Swan River (Western Australia)

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Swan River
Swan River,Perth,Western Australia.jpg
Black swans on the shore of the Swan River in 2005,
with the Perth skyline in the background
Swan River Map.png
Map of the area around Perth, showing the location of the Swan River
Native name Noongar: Derbarl Yerrigan
Location
Country Australia
State Western Australia
City Perth; Fremantle
Physical characteristics
Source confluence Avon River with Wooroloo Brook
  locationbelow Mount Mambup
  coordinates 31°44′34″S116°4′3″E / 31.74278°S 116.06750°E / -31.74278; 116.06750
  elevation53 m (174 ft)
Mouth Indian Ocean
  location
Fremantle
  coordinates
32°4′25″S115°42′52″E / 32.07361°S 115.71444°E / -32.07361; 115.71444 Coordinates: 32°4′25″S115°42′52″E / 32.07361°S 115.71444°E / -32.07361; 115.71444
  elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length72 km (45 mi)
Basin size121,000 km2 (47,000 sq mi)
Basin features
Tributaries 
  leftSusannah Brook, Jane Brook
  right Ellen Brook, Helena River, Bennett Brook, Canning River
[1] :3
Light painting on the banks of the Swan River Light painting gnangarra-2.jpg
Light painting on the banks of the Swan River

The Swan River is a river in the south west of Western Australia. Its Noongar Aboriginal name is the Derbarl Yerrigan. [2] [3] [4] The river runs through the metropolitan area of Perth, Western Australia's capital and largest city.

Contents

Course of 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.

Geology

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.

Geography

Satellite imagery of the Swan River and surrounds Worldwind-Perth1.jpg
Satellite imagery of the Swan River and surrounds

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.

Sources

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.

Tributaries

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.

Swan coastal plain

Swampy wetlands between Perth and Guildford have been reclaimed for land development, however this one still remains. The Perth skyline can be seen in the far distance. Swan River, Western Australia.jpg
Swampy wetlands between Perth and Guildford have been reclaimed for land development, however this one still remains. The Perth skyline can be seen in the far distance.

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 Heirisson Islands. [5] [6]

Perth Water and Melville Water

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.

Narrowing and Fremantle

Sunset over the river mouth in Fremantle, with a bottlenose dolphin swimming across the middle of the screen

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.

Notable features

Rocky bay gnangarra-1.jpg
Panorama of Rocky Bay looking south

Flora and fauna

Plant and animal life found in or near the Swan-Canning Estuary include:

History

Willem de Vlamingh's ships, with black swans, at the entrance to the Swan River, Western Australia, coloured engraving (1726), derived from an earlier drawing (now lost) from the de Vlamingh expeditions of 1696-97 Vlamingh ships at the Swan River, Keulen 1796.jpg
Willem de Vlamingh's ships, with black swans, at the entrance to the Swan River, Western Australia, coloured engraving (1726), derived from an earlier drawing (now lost) from the de Vlamingh expeditions of 1696–97
The first detailed map of the Swan River, drawn by Francois-Antoine Boniface Heirisson in 1801 Battye freycinet swanriver lg.jpg
The first detailed map of the Swan River, drawn by François-Antoine Boniface Heirisson in 1801

The river was named Swarte Swaene-Revier [10] 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. [11]

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. [10] 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.

Swan River in 1918, showing the then as-yet largely undeveloped Mill Point area Swan River 1918.jpg
Swan River in 1918, showing the then as-yet largely undeveloped Mill Point area

Notable features

A number of features of the river, particularly around the city, have reshaped its profile since European settlement in 1829:

1909 map showing Heirisson Islands and alignment of the Burswood Island canal Perth Water c.1909.png
1909 map showing Heirisson Islands and alignment of the Burswood Island canal

Environmental issues

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. [12]

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.

Matilda Bay on the Swan River, with Mount Eliza and the Perth skyline in the background MatildaBay gobeirne.jpg
Matilda Bay on the Swan River, with Mount Eliza and the Perth skyline in the background

Flood events

Data collection of flood events in the estuary has been performed 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. [1] :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. [13] Other abnormal flooding 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:

Year [14] 18621872191019171926193019451946195519581963196419832017
ARI*601002020301520102020151010TBC

* 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.

1926 floods
Mill Point, South Perth, 1926 floods.jpg
Mill Point, South Perth, during the 1926 floods
North Fremantle Railway Bridge collapse, 1926.jpg
North Fremantle Railway Bridge collapse, 1926

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 than the 1862 event (ARI=60). An account in The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal on 26 July 1872 reported [15]

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. [16] The Fremantle bridge partially collapsed on 22 July 1926, five minutes after a train containing schoolchildren had passed over. [17] 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. [18]

Governance

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. [19] [20]

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.

Human uses

Transport

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.

