The lake is a popular area for recreation and is home to many species of fish, including bass and golden perch. The open woodland on the lake foreshore provide habitat for an abundance of birdlife, including galahs, eastern rosellas, pelicans, and king parrots, and kangaroos and wallaroos can be seen in the early morning and at dusk.
From the lookouts on Brushy Hill you can look across the lake to Mt Woolooma, the Mount Royal Ranges and Barrington Tops in the east. The Liverpool Range to the north and the valleys of the Upper Hunter to the south and west.
Glenbawn dam was built between 1954 and 1957 to secure water for agriculture, industry and the surrounding townships and to mitigate flooding. It had an original capacity of 300,000 ML until it was enlarged in 1987 to a capacity of 750,000 ML, with an additional reserve capacity of 120,000 ML flood storage to minimise flood impacts on the river downstream. It has a daily discharge rate of around 300 Megalitres per day (as at November 2006).
The dam helps to reduce the magnitude of floods at Muswellbrook by up to 0.5m, but has a negligible effect at Singleton. In extreme flood events, the dam is unlikely to have an effect due to the large area of unregulated catchment above Muswellbrook (DLWC, 2000 as in Spencer et al.)
The dam is a critical resource for water users in the Hunter Valley and an important asset for the regional economy. Among the biggest water users relying on water from the dam are Macquarie Generation's two thermal power stations at Bayswater and Liddell.
The construction of Glenbawn Dam did however have a dramatic impact on the upper reaches of the Hunter River, forming a trap for the sediment that travels down the river from the upper reaches, and disconnecting it from the river downstream. Below the dam, the river is starved of sediment until the Rouchel Brook confluence between Glenbawn Dam and Aberdeen. This tributary of the Hunter brings fine gravel into the system, which is then carried along the main stream and down the catchment.