In spite of its name, that part of Parramatta River downstream from the city of Parramatta is not a river at all, but an intermediate tide dominated, drowned valley estuary. As it is the main tributary of Sydney Harbour, and numerous secondary tributaries flow into it - the Lane Cove and Duck River being the most prominent of them - it is given the status of 'River'. The Parramatta River is deemed to enter Sydney Harbour at Manns Point and Yurulbin Point a short distance downstream from Cockatoo Island, some 21 kilometres from the Tasman Sea,
The land adjacent to the Parramatta River was occupied for many thousands of years by the Burramattagal, Toongagal, Wallumattagal, Wangal, and Wategora Aboriginal peoples. They used the river as an important source of food and a place for trade. After the arrival of European settlers, the river continued to be used as a place for trade, but as European industry relied heavily on water for it to function, the banks of the river were developed extensively for industry and manufacture. It was only in the last eighty years that much of the industry along the river, particularly that upstream from the Gladesville Bridge, has moved away from the river, allowing the riverside land to be redeveloped for residential purposes.
Parramatta River by ferry: an enjoyable way to experience the many interesting features to be found along the river between the cities of Sydney and Parramatta is a ride on the RiverCat ferry. Ferries leave regularly throughout the day from Circular Quay, which is Sydney's major transport hub. Over 30 services operate in each direction every day of the week from Circular Quay's Wharf No.5. The ferry stops at numerous sububan wharves, including Birchgrove, Cockaoo Island, Meadowbank and Olympic Park, Homebush. The journey, which takes one hour, is an integral part of a half day or full day trip to Parramatta. You can either return to Sydney by ferry or take the train through Sydney's inner western suburbs.
A self guided tour about the bridges across the Parramatta River, prepared by the Institute of Engineers Australia Sydney Division Engineering Heritage Committee, provides interesting information for travellers on the RiverCat.