The Swan River is a river in the south west of Western Australia. Its Aboriginal Noongar name is the Derbarl Yerrigan. The river runs through the metropolitan area of Perth, Western Australia's capital and largest city.
Map of the area around Perth, showing the location of the Swan River
|Native name||Noongar: Derbarl Yerrigan|
|Source confluence||Avon River with Wooroloo Brook|
|- location||below Mount Mambup|
|- elevation||53 m (174 ft)|
|0 m (0 ft)|
|Length||72 km (45 mi)|
|Basin size||121,000 km2 (47,000 sq mi)|
|- left||Susannah Brook, Jane Brook|
|- right||Ellen Brook, Helena River, Bennett Brook, Canning River|
The Swan River estuary flows through the city of Perth. Its lower reaches are relatively wide and deep, with few constrictions, while the upper reaches are usually quite narrow and shallow.
The Swan River drains the Avon and coastal plain catchments, which have a total area of about 121,000 square kilometres (47,000 sq mi). It has three major tributaries, the Avon River, Canning River and Helena River. The latter two have dams (Canning Dam and Mundaring Weir) which provide a sizeable part of the potable water requirements for Perth and the regions surrounding. The Avon River contributes the majority of the freshwater flow. The climate of the catchment is Mediterranean, with mild wet winters, hot dry summers, and the associated highly seasonal rainfall and flow regime.
The Avon rises near Yealering, 221 kilometres (137 mi) southeast of Perth: it meanders north-northwest to Toodyay about 90 kilometres (56 mi) northeast of Perth, then turns southwest in Walyunga National Park – at the confluence of the Wooroloo Brook, it becomes the Swan River.
The Canning River rises not far from North Bannister, 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of Perth and joins the Swan at Applecross, opening into Melville Water. The river then narrows into Blackwall Reach, a narrow and deep stretch leading the river through Fremantle Harbour to the sea.
The Noongar people believe that the Darling Scarp represents the body of a Wagyl (also spelt Waugal) – a snakelike being from Dreamtime that meandered over the land creating rivers, waterways and lakes. It is thought that the Wagyl/Waugal created the Swan River.
The estuary is subject to a microtidal regime, with a maximum tidal amplitude of about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in), although water levels are also subject to barometric pressure fluctuations.
Before the Tertiary, when the sea level was much lower than at present, the Swan River curved around to the north of Rottnest Island, and disgorged itself into the Indian Ocean slightly to the north and west of Rottnest. In doing so, it carved a gorge about the size of the Grand Canyon. Now known as Perth Canyon, this feature still exists as a submarine canyon near the edge of the continental shelf.
The Swan River drains the Swan Coastal Plain, a total catchment area of over 100,000 square kilometres (39,000 sq mi) in area. The river is located in a Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers and cool wet winters, although this balance appears to be changing due to climate change. The Swan is located on the edge of the Darling Scarp, flowing downhill across the coastal plain to its mouth at Fremantle.
The Swan begins as the Avon River, rising near Yealering in the Darling Range, approximately 175 kilometres (109 mi) from its mouth at Fremantle. The Avon flows north, passing through the towns of Brookton, Beverley, York, Northam and Toodyay. It is joined by tributaries including the Dale River, the Mortlock River and the Brockman River. The Avon becomes the Swan as Wooroloo Brook enters the river near Walyunga National Park.
More tributaries including Ellen Brook, Jane Brook, Henley Brook, Wandoo Creek, Bennett Brook, Blackadder Creek, Limestone Creek, Susannah Brook, and the Helena River enter the river between Wooroloo Brook and Guildford; however, most of these have either dried up or become seasonally flowing due to human impacts such as land clearing and development.
Between Perth and Guildford the river goes through several loops. Originally, areas including the Maylands Peninsula, Ascot and Burswood, through Claise Brook and north of the city to Herdsman Lake were swampy wetlands. Most of the wetlands have since been reclaimed for land development. Heirisson Island, upon which The Causeway passes over, was once a collection of small islets known as the Hierrison Islands.