View from East Fremantle along Blackwall Reach towards Point Walter and Perth SwanRiverEastFremantle gobeirne.jpg
View from East Fremantle along Blackwall Reach towards Point Walter and Perth

Bridges

Narrows Bridge Perth narrows.jpg
Narrows Bridge

There are currently 22 road and railway bridges crossing the Swan River. These are (from Fremantle, heading upstream): [lower-alpha 2]

Eastern end of The Causeway taken from Burswood Park The Causeway (east).jpg
Eastern end of The Causeway taken from Burswood Park

Rowing clubs

The earliest club was the West Australian Rowing Club. The Swan River Rowing Club started in 1887. [21] The Fremantle Rowing Club had started by the 1890s. [22]

Yacht clubs

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.

Cultural significance

There have been some north of the river or south of the river distinctions in the Perth metropolitan region over time, [23] [24] 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.

It is also the site of the City of Perth Skyworks, a fireworks show held each year on Australia Day.

See also

Notes

  1. Sharks are present in the river, but rarely attack swimmers. [8]
  2. Some of the bridges have had earlier forms that were demolished to make way for the newer bridges.

Related Research Articles

Heirisson Island

Heirisson Island is an island in the Swan River in Western Australia at the eastern end of Perth Water, between the suburbs of East Perth and Victoria Park. It occupies an area of 285600 m2, and is connected to the two foreshores by The Causeway. The next upstream island is Kuljak Island, then Ron Courtney Island, with no islands in the Swan River downstream between Heirisson Island and the Indian Ocean other than the artificial islet in Elizabeth Quay.

Bassendean, Western Australia Suburb of Perth, Western Australia

Bassendean is a north-eastern suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Its local government area is the Town of Bassendean.

Great Eastern Highway Highway in Western Australia

Great Eastern Highway is a 590-kilometre-long (370 mi) road that links the Western Australian capital of Perth with the city of Kalgoorlie. A key route for road vehicles accessing the eastern Wheatbelt and the Goldfields, it is the western portion of the main road link between Perth and the eastern states of Australia. The highway forms the majority of National Highway 94, although the alignment through the Perth suburbs of Guildford and Midland, and the eastern section between Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie are not included. Various segments form parts of other road routes, including National Route 1, Alternative National Route 94, and State Route 51.

The Armadale railway line is a suburban railway line in Western Australia that runs from Perth to Armadale, and continues as the South Western Railway to Bunbury. The line crosses the Swan River at East Perth via the Goongoongup Bridge, and formerly had crossed it via the Bunbury Bridge.

Perth Water Body of water of Swan River, Western Australia, adjacent to the Perth CBD

Perth Water is a section of the Swan River on the southern edge of the central business district of Perth, Western Australia. It is between the Causeway to the east, and Narrows Bridge to the west – a large wide but shallow section of river, and the northern edge of the suburb South Perth. It is considered a landmark of the City of Perth.

The Causeway Road in Perth, Western Australia

The Causeway is an arterial traffic crossing in Perth, Western Australia, linking the inner-city suburbs of East Perth and Victoria Park. It is carried over the Swan River at the eastern end of Perth Water by two bridges on either side of Heirisson Island. The current Causeway is the third structure to have been built across the river at this point.

Canning Highway Highway in Perth, Western Australia

Canning Highway is an arterial road in Perth, Western Australia, linking the inner Perth suburb of Victoria Park in the north-east, to the port city of Fremantle in the south-west.

Whadjuk

Whadjuk, alternatively Witjari, are a Noongar people of the Western Australian region of the Perth bioregion of the Swan Coastal Plain.

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.

History of Perth, Western Australia

Perth was founded by Captain James Stirling in 1829 as the administrative centre of the Swan River Colony. It gained city status in 1856 and was promoted to the status of a Lord Mayorality in 1929. The city inherited its name due to the influence of Sir George Murray, then Member of Parliament for Perthshire and Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

Victoria Park, Western Australia Suburb of Perth, Western Australia

Victoria Park is an inner south eastern suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Its local government area is the Town of Victoria Park.

Bayswater, Western Australia Suburb of Perth, Western Australia

Bayswater is a suburb 6 kilometres (4 mi) north-east of the central business district (CBD) of Perth, the capital of Western Australia. It is just north of the Swan River, within the City of Bayswater local government area. It is predominantly a low density residential suburb consisting of single-family detached homes. However, there are several clusters of commercial buildings, most notably in the suburb's town centre around the intersection of Whatley Crescent and King William Street, and a light industrial area in the suburb's east.

Transport in Perth, Western Australia, is served by various means, among them an extensive highway / freeway network and a substantial system of commuter rail lines and bus routes. Public transport is managed by the Transperth agency.

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.

Riverside Drive, Perth

Riverside Drive in Perth, Western Australia, is a road on the northern side of Perth Water. It was built on reclaimed land in the 1930s, and links The Causeway to the Narrows Bridge.

