Lost Sydney: Waterfalls

Sydney is blessed with a landscape dotted with sandstone escarpments over which creeks of varying sizes tumble into the valley of the Sydney basin. The falls created where the creeks descend into the valleys vary from races and cascades to waterfalls with drops of up to 5 metres in height. Sadly, because of their location, many waterfalls which once existed in the inner city and suburban areas have long since dried up and all traces of them disappeared when the areas in which they flowed were swallowed up in suburbia. Today, we can go to their localities and only imagine what they must have been like.

Harnett Falls, Mosman

One of the most picturesque waterfalls on the North Shore to disappear with the advent of urban development was Harnett Falls. Located beyond the southern end of Cowles Road, Mosman, the name of the falls honours a pioneer Mosman family. Richard Hayes Harnett Senior was a major influence in Mosman, as was his son, Richard Harnett Junior. Harnett Senior purchased Archibald Mosman's original 44 ha in 1859.

Over the next 30 years he built many roads and ran a horse drawn bus service and ferry services linking the city to Mosman. Pleasure grounds and picnic resorts sprang up around the foreshore to cater for visitors who flocked here. In 1878 Harnett established a quarry at Mosman Bay, producing first class quality sandstone which was used in the construction of many historic buildings throughout Australia. The creek which poured over the falls still flows, but is channelled underground until it reaches Reid Park, where it enters Mosman Bay. Their exact location is not clear - it was either 30 Avenue Road or between 2A and 2B Rangers Avenue, Mosman.

The site of Harnett Falls today UBD Map 8 Ref P 1

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  • Maiden's Creek, Surry Hills

    In the early days of Sydney there used to be a small watercourse which rose in the vicinity of the corner of Campbell and Flinders Streets, Surry Hills. It flowed north-westerly down the hillside and into Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour). A track alongside the upper section of the creek, possibly used by Aborigines as their accessway between what are now the lakes of Centennial Park and Cockle Bay, became the Surry Hills end of Goulburn Street.

    According to early maps the creek flowed downhill through a series of races - today's Wentworth Avenue follows the line of the creek in this section - which then flowed into Cockle Bay, possibly on the northern side of Campbell Street. It appears to have been diverted at some later time to join another creek which flowed alongside Hay Street into Cockle Bay. The upper reaches of the creek were a popular spot for catching fish and mud eels.

    The track alongside the creek was called Maiden's Lane as the section around today's Wentworth Avenue, which was then called Yorke Avenue, was a popular spot for women to wash their clothes in the pools between the races. Over time, it attracted many male admirers who used the location to find a bride, hence its name. Urbanisation saw the creek disappear and by the 1860s there was no trace of it, however its existence and story about the women who washed their clothes in it are recalled by Maiden Lane, a section of road in the vicinity of the creek's source which was probably part of the original lane.

Cup and Saucer Falls, Earlwood

A few hundred metres from where it enters Cook's River, Cup And Saucer Creek once passed over a little waterfall that was a popular swimming spot for local children. They swam in a lagoon between the waterfall and the river and climbed under the fall of water as it cascaded over a the sandstone ledge.

Site of Cup and Saucer Falls

The waterfall disappeared when work on cementing the bed and banks of Cup and Saucer Creek began in 1928. This was part of a project to concrete the upper reaches of Cook's River that the local Council instigated to provide "depression relief" work. The site is at the end of Woolcott Street, Earlwood, beyond to No.1 Woolcott Street.
UBD Map 254 Ref B 15

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  • Narremburn Falls, Willoughby

    Bicentennial Reserve near Small Street, Willoughby is where the upper valley of Flat Rock Creek. Early last century, the creek passed under Willoughby Road at Flat Rock Creek Bridge before cascading over Naremburn Falls, the highest waterfall in the Sydney region, into what was known as The Devil's Hole to the east of Willoughby Road. It then flowed down to Long Bay at Cammeray after passing under Cammeray Bridge.

    When the land above the Naremburn Falls was cleared and subdivided, the creek's flow was reduced considerably. In an act of short-sightedness, the local council then began using Devil's Hole and the upper valley as a rubbish tip and by 1930 had begun filling it in.

    This walkway through Bicentennial Reserve, Willoughby, follows the path Flat Rock Creek took before it plunged over a cliff into The Devil's Hole at roughly the centre of this photo.

    In 1934 the Walter Burley Griffin designed Willoughby Incinerator was built from Sandstone cut from a quarry located there. By 1946, all trace of the waterfall had gone. The area, which was filled up to the level of the top of the falls and the fill area was made into a playing field. In the late 1980s, the Willoughby Leisure Centre was built and the whole area re-landscaped and named Bicentennial Reserve. Henry Lawson Cave, at the southern end of the reserve, was just below the falls, facing The Devil's Hole. The cave's name commemorates the famous Australian author who used it as a refuge and did much of his writing here. Lawson lived at various houses in nearby Market Street. UBD Map 216 Ref A 1

Glenmore Falls, Paddington

Cascade Street, Paddington was thus named because it follows the path taken by a stream which cascaded down the hillside over the Glenmore Falls and into the valley alongside Trumper Park. Also known as The Cascades, the falls were located near where Cascade Street becomes Glenmore Road. The small stream which fed the falls was the water supply for a gin distillery established below the falls in the mid 19th century. The cascades were a popular picnic spot for the families of stonemasons who built Victoria Barracks who were the area's first settlers. Below the falls the creek joined another creek which flowed alongside Trumper Park.

Site of the falls today

In the early 1800's Thomas West was granted land in LaCroza Valley, now central Paddington. The land was cleared and by 1810 West had built a house and watermill near the falls, and planted an orchard. The area continued to develop with the building of the road to South Head, now Oxford Street, in 1811. Another early inhabitant, John Palmer, refused to allow people to cross his land, so the road followed a roundabout way through Paddington. It was this fact that resulted in the suburb having so many twisting roads as they tried to avoid Palmer's property. In the 1970s local councils began closing many streets and making others one-way. Palmer would be smiling on the chaos. UBD Map 4 Ref L 14

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  • Frog Hollow, Surry Hills

    A water course which passed through a tiny settlement of brickmakers late in 1788 began near the present day intersection of Riley and Foveaux Streets and flowed roughly along the line of Sophia Street, then north in front of the Albion Brewery (Centennial Plaza is built on the brewery site) and through what today is Belmore Park where the brickmakers lived.

    The section of Hay Street to the east of George Street, which was added after the creek was turned into an underground drain, follows the path taken by the creek to the marshes which encircled the head of the Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour) where the Entertainment Centre is today. In the 1880s, Quay Street extended north as Lackey Street to the Darling Harbour railway goods yard built around a semicircular wharf at the head of Cockle Bay.

    A tributary of the main creek began as a spring near present day Clifton Reserve in Surry Hills. Little Albion Street follows the path of the creek which cascaded down the hillside on the western side of Crown Street over a series of waterfalls. As the area was developed, the creek dried up and the small valley through which the c reek had flowed became known as Frog Hollow. In what became known as Frog Hollow. This small valley, m arked today by Hills Reserve, Frog Hollow was a notorious hideout for criminals in Victorian Sydney. UBD Map 3 Ref K 15

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