount Schank is fairly steep. Steps have been cut into the hillside and there are several seats along the way. Thankfully, these appear more frequently near the top. The view from the rim across lush farmlands certainly makes the climb worthwhile. For a complete 360° view you’ll need to take the rough narrow trail encircling the crater.
Whereas the Blue Lake’s crater sits below the water table and is fed by groundwater flowing slowly through the underlying limestone, Mt Schank’s crater lies above the water table and is dry. A steep overgrown path descends to the crater floor where you’ll find yourself in an amphitheatre formed by the walls. To the north you’ll notice a ridge that is believed to be the remnant of a cinder cone from an earlier eruption.
Given the idyllic rural setting that now surrounds Mount Schank, it’s difficult to imagine the mayhem and destruction its violent eruption must have caused. But it seems that some of the locals witnessed it, albeit several thousand years ago. Aboriginal folklore, as recorded by missionary Christina Smith in the mid-1850s, includes the story of Craitbul, a giant ancestor of the Boandik people, who constructed Mount Schank as an oven.
The moaning of a bird spirit drove him and his family away and they built another oven at Mount Gambier. This one, and the next three, were flooded. These represent Mount Gambier’s four crater lakes – Blue, Valley, Browne and Leg of Mutton. A falling water table has seen Browne Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake dry up.
Things have since settled down at Mount Schank and visitors can now enjoy a barbecue in the pleasant picnic area near the carpark.
Nuts and Bolts
- Mount Schank is a 15 minute drive south of Mount Gambier.
- The lawned picnic area has a toilet, a picnic table, a barbecue and a shelter.
- There is no accommodation or camping facilities at Mount Schank but nearby Mount Gambier has plenty of both.
- To climb Mount Schank, walk the rim and descend to the crater floor, allow at least a couple of hours.
- Wear sturdy walking shoes and carry water.
- Be particularly careful on windy days, as sections of the crater rim are quite narrow.