Perth Water, between the city and South Perth, is separated from the main estuary by the Narrows, over which the Narrows Bridge was built in 1959. The river then opens up into the large expanse of the river known as Melville Water. The Canning River enters the river at Canning Bridge in Applecross from its source 50 kilometres (31 mi) south-east of Armadale. The river is at its widest here, measuring more than 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from north to south. Point Walter has a protruding spit that extends up to 800 metres (2,600 ft) into the river, forcing river traffic to detour around it.
The river narrows between Chidley Point and Blackwall Reach, curving around Point Roe and Preston Point before narrowing into the harbour. Stirling Bridge and the Fremantle Traffic Bridge cross the river north of the rivermouth. The Swan River empties into the Indian Ocean at Fremantle Harbour.
Plant and animal life found in or near the Swan-Canning Estuary include:
The river was named Swarte Swaene-Revier by Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlamingh in 1697, after the famous black swans of the area. Vlamingh sailed with a small party up the river to around Heirisson Island.
A French expedition under Nicholas Baudin also sailed up the river in 1801.
Governor Stirling's intention was that the name "Swan River" refer only to the watercourse upstream of the Heirisson Islands. All of the rest, including Perth Water, he considered estuarine and which he referred to as "Melville Water". The Government notice dated 27 July 1829 stated "... the first stone will be laid of a new town to be called 'Perth', near the entrance to the estuary of the Swan River."
Almost immediately after the Town of Perth was established, a systematic effort was underway to reshape the river. This was done for many reasons:
Perth streets were often sandy bogs which caused Governor James Stirling in 1837 to report to the Secretary of State for Colonies:
At the present time it can scarcely be said that any roads exist, although certain lines of communication have been improved by clearing them of timber and by bridging streams and by establishing ferries in the broader parts of the Swan River ...
Parts of the river required dredging with the material dumped onto the mud flats to raise the adjoining land. An exceptionally wet winter in 1862 saw major flooding throughout the area – the effect of which was exacerbated by the extent of the reclaimed lands. The first bucket dredge in Western Australia was the Black Swan, used between 1872 and 1911 for dredging channels in the river, as well as reclamation.
A number of features of the river, particularly around the city, have reshaped its profile since European settlement in 1829:
The river has been used for the disposal all kinds of waste. Even well into the 1970s various local councils had rubbish tips on the mud flats along the edge of the river. Heavy industry also contributed its share of waste into the river from wool scouring plants in Fremantle to fertiliser and foundries sited in the Bayswater – Bassendean area. Remedial sites works are still ongoing in these areas to remove the toxins left to leach into the river.
During the summer months there are problems with algal blooms killing fish and caused by nutrient run-off from farming activities as well as the use of fertilisers in the catchment areas. The occasional accidental spillage of sewage and chemicals has also caused sections of the river to be closed to human access. The river has survived all this and is in relatively good condition considering on-going threats to its ecology.
In 2010 the Western Australian government imposed restrictions on phosphorus levels in fertilisers due to concerns about the health of the Swan and Canning river system.
The Perth Water location on the river adjacent to the City of Perth is a popular place for viewing the annual Australia Day fireworks, with over 400,000 people crowding the foreshore, Kings Park and boats on the river.
Data collection of flood events in the estuary have been recorded since European arrival in 1829. In July 1830, barely a year after the establishment of the colony, the river rose 6 metres above its normal level.:102 New settlers were still arriving in steady numbers and few permanent buildings had been constructed, with most living in tents and other temporary accommodation. These included caves along the river's edge and many found their belongings washed away and livestock drowned. Other abnormal floods events occurred in the winters of 1847 and 1860, while the most recent flooding occurred in 2017. Later events have since been assessed for probability of recurrence:
* ARI (Average recurrence interval) is the average interval in years which would be expected to occur between exceedances of flood events of a given magnitude.
The largest recorded flood event was in July 1872 which had a calculated ARI of 100. This approximately equates to a 100-year flood event. At the Helena River, the 1872 flood level was two feet 3 inches higher that the 1862 event (ARI=60). An account in The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal on 26 July 1872 reported
In and about Perth, the water owing to the force of the incoming seas at the mouth of the river presented a scene of a great lake, all the jetties were submerged, the high roads to Fremantle covered, and passage traffic rendered impossible quantities of sandalwood lying along the banks of river were washed away, and the inhabitants of the suburban villas on the slopes of Mount Eliza obliged to scramble up the hill sides to get into Perth.
