Located about 65 kilometres west of Sydney, about 30 minutes drive from Penrith in western Sydney, Warragamba is a small township of around 500 houses. Originally built as a temporary construction town for the building of the Warragamba Dam starting in 1948, the town was to be demolished at the completion of the Dam in 1960, but many of the towns people wished to purchase their homes and remain. Warragamba has around 20 businesses still trading in the main street, including a cafe, gift shop, variety store, service station and butchers. Warragamba has very much a company town feel, with its rows of similar looking fibro houses and a flamboyant street layout dominated by curves and circles that looks more like it came from the pen of an artist than a town planner.
While dam visitors still come through the town, Warragamba's tourist heyday was in the decades from the 1960s to the 1980s. The dam was a vast, new piece of civil engineering and the source of much pride. Visitors to the dam could cross the suspension bridge and walk through the tunnels inside the dam wall. They could buy postcard folders of views of the dam and the town, souvenir rulers, giant pencils and souvenir spoons. From 1968 visitors to Warragamba could also visit the African Lion Safari. Lions and tigers roamed free as people drove their cars through the park to observe them.
After a number of years of being discouraged from visiting the dam, the public is being encouraged to come and visit again. There are a number of lookouts to view the dam, and places to well equipped picnic areas. Warragamba Workers and Sporting Club has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where you can catch up or take in the history of Warragamba in its modern surroundings, catering for families is just a small part of what the club provides to the community. Nearby Wallacia houses Panthers 18 Hole Golf Course & Clubhouse as well as Wallacia Bowling Club and the Beautiful Historic Wallacia Hotel.
Warragamba Dam (1946 - 1960) provided Sydney's first, genuinely secure, water supply after previous developments proved inadequate. Its completion also made possible virtually the complete sewering of the whole of the Sydney area. Technically, the dam is a major engineering work of its time. It is becoming increasingly rare as earth and rock fill dams are now usually preferred for economy and ease of construction. When constructed, it was the highest concrete gravity dam in the world on sandstone foundations and it is still one of the world s largest storage dams built specifically for metropolitan water supply.
The dam wall is situated in the narrow, steep sided gorge of the Warragamba River, the main tributaries of which are the Wollondilly, Cox, Kowmung and Nattai rivers. The total catchment area is 9050 sq. kms, and the impounded waters form a lake, now known as Lake Burragorang, some 50 kms long, with an area of 7500 hectares and a shoreline of 354 kms. The dam wall is constructed of over 3 million tonnes of mass concrete, with a vertical upstream face and a 45 degree (approximately) sloping downstream face. It is 351 metres long with a height of 137 metres from foundations to crest. Width at the base is 104 metres, and, at the top, 8.5 metres. Numerous galleries are incorporated in the wall. Two electric passenger lifts connect the road level of the wall with the various galleries.
Floodwaters can be passed over the dam by means of five crest gates. A drum gate (which sinks down into the crest of the dam) opens first, the water flowing over the top of it, thus facilitating the discharge of floating logs and other debris. Four radical gates (which lift upwards) then progressively open, the water discharging underneath their bottom edges, with an initial advantage of a static head pressure of some 12 metres. The dam embodies a 50 metre M.W. hydro electric power station, owned by the Electricity Commission of N.S.W., for supplying power to the N.S.W. grid when the dam is at or near the overflowing condition. Based on earlier proposals in 1910 and 1918, and in the light of the 1934-1942 drought, the decision to build Warragamba Dam was taken by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board. The Board approved the recommended site on 2nd October 1946 after which construction work commenced almost immediately.
Situauted not far from Warragamba, Wallacia is was formerly a rural village it is 68 kilometres (42 mi) west of Sydney, but is today considered to be a suburb. Originally the region was called Riverview, but later became known locally as Wallace after Robert Wallace who grazed cattle on the 2,000 acres that he rented from Sir Charles Nicholson. His house became the unofficial Post Office from November 1885, situated at the rear of what is now the Wallacia Store and Newsagents. When the Post Office became official in November 1905, the G.P.O. named the area Boondah, as the name Wallace was already in use elsewhere in New South Wales. However, local people objected and to retain the link with Wallace, they suggested that the area be called Wallacia. This name was officially approved on 1 June 1906.
The region was chiefly one of dairying and grazing during the 19th century, but in the early 20th century - because of its rural atmosphere and proximity to Sydney - tourism developed as people opened their homes as guest houses. After the Second World War however, the increase in car ownership and the availability of air travel saw a decline in the local tourist trade. Wallacia was once home to Bullen s Animal World, a theme park and circus, for several decades. Growth in the area in the past few years has mainly occurred with the development of hobby farms by people seeking a retreat from city life. Wallacia sits beside the Nepean River and landmarks include the Weir, Wallacia Bridge, Little Bondi and Wallacia Hotel mock Tudor design by the Fowler family. It was the first place in Australia to introduce a fish ladder next to a weir. Wallacia s tourism is centred on the day-tripper trade with the Wallacia Hotel and the Wallacia Golf Course, the chief attractions.
HistoryThe name Warragamba comes from the aboriginal words Warra and Gamba meaning water running over rocks. In 1804, George William Evans discovered the Warragamba River, penetrating upstream to the present site of Warragamba Dam. Originally constructed as a workers settlement during the construction of Warragamba Dam, Sydney s primary water source, in the 1940s the modern town of Warragamba remains on the same site adjacent the dam. The town was built from scratch, including homes, shops, schools and other facilities. On completion of the dam being built many workers bought their homes from the Water Board and stayed on in the township. Warragamba Public School celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in September 1998 despite the fact it was to be demolished after the completion of Warragamba Dam in the 1960s. Warragamba is unusual for an Australian town, as the streets do not have typical names, but are numbered (such as First Street and Eighteenth Street). Ongoing dam works (including safety improvements in the first decade of the 21st century) have severely reduced weekend visitors. The town also lost 30 homes and businesses in the Warragamba Bushfire of 2001. Warragamba was home to African Lion Safari until 1991.
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Warragamba shopping area
Building the dam wall
Bullens Lion Safari
Warragamba Dam picnic area