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The Forgotten Bonython Park Billabong

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. Please click the link to Like my articles, and subscribe to see more. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au
Published January 6th 2013
No jumbucks here
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The Lower Reaches of the Bonython Park Billabong


Bonython Park is the largest park in Adelaide, in the north west corner of the city's parklands. It's a popular place for major functions, and in the past has seen the Skyshow, Schutzenfest, circuses and many major musical events.

It has recently undergone a makeover to implement a new activity hub and a new playground has been installed which is designed to be more accessible to children with all sorts of disabilities.

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Shelter in the New Playground at Bonython Park


This has once again made the park synonymous with what to do in Adelaide.

The park hasn't always been a place of fun and entertainment though. Sheep and cattle were permitted to graze this area of the parklands for many years, which was very convenient as a slaughterhouse operated on the site from around 1840-1915 until the abattoirs at Gepps Cross were built.

I believe that a road in the area is still called Slaughterhouse Road, possibly at the end of Gaol Rd, but it does not currently appear on maps. It is however referred to in Adelaide City Council documentation.

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Railway Bridge Over the River Torrens


The same Council reports also mention the existence of a billabong in Bonython Park, which has existed for well over a hundred years. There is historical evidence of the billabong's use as a fishing spot for the Kaurna prior to European settlement.

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A Bird Dozes After Fishing


After settlement, the billabong was used as a rubbish dump and to dispose of offal and unwanted products from the slaughterhouse. It was only around 1960 that this area of Bonython Park was landscaped by Town Clerk William Veale, and the billabong was re-created with terracing on the banks of the Torrens.

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The Birds Here Must Not be Fed


There are few references to the billabong today except in Adelaide City Council (ACC) documents, although an 1837 Plan of Adelaide by Colonel William Light depicts a linear island in the billabong at the time. This ACC report includes an 1855 sketch showing the billabong and nearby slaughterhouse.

https://www.weekendnotes.com/river-torrens-linear-park-sa/
The Kiosk Near the Billabong


Today the billabong lies downstream from the railway bridge and near to the new playground. The banks of the river were still mostly green, although close to the bridges they were brown, presumably not irrigated, Lots of reeds lined the river banks.

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Reeds Along the Billabong Banks


When I arrived to take photographs the playground was deserted. With the temperature forecast to be 44 degrees, there were unlikely to be many visitors so I chatted briefly with the friendly kiosk manager. Even at 8am the day was already hot.

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Early Morning Walkers


A few other people were out walking the river banks, or cycling to work on the Torrens Linear Park.

I went for a walk along the banks of the billabong toward the State Heritage listed railway bridge. It was mostly quiet, apart from the occasional dull rumble of a train. That will not be an issue for the next few months.

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Picturesque Banks of the Billabong


There seemed to be far fewer water birds here than at the St Peters billabong, although that may have been due to the hot weather. I found no historical references to swimming in this billabong, although at the St Peters Swing Bridge it was hugely popular in the early years of the 20th century.

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It's All Water Under the Bridge


Under the railway bridge the light was quite eerie, reflecting from the water and bridge abutments.

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Street Art


Street art was common in the area, contrasting the stark walls of the pedestrian bridge.

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Ever Been Run Over By a Train?


A train paused right above me, presumably waiting for signals to proceed. Another trainspotter's paradise?

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A Rare Sight in Early 2013


If you're looking for what to do in Adelaide, take a look around Bonython Park and see the billabong. It looks a whole lot better now than in days gone by.

You can pick up a free bike to get there, or take a free tram trip and get off on Port Road. Either way it will be fun.

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Does Anyone Know What This Means?

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Why? Have you seen a billabong before?
When: Anytime
Phone: (08) 8203 7203
Where: Bonython Park, Adelaide
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Stunning shot of the billabong Dave. It is hard to believe a shot like this was taken within the Adelaide city area. I wonder if there are any more billabongs left for you to write about...
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1596) 2140 days ago
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