I enjoy photography and writing, new places and experiences, living on the edge of the Barossa Valley and my involvement with animals. You are welcome to visit my photography website www.jennybrice.com
Published October 4th 2014
Magic at the Barossa Reservoir
The Barossa Reservoir nestles in a picturesque valley near Williamstown on the edge of the South Australian Barossa Valley. The reservoir boasts several unusual features but is most famous for its unique, curved, retaining wall, known as the Whispering Wall.
The Whispering Wall stretches in a gentle curve for 144 metres
The shape and location of the Whispering Wall create an acoustic phenomenon which fascinates adults and children alike. Sound generated at one side is reflected around the wall in a series of straight line sound waves and people standing beside the wall can clearly hear a message whispered 140 metres away on the other side. Legend has it that the acoustic properties were discovered when workmen, making derogatory remarks about their boss, were heard by him at the other end of the wall.
Father and son (left) listening to whispered messages from mother and daughter (right)
A path wide enough for two people stretches for 144 metres in a gentle curve along the top of the wall. To the south, water laps against the wall below the path and the reservoir stretches away to distant trees on the southern shore. But the view to the north is a complete contrast, with a sheer wall dropping 29 metres (nine stories) to the dry creek bed below.
Looking south across the Barossa Reservoir from the Whispering Wall
The Barossa Reservoir is a popular spot for visitors and tourists. Display boards provide information on the History, the Whisper and the Water and steps and ramps (which provide assisted wheelchair access) lead from the car park to the wall.
Display boards provide information on the History, the Whisper and the Water
Grassed areas shaded by large gum trees encourage visitors to linger a while, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, or stay for a picnic lunch. Several tables are dotted around the grassed area and a separate covered area provides tables and seats. Public toilets, with disabled facilities, are nearby.
The area surrounding the reservoir is protected bush land and the scrub and trees, including Pink Gums and Native Pines, provide a home to many birds and animals.
Whispering Wall was built in a steep sided gorge in Yettie Creek between 1899 and 1902. Construction was unusual, with large boulders filling the lower parts of the wall and 40 tons of horse tram rails reinforcing the upper sections. The base of the wall is 10 metres thick and it tapers up to the width of the narrow pathway along the top.
Large gum trees enhance the view and provide welcome shade on a hot day.
The reservoir was one of the first true arch dams in the world and was built to supply water to Gawler and parts of the Barossa Valley. Its revolutionary design attracted international attention and was reported in American Engineers' News and Scientific American.
The Australian Institute of Engineers placed a plaque near the wall, declaring it a National Engineering Landmark and an area on the east side of the large car park displays some of the machinery used during the construction. The old caretaker's cottage near the machinery and is all that remains of the temporary town of tents and huts that housed around 400 workers, many of them with wives and children.
Some of the machinery used in the construction of the dam and the wall
Strangely, the Barossa Reservoir has no obvious catchment creeks but is supplied with water via a tunnel which cuts through the hills for more than two kilometres from a weir on the South Para River. The conduit was cut by horsepower, literally, over a period of nine months, during which time the poor horse did not see daylight.
The Reservoir is open to the public from 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. or to 6.00 p.m. during daylight saving. It is closed on Christmas Day and total fire ban days. Entry is free.
A large sign on the corner of Yettie Road and Whispering Wall Road
Williamstown is approximately 50 kilometres or an hour's drive north east of Adelaide and the turn off to Whispering Wall Road is a further 5 kilometres from the town along Yettie Road. The drive from Adelaide, through the hills, offers plenty of attractive scenery and several different routes to choose from, each with its own special features.
An alternative, slightly longer, journey follows the Main North Road from Adelaide, through Elizabeth to the historic township of Gawler. It continues east for 8 kilometres to Sandy Creek, then South for 6 kilometres to the turn off for Whispering Wall Road.
Excellent write up Jenny and photos. The Whispering wall has intrigued me since I was a child. I wrote a children's story about it for my nieces and nephews in later years. A wonderful piece of SA's history too. Thank you.