Lake King was Rutherglen’s first official water supply, as well as being a place of natural beauty. The Lake was filled by the natural contours of the land. A bank was built across a natural water course and channels were formed to carry the water from nearby catchment areas to fill what is now known as Lake King.
After gold was discovered in Rutherglen in 1860, 20,000 people came to the area to seek their fortune. A town of this size needed a permanent water supply and in 1862 a water trust was established.
The first sod to construct the reservoir was turned on 11th March 1874. In total 12,200 cubic metres of soil was excavated by horse pulled scoops. When it was finished the reservoir had a capacity of 120 million litres and had cost a total of 3,500 pounds. Daniel King, for whom the lake is named was Shire President at the time and a consistent advocate for a permanent water supply for Rutherglen.
In 1876 pipes were laid to a stand pipe in Murray Street from where water carters filled their barrels. The outlet is still there today. At the time it cost sixpence to fill a barrel of 300 litres. By 1896 150,000 litres of water was being sold every year.
The Lake King area soon became a public amenity and by 1881, Rutherglen Park, an area of 80 hectares, was very well established with avenues of trees radiating out from the entrance gates. The area immediately behind the lake was a racecourse. At one time the area around Lake King contained swimming baths with dressing sheds and a jetty. The Rutherglen rowing club practised on the lake instead of going out to Lake Moodemere.
Thomas Looney was granted permission to erect a small jetty in the reservoir for a pleasure boat in December 1890. Thomas also released a number of black swans on the lake which were reported to have made nests and have thrived. Years later, in 1909, Daniels King’s son, James, placed 3 black swans on Lake King in memory of his father, who had died in July 1903.
At one time it was thought to be the remains of a high diving platform. In fact it was a turn key to open and close off the valve at the bottom of the lake that originally fed the water to the stand pipe and in later years also fed the water to cool the diesel electricity generator that produced the first electric power to Rutherglen. This generator was situated close to the existing toilet block in Apex Park.
Whilst Lake King was a very positive addition to the community of Rutherglen it was also a place of great sadness. It has been reported that on 25th October 1888 a mother drowned her few months old baby daughter in Lake King as she considered that child was in her way in obtaining a livelihood. She and her husband had recently moved to Rutherglen from Bairnsdale and he was employed as a blacksmith by Mr T Herrin. A week prior to her drowning her babe, her husband was arrested and transported to Bairnsdale for stealing a plough.