I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published August 11th 2015
Mundaring Weir is the name of a dam located in the suburb of Mundaring, about 40km east of Perth on Great Eastern Highway.
This dam is arguably Perth's most famous dam, and it's very much worth a visit on any spare weekend day you might have, for more than one reasons. Here they are in no particular order:
Reason no 1, it is simply a very beautiful place to visit. On any given day, even on a wet day, it is a sight to behold, and its surrounding gardens are simply inviting you to relax, take a walk, climb around in the themed playground, kick a ball or two, or have a picnic. No food packed in your hamper? Not to worry, the Mundaring Hotel is just a short stroll away, serving great food and beverages.
Unique themed playground
Reason no 2, it's one of the places near Perth where wildlife is still highly visible. Feeding wildlife is generally discouraged but if you happen to have some sunflower seeds with you when you visit, the local ringneck or twenty-eight parrots would come and get them. The kookabaras are more aloof, and would simply laugh at you if you try to lure them down. And if you hang around until late afternoon, you'd most probably be rewarded with multiple sightings of kangaroo.
Ringneck parrots love sunflower seeds
Reason no 3, it's very close to the start of the Bibulmun Track, the 1000km walking track going from Kalamunda, the neighbouring suburb of Mundaring, all the way to Albany. If you have ever had a desire to walk the track (either in part or in its entirety), Mundaring Weir would be the first highlight or landmark that you encounter on your journey south.
Bibulmun Track passes through here. Walking the plank bridge (part of the dam wall) was a bit challenging to me (I hate heights).
Reason no 4, it has a fascinating history attached to it, with all the drama you wouldn't generally associate with a mundane government construction job. How so? In short, Mundaring Weir was constructed as a solution to the problem of providing water to the goldfields of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie in the 1890s. C. Y. O'Connor was the engineer who oversaw the design and construction of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. As with any huge money-guzzling government projects, there were a lot of criticism and politicking attached to this project. Tragically, O'Connor committed suicide in 1902, less than 1year before the final commissioning of the pipeline. Was this suicide as rumoured due to the stress and pressure of running this project? Despite a suicide note, historians disagree as to the answer to this question and I'm afraid we'd never know for sure. If you visit the area, do take the time to read the information provided on the signages as they give interesting flavours to what is merely a cold lifeless concrete wall.
Reason no 5 is the Pump Station No. 1. When the Water Supply Scheme was first operational, water was pumped from the dammed Helena River to the goldfields through pipes, using eight pumping stations. They're all decomissioned now, replaced by more modern, energy-efficient versions. Some of the eight have been demolished, but luckily not all. The first pumping station is now a museum (entry fee applies). Looking at the tall chimney and the giant furnaces inside, you can just imagine the amount of woodfire it took to run the steam-operated pump. Pump Station No. 1 is located just below the dam but it has its own carpark, picnic ground, and toilets, so it can easily become its own day trip if you have another spare day.
Pump Station No. 1 with its tall chimney, just below the dam wall
Can you think of any other good reasons to visit Mundaring Weir? If yes, please share it here with us...
Reason 6 is a clarification of reason 4 with regards to just how important Mundaring Weir was to the people of Perth. The report in The Inquirer and Commercial News, 2 October 1891 regarding the opening of the waterworks reports the following.
Messrs Saunders and Barrett, Civil Engineers were commissioned by the Perth City Council to design a water supply. The Government of the day were not prepared to fund the venture, so the council arranged the funding.
The population at the time was less than 10,000 and the people were complimented on their forethought as Melbourne had a population of 70,000 before they had a water supply.
The dam was built at Mundy's Brook by Messrs Neil McNeil & Co at a cost of 160,000 pounds. The dam was reported to be 65 feet tall, 48 feet wide at the base tapering to 3 1/2 feet wide at the top. The wall contains 35,000 yards of concrete and was believed to be the largest concrete wall in Australia at that time. It is built on a solid granite foundation. "and to all appearances is as solid and safe as could be wished."
The basin is 42 acres and the capacity is 260,000,000 gallons with a catchment area of 11,000 acres. However, it was only half full with 25 acres covered with 46 feet of water on the day the waterworks were officially opened as the cement was not sufficiently dry. Mr Keane was the Mayor of Perth and his wife was invited to turn on the water supply. "Mrs. Keane, having turned on the water, said, 'I now declare the Perth waterworks open, and christen the reservoir the Victoria after our most gracious Queen.'
C Y O'Connor did not arrive in WA until June 1891, four months before the opening of the waterworks. Gold was not discovered in Coolgardie until 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893. Mundaring Weir is the water supply for the Goldfields Pipeline. And the 2 million pound bill for that project appears to have overshadowed the achievement of building the dam for it's original purpose.