Leeawuleena - sleeping water
Aboriginal people called the lake Leeawuleena, meaning "sleeping water". The Tasmanian Aboriginal people have a long and continuing association with the area and today's vegetation patterns show signs of thousands of years of Aboriginal burning practices.
Early European visitors, impressed by the grandeur of the lake, often described it in highly romantic terms. During an 1842 expedition to the lake David Burn, a journalist accompanying Governor and Lady Franklin, was in awe of "the stupendous mountains by which it is encompassed." He described Mt Olympus standing above the lake "like a gigantic castle with donion, battlement and curtain wall." Franklin himself thought Lake St Clair the most beautiful he had ever seen.
Lake St Clair, like much of the highlands of Tasmania, is the result of the action of ice during previous glaciations. The basin in which the lake lies was scoured out by the action of glaciers. Moraines, where debris is forced to the margins of the glacier, run along part of the length of the lake. The Watersmeet Track runs along the top of one of these moraines.
The lake is the deepest in Australia, with a maximum depth of 167 metres.
Most of Australia's mammals are nocturnal and difficult to see, but around Cynthia Bay you are likely to meet two species of wallaby. These are the Bennetts or red-necked wallaby, and the smaller, more timid Tasmanian pademelon. Occasionally wombats and quolls can be seen after dark.
Australia's two species of monotreme - echidnas and platypuses - are commonly seen around Cynthia Bay. Echidnas are most frequently seen from spring through to autumn in light bushland, often near tracks. Their presence is often indicated by freshly scratched earth. Platypuses are harder to find. They are quite sensitive to noise, but can sometimes be seen in the lake feeding around the shoreline.
Cynthia Bay sits on the boundary between dry and wet sclerophyll forests, two habitats that are home to a wide variety of birds. Many, such as black currawongs, strong-billed and black-headed honeyeaters, and the yellow wattlebird are found only in Tasmania.