Mount Isa was in desperate need for water due to expansion of the mine and the town. Rifle Creek Dam, to the south of Mount Isa, could no longer cope with the increasing demand, so in 1956, work began on the new Leichhardt Dam, 16 klms downstream from Mount Isa, on the Leichhardt River. The dam was built for Mount Isa Mines and was the largest water scheme, in Australia, financed by private enterprise.
After numerous problems, with rain causing delays, the 26.5 metre (87 feet) earth wall was completed early 1958. The earth wall was faced, on the dam side, with concrete and included walking access across the top of the wall. The new, £1.7 million Leichhardt Dam became operational on November 6, 1958. Rifle Creek Dam water was now completely available for use by the mine.
In 1960, 2000 tonnes of sand was spread on the foreshore at Transport Bay to transform the area into a magnificent beach and picnic area. 1962 saw a competition launched to name the dam and various picnic areas. On July 11, the Leichhardt Dam became Lake Moondarra. This aboriginal name means “plenty rain also thunder” and was selected from 471 entries submitted. 9 year old Danny Driscoll won the £10 prize on offer.
Immediately downstream from the dam wall, the most popular picnic area of all, was named Warrina Park, which is an aboriginal word meaning “place of rest”. Pontoons were added just offshore at Transport Bay, a kiosk was built and a ski jump provided massive weekend crowds with the finest recreation facilities available in any outback town in Australia.