The flood of July 1926 (ARI=30) resulted in the washing away of the Upper Swan Bridge and a section of the Fremantle Railway Bridge. The Fremantle bridge partially collapsed on 22 July 1926, five minutes after a train containing schoolchildren had passed over. No one was injured in the collapse, however it created major disruption to commerce for several months. Repairs were completed and the bridge reopened on 12 October 1926.
The Swan River Trust is a state government body, within the ambit of the Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia) – that was constituted in 1989 after legislation passed the previous year, that reports to the Minister for the Environment. It brings together eight representatives from the community, State and local government authorities with an interest in the Swan and Canning rivers to form a single body responsible for planning, protecting and managing Perth's river system.
The Trust meets twice a month to provide advice to the Minister for the Environment, the Western Australian Planning Commission and river border related local government bodies to guide development of the Swan and Canning rivers.
In the earliest days of the Swan River Settlement, the river was used as the main transport route between Perth and Fremantle. This continued until the establishment of the Government rail system between Fremantle and Guildford via Perth.
There are currently fifteen yacht clubs along the Swan River, with most on Melville Water, Freshwater Bay and Matilda Bay. Royal Perth Yacht Club, on Pelican Point in Matilda Bay, staged the unsuccessful 1987 America's Cup defence, the first time in 132 years it had been held outside of the United States. RPYC and the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club are the only two clubs to be granted a royal charter. There are also many anchorages and marinas along the lower reaches near Fremantle.
There have been some north of the river or south of the river distinctions in the Perth metropolitan region over time, especially in the time up to the completion of the Causeway and Narrows bridges, due to the time and distances to cross the river.
The river is a significant part of Perth culture, with many water sports such as rowing, sailing, and swimming all occurring in its waters.
Re the 1926 flood: floodwaters spread over 5 kilometres at Guildford, and covered large areas of Perth Esplanade, and South Perth... and 12,729 million litres cascaded over Mundaring Weir
Alfred Cove is a southern suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Its local government area is the City of Melville.Australian Rowing Championships
The Australian Rowing Championships is an annual rowing event that determines Australia's national rowing champions and facilitates selection of Australian representative crews for World Championships and the Olympic Games. It is Australia's premier regatta, with states, clubs and schools sending their best crews. The Championships commence with the National Regatta - men's, women's and lightweight events in open, under 23, under 19, under 17 and school age categories. Rowers at the National Regatta race in their local club colours with composite crews permitted. The Championships conclude with the Interstate Regatta - currently eight events competed by state representative crews or scullers selected by the state rowing associations. The states compete for an overall points tally which decides the Zurich Cup.Avon River (Western Australia)
The Avon River is a river in Western Australia. A tributary of the Swan River, the Avon flows 240 kilometres (150 mi) from source to mouth, with a catchment area of 125,000 square kilometres (48,000 sq mi).Canning River (Western Australia)
The Canning River (Djarlgarra in Nyungar) is a major tributary of the Swan River in south western Western Australia.Claise Brook
Claise Brook is a stream which empties into Claisebrook Cove before running into the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. The area surrounding the stream is on the outskirts of the Perth CBD and is part of the suburb of East Perth. Claise Brook was once an important water course from which the numerous interconnected fresh water lakes north of Perth emptied into during the wet season before entering the Swan River.Eliza (sculpture)
Eliza is a bronze sculpture located in Matilda Bay on the Swan River in Western Australia. The sculpture and plinth are mounted on a steel pylon 15 metres off the shoreline and depicts a woman about to dive off a wooden platform. It commemorates the old Crawley Baths which were a prominent Perth landmark during the early to mid 20th century. The sculpture is 2.2 metres high. The artwork has its own lighting from solar panels.