Sir James Mitchell Park is a park along the southern foreshore of Perth Water in Perth, Western Australia. It lies within the suburb of South Perth from Mends Street Jetty, to just south of Heirisson Island.

Tourism in Perth

Tourism in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, is an important part of the Australian state's economy, contributing to the prosperity of businesses in the city, as well as other regions of the state.

Burswood canal

Burswood canal was one of the earliest public works conducted in the Swan River Colony on the Burswood peninsula on the Swan River in the 1830s. It was made to shorten the journey on the Swan River, between Fremantle and Guildford. At that time Guildford was more prominent than Perth.

Guildford Road

Guildford Road is a major road in Perth, Western Australia, linking the inner-city suburb of Mount Lawley with Guildford in the north-east. The ten-kilometre-long (6.2 mi) road runs mostly parallel to the Swan River, on its northern side, and is part of State Route 51, which runs between Perth's CBD and Midvale. Guildford Road is maintained and controlled by Main Roads Western Australia, which uses the internal designation "H026 Guildford Road" for Guildford Road, as well as Bridge Street and James Street in Guildford. In the 1930s, the name Great Eastern Highway was coined to describe the road, but was actually used for the road on the other side of the Swan River.

References

  1. 1 2 Middelmann; Rogers; et al. (June 2005). "Riverine Flood Hazard" (PDF). Geoscience Australia . Australian Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2011.
  2. "Aboriginal Heritage - Swan River Perth". Swan River Perth. Swan River- Perth. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  3. Rivers of emotion : an emotional history of Derbarl Yerrigan and Djarlgarro Beelier : the Swan and Canning rivers. Broomhall, Susan., Pickering, Gina., Australian Research Council. Centre of Excellence. History of Emotions., National Trust of Australia (W.A.). [Crawley, W.A.]: ARC Centre of Excellence History of Emotions. 2012. ISBN   9781740522601. OCLC   820979809.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. Kinsella, John (2017). Polysituatedness: A Poetics of Displacement. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-1526113375.
  5. Thompson, James (29 December 2017). "Improvements to Swan River navigation 1830–1840". Western Australian Institution of Engineers. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011 via henrietta.liswa.wa.gov.au Library Catalog.
  6. "The Colony of Western Australia. – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection". davidrumsey.com.
  7. "Report for Environmental Flows and Objectives Swan and Canning Rivers" (PDF). Swan River Trust. March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 February 2011.
  8. Amelia Searson (14 January 2021). "Shark attack reported in Swan River in Perth suburb of Bicton". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  9. J.L. Barnard (1972). "Gammaridean Amphipoda of Australia, Part I". Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology (103): 1–333.
  10. 1 2 Seddon, George & Ravine, David (1986). A City and Its Setting . Fremantle Arts Centre Press. ISBN   978-0-949206-08-4. OCLC   1029292438 . Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  11. See also the 1780 usage of the name Black Swan River in – Harmer, T. (17..-18; graveur). Graveur (1780), Plan of the island Rottenest lying off the west coast of New Holland; Black Swan river on New Holland opposite Rottenest island / from Vankeulen; writing by T. Harmar, A. Dalrymple, retrieved 27 December 2013
  12. "WA goes it alone over phosphorus". 30 April 2010.
  13. Kimberly, W. B. (1897). History of Western Australia. p. 55.
  14. "Avon River Flood Study: Revision A, prepared by Binnie and Partners Pty Ltd, Perth" (PDF). Public Works Department. 1986. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  15. "Country News". The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal . 26 July 1872. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  16. Brearley, Anne (2005). Ernest Hodgkin's Swanland: Estuaries and Coastal Lagoons of South-western Australia. Crawley, W. A.: UWAP for the Ernest Hodgkin Trust for Estuary Education and Research and National Trust of Australia (WA). p. 86. ISBN   978-1-920694-38-8. 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
  17. "THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN FLOODS". The Advertiser . Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 23 July 1926. p. 17. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  18. "FREMANTLE RAILWAY BRIDGE". The West Australian . Perth: National Library of Australia. 12 October 1926. p. 7. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  19. "Home page". Swan River Trust. Government of Western Australia . Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  20. Swan River Trust Act 1988. WA state govt.
  21. Child, J (1951), An account of the growth of the Swan River Rowing Club, based on available minute books and gleanings from old members , retrieved 5 October 2018
  22. Craig and Solin (1898), Fremantle Rowing Club regatta June 28th 1898 , retrieved 5 October 2018
  23. Smythe, Phil; Burns, Paul (26 March 2009). "North V South". 1304.5 – Stats Talk WA, Dec 2008. Australian Bureau of Statistics . Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  24. "Regions And Cities: Perth metropolitan area". Living in Western Australia. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.

Further reading