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In Search of the Long-Lost Swimming Hole on the Onkaparinga River

Home > Adelaide > Unusual Things to do | Outdoor | Fun Things To Do | Free | Day Trips
Published April 6th 2014
Explore the Adelaide Hills
We think we know a region ... and then, all of a sudden, an unknown gem suddenly reveals itself, right from under our very noses. This happened to me last weekend.

I'd heard a story of an old weir and long lost swimming hole near Mylor in the Adelaide Hills and, intrigued, I set off on a quest to find it.

Starting from the village of Aldgate amidst the beautiful seasonal autumn colour of crimson reds and exploding yellows, I headed along Strathalbyn Road. I chose to turn hard right at the Aldgate Fire Station and leisurely wend my way along the famous and very beautiful Aldgate Valley Road. The meandering Aldgate Creek was my constant companion for about four kilometres before we both emerged into the next in a succession of beautiful Hills villages, the village of Mylor.

I continued past the fascinating old Boot Maker's Cottage, General Store and Rural Supplies and along the highway turning right at Glen Bold Road, Todd Road and finally Feder Road and with each turn, bitumen gave way to dirt, dirt to gravel and gravel to a rutted track until civilisation seemed long forgotten.

Lost in my new world, I found a two hundred metre long rutted and tranquil 4WD bush track to further follow on foot. The peace and tranquillity, bird and insect chatter enveloped me as my progress down the track was watched by curious, wise and towering old eucalypts in a scene that could have meant that I'd been magically transported to the remotest corner of Australia.

Even this rutted track finally petered out and I was left, somewhat startlingly, in a simple clearing in the bush amidst a huge gorge on a broad River's edge, staring at a majestic horseshoe ring of fifty metre high cliffs, soaring above an idyllic river scene and billabongs. Wow.

The beautiful Onkaparinga River (which I'm told means 'Women's River' apparently but these days is probably thought of as Person's River) now stood before me in all it's beguiling feminine splendor, lying in the timeless bottom of the huge gorge which it had carefully worn and carved for itself over eons.

Onkaparinga River and Cliffs
Onkaparinga River and Cliffs

In front of the clearing, almost totally unexpectedly I saw a long low curved stone wall spanning the River. It was a man made wall or weir that was celebrating what I was sure would only be a temporary victory in trying to hold back the endless demands of this ancient River. The evidence of its losing battle was clear from the scars on the wall and from old repairs. The toil and days of hard work of farming hands of times past also seemed carved into this wall which chatteringly spoke to me of its memories and of another slower paced era. The deep pool of water created behind the wall formed a wide oasis and it was easy to imagine that apart from quenching thirsty stock, this pool had many times in the past been alive with the voices and laughter of children splashing and yelling, swimming and cooling off during endless childhood summers'.

Onkaparinga River Swimming Hole
Onkaparinga River Swimming Hole

Today, however, the river was whispering quietly and only the smallest amount of water chattered cheekily as it trickled over the wall in rebellion. I enjoyed a good time in contemplation of the scene before me, before finally turning back up the track.

Onkaparinga River
Onkaparinga River

Walking away I mused to myself how little we often know about the very places that we inhabit. Many of us travel the world looking for new experiences and stimulation yet with a little looking and exploring, endless adventure and myriads of new discoveries can so often be found, right in our own back yard...where we simply never looked before.
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Why? Looking to explore the Adelaide Hills
Where: Mylor, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
A fascinating story of exploration, loved it!
Welcome to writing on Weekend Notes Jocose.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11291) 2118 days ago
It is too boggy in winter. I lived close to here and would often head down for some peace with rubber boots on. Taking a 4wd to the end of the track would spoil the adventure and damage the track further. Park at the gate and preserve this space and quiet treasure.
by natan (score: 0|3) 2107 days ago
Sounds beautiful. Would you need a 4wd to get there?
by tanya (score: 1|29) 2117 days ago
Sounds amazing, do you think you can swim in the gel is it deep enough?
by sophp (score: 0|2) 2116 days ago
First I have heard of this place.Sounds enticing...the locals must have kept it a secret.Must try and visit.Thanks for revealing it.Noel.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 2108 days ago
9/11/2014 Went here today - What a beautiful location. I was lucky enough to see the river with enough flow to over top the weir by 30-40 cms. Quite a sight. I was also startled by a very large kangaroo jumping from the bushes just a few metres in front of me. A short walk, but well worth the effort
by trevj (score: 0|2) 1902 days ago
Went there on 9/1/16 found it ok but was flowing really fast couldn't event see the rocks but such a nice place
by dazza (score: 0|2) 1476 days ago
Hi Jocose. Would it be possible to walk across the river here? If not, is there anywhere where you could cross by foot? I'm a researcher working on a project about a young girl who managed to cross the river up near Glen Bold Road in 1966 and we/she are trying to work out how she managed it. Thank you so much, Debra
by debra (score: 0|2) 937 days ago
We followed the instructions but couldn’t find it. We walked down a track and found private land with 2 with a tourist staying there...on the map it said ‘Sampson Gully Camping ground’ but this is now private land. We talked to him and he ‘allowed’ us to see the river. It was beautiful and lots of water (pumped from the Murray) surging through but it wasn’t the weir or cliffs so we were in the wrong spot. Very disappointing and such a shame this beautiful river has now been surrounded by houses.
by adven (score: 0|2) 250 days ago
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