The public artwork was done by Perth artist Tony Jones on a commission from the City of Perth and had an estimated cost of $167,000. Jones' other pieces include the C.Y. O'Connor statue near Coogee and Sea Queen at Claisebrook Cove.
Eliza was unveiled by Peter Nattrass, Perth Lord Mayor on 15 October 2007 and has since been regularly "dressed" in various costumes by students and other unknown pranksters. Costumes have included a Santa Claus outfit (including beard) and a Melbourne Cup frock and champagne flute.
The sculpture is named after Mount Eliza; Mount Eliza was named by Captain James Stirling in honour of the wife of Governor Ralph Darling, an early Governor of New South Wales.Freshwater Bay (Western Australia)
Freshwater Bay is a bay of the Swan River, in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. It is about 5 km upstream from the mouth of the river at Fremantle and is overlooked by the suburbs of Dalkeith, Claremont, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove. Freshwater Bay was named after Freshwater Bay and Freshwater, Isle of Wight by Henry Charles Prinsep (1844-1922), who had a riverside family holiday cottage there, The Chine.Helena River
The Helena River is a tributary of the Swan River in Western Australia. The river rises in country east of Mount Dale and flows north-west to Mundaring Weir, where it is dammed. It then flows west until it reaches the Darling Scarp.
It passes through the western edge of the Darling Scarp between Gooseberry Hill, and Greenmount Hill before joining the Swan River at the southern edge of the historic town, now suburb, of Guildford.Matilda Bay
Matilda Bay or Crawley Bay (known originally as Currie's Bay, then Sutherland's Bay) is a natural bay in the Swan River in Western Australia, adjacent to the Perth suburb of Crawley. It extends from Pelican Point to Mounts Bay Road below Kings Park.
The University of Western Australia is immediately opposite. Other landmarks on Matilda Bay include Matilda Bay Restaurant, Pelican Point Sea Scouts, Royal Perth Yacht Club, UWA Rowing Club and Mounts Bay Sailing Club.
A well-known bronze sculpture that is located at the site of the former Crawley Baths – Eliza is displayed just offshore from Mounts Bay Road and depicts a woman preparing to dive.
Matilda Bay Reserve is a recreational parkland between Hackett Drive and the river. It includes Pelican Point, which is an important breeding sanctuary for migratory birds.
Matilda Bay is believed to have been named after the wife of John Septimus Roe, Matilda (née Bennett).Melville Water
Melville Water is a significant section of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. It is located west and downstream of Perth Water, from which it is separated by the Narrows Bridge.Point Heathcote
Point Heathcote (Goolugatup in Noongar ) is a geographic feature located on the south east part of Melville Water on Swan River. It is located in Applecross, a suburb of Perth, Western AustraliaPreston Point
Preston Point (Niergarup in Noongar) is a small point in the Swan River, Western Australia. It is located in the Perth bordering the suburbs of East Fremantle, and Bicton about 12 km (7.5 mi) south west of the city centre. On the other side of the river is Rocky Bay and the suburbs of North Fremantle and Mosman Park.
It was named by Sir James Stirling in 1827 after Lieutenant William Preston.
Prior to European settlement, the area was known to the Noongar indigenous people as Niergarup, and was an important ceremonial and camping area.Redcliffe Bridge
Redcliffe Bridge is a traffic bridge which carries Tonkin Highway across the Swan River in the Perth, Western Australia suburb of Redcliffe.
Designed by Maunsell & Partners and built by Thiess,
construction of the bridge started in 1986. The bridge was constructed using an incremental launch technique, and cost A$15 million to complete.
It was officially opened on 16 April 1988.
The bridge is 271 metres long, with five spans and a pre-stressed concrete deck 34 metres wide, supporting six lanes of traffic. The structure of the bridge is that of a hollow box girder, with the outer sides of the deck supported by special Y-beams.Richard Brinsley Hinds
Richard Brinsley Hinds FRCS (11 October 1811, Aldermaston, England – 25 May 1846, Swan River, Western Australia) was a British naval surgeon, botanist and malacologist. He sailed on the 1835–42 voyage by HMS Sulphur to explore the Pacific Ocean, and edited the natural history reports of that expedition.Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club
The Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club is a yacht club situated in Freshwater Bay on the Swan River in Peppermint Grove, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.
