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Published June 28th 2020
Visit one of the world’s largest domestic water supply
Located 65kms to the West of Sydney and around 30-minute drive from Penrith, Warragamba Dam is nestled between stunning Australian bushland and majestic views. It is the largest concrete dam in Australia as well as being one of the largest domestic supply dams in the world.
Warragamba Dam is approximately four times the size of Sydney Harbour and stores 80-per cent of Sydney City's water and supplies water to more than 5-million people living in Sydney and lower Blue Mountains area.
Since opening to the public in 1960, Warragamba Dam has been a popular recreational area and a favourite picnic spot.
After a 10-year closure for major dam upgrades, Warragamba Dam reopened to the public in 2009, and the new grounds featured a new Visitor Centre, Water for Life Exhibition, viewing platforms, and upgraded visitor facilities.
Unfortunately, at the time of our visit the Visitor Centre was closed due to COVID-19
Warragamba Dam was created by damming Burragorang Valley, and the construction of the dam was described as an engineering masterpiece of its time. It involved the diversion of the river using a tunnel and two temporary dams, which allowed 2.3 million tonnes of sandstone to be excavated. It also took three million tonnes of concrete to build the dam. The concrete was placed across the Warragamba River in a series of large, interlocking blocks.
The dam's wall is 142-metres high and crosses 351m. Its capacity is 2 million megalitres, and the lake is 52kms long, 18,532 acres (7,500 hectares).
Warragamba Dam name comes from the Aboriginal words Warra and Gamber, which mean "water running over rocks". A local Gundungurra Aboriginal creation story tells of two Dreamtime spirits Mirragan (a large tiger cat), and his quarry Gurangatch (part fish, part reptile) who lived in a lagoon where the Wollondilly and Wingecarribee rivers meet. During a long cross-country battle in the Dreaming (Gunyungalung), the deep gorges of the Burragorang Valley were gouged out. It was this valley that was flooded when Warragamba Dam was built.
In 1867, initial plans for the dam were drawn, and construction was deferred until after the Great Depression and WWII. With population boom post-WWII, as well as the largest drought recorded in history (1934-1942), stress was at large on Sydney's water supply, and construction of the dam commenced in 1948.
Some of the remnants from the past can be found on the Heritage Walk.
The construction took 12 years with Warragamba Dam opening in 1960. It took 1,800 workers to build the dam, with most living adjacent to the dam in a town specifically created to house the workers. The township of Warragamba included shops, schools and pubs. At its peak, the population reached 3,500.
Tragically, 15 men lost their lives during construction, and a Memorial now stands near the Visitors Centre.
Warragamba Dam is not just home to a rich history; it is also home to Lookout Points which include Lookout at the Visitors Centre, Warragamba Dam Wall, Eighteenth Street Lookout, and Burragorang Lookout.
Whether you want a quiet city escape in the middle of the week or a family-friendly weekend outing, Warragamba Dam makes for the perfect attraction and one of the best recreation areas of the Wollondilly area.
The view of Warragamba Dam from Eighteenth Street Lookout