The club was founded in 1896 by a group of friends including Aubrey Sherwood and Edward Keane, whose residence is now the RFBYC clubhouse. It is the second yacht club in Perth to be granted the royal charter and it has established a strong but friendly rivalry with the other royal club, Royal Perth Yacht Club.Each year the fleets of the two Royal clubs race, with the prize 'The Governor's Cup' being presented by the Governor of Western Australia as the Queen's representative and patron of royal clubs.
The club holds functions weekly in both the Athol Hobbs Room and Main Function and Dining Room with a bar open 7 days of the week to members. All catering and staff at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club work through Spices Catering Company.Royal Perth Yacht Club
The Royal Perth Yacht Club (RPYC) is an Australian yacht club in Perth, Western Australia. it is the third oldest yacht club in Australia after the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. It is based at the Crawley Marina on Pelican Point and at the Fremantle Annexe in Challenger Harbour.
Royal Perth Yacht Club is a member of the International Council of Yacht Clubs.Swan River
Swan River may refer to:
AustraliaSwan River (Tasmania)
Swan River (Western Australia)
Swan River Colony, a British settlement established in 1829 on the Swan River, Western AustraliaCanadaSwan River (Manitoba–Saskatchewan)
Swan River, Manitoba
Swan River Airport, servicing the town of Swan River in Manitoba
Swan River (electoral district), a provincial electoral district in ManitobaPakistanSoan River, also spelled as Swan RiverUnited StatesSwan River (Colorado)
Swan River (Michigan)
Swan River (northern Minnesota), a tributary of the Mississippi River
Swan River (central Minnesota), a tributary of the Mississippi River
Swan River (Montana)
Swan River (New York), on Long IslandSwan River Rowing Club
The Swan River Rowing Club is a rowing club that was founded in 1887 in Perth, Western Australia.
It has had rowing sheds at different locations on the Swan River (Western Australia).The Canning River (Western Australia) was a location of regattas and social events for the club.In early years regattas were held to increase interest and membership.Social activities were an important part of the annual events.Rivalry and differences with the West Australian Rowing Club were evident in early years of operation.Wagyl
The Wagyl (alternative spelling Waugl, Waugal, Waugyl or Waagal) is, according to Noongar culture, a snakelike dreamtime creature responsible for the creation of the Swan and Canning rivers and other waterways and landforms around present day Perth and the south-west of Western Australia.
The Rainbow Serpent, or Wagyl as it is known in the south-west of Western Australia, created many local landscape features between the Porongarups (Spirit (=Borong) gathering (=Gar) place (=Up)) and off the coast of Fremantle. It was delegated to protect the rivers, lakes, springs and the wildlife. Wagyl sacred sites tend to be natural sun-traps, located beside bodies of water. The Noongar people were appointed as the guardians of the land by the Wagyl. The Wagyl was seen by certain tribal elders who spoke to the dreamtime being.
The Darling Scarp is said to represent the body of the Wagyl, which meandered over the land creating the curves and contours of the hills and gullies. The being is strongly associated with rivers, lakes like Lake Monger, and is supposed still to reside deep beneath springs. As the Wagyl slithered over the land, his track shaped the sand dunes, his body scoured out the course of the rivers; where he occasionally stopped for a rest, he created bays and lakes. Piles of rocks are said to be his droppings, and such sites are considered sacred. As he moved, his scales scraped off and become the forests and woodlands of the region.
The Wagyl stories may represent the survival in oral tradition of extinct Australian megafauna, as there was a python-like snake, Wonambi naracoortensis, with a length of five or six metres.
Rivers of Western Australia
|Rivers of the Gascoyne region|
|Rivers of the Goldfields-Esperance region|
|Rivers of the Great Southern region|
|Rivers of the Kimberley region|
|Rivers of the Mid West region|
|Rivers of the Peel and Perth regions|
|Rivers of the Pilbara region|
|Rivers of the South West region|
|Rivers of the Wheatbelt region|
|Australian continent / |