“Mum where does the water come from?” my 6-year-old son Lewis asks.
“From the dam” I reply
“What’s a dam?” Lewis asks.
Ok, so this went on for a while until I said, “How about we go to Mundaring Weir, on the next sunny weekend, so that you can see how the dam works.”
It has been quite a wet winter in Perth and we have been concentrating on activities to do on rainy days, so it was a relief to finally get a nice sunny Sunday to head out for a picnic.
Our Perth day trip to Mundaring Weir
With our picnic bag packed we jump into the car for the 45km drive into the Perth Hills officially known as the Darling Rangers.
We locate a great picnic spot at the base of the dam at Pump Station #1.
I can’t believe how much has been done around the dam for tourists over the recent years – it has been nearly 20 years since I was last here.
There are now paved walkways from the free car parks, to the solid jarrah picnic tables, under shelters with free gas BBQ’s.
We eat our picnic and sip our wine as we explain to Lewis, “behind the huge grey concrete wall, water is stored for Perth and the Goldfields to drink.”
It is chilly in the shade with the light breeze blowing and we are grateful to finish lunch.
With our picnic items away in the car, we put hats on and set out in the warm sunshine to explore.
Whilst Steve and I learnt at primary school about the history of Mundaring Weir and the Golden Pipeline, it was great to see lots of large signs retelling the story for tourists and also refreshing our memories.
During the late 1800’s a gold rush had begun in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie 594km east of Perth. This region was dry arid desert and water was needed for all the minors. The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme was created. The first stage was to build the dam, then the steel pipeline and finally the 8 pumping stations along the way. C Y O’Connor was the engineer for this adventurous scheme and during the construction he was under constant ridicule from the media. A year before the pipelines completion he committed suicide and never got to see this amazing engineering feat. A landmark that has since received an award for international historic civil engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
We start by crossing the walkover bridge on the now dry side of Helena River, we read that this river was chosen to be the dam due to its shape as it bottle necks at this point to just 200m across.
We climb the stairs to the top of the dam and enjoy the view out across O’Connor Lake.
Along the way we read all sorts of facts and anecdotes including one about how the bygone residents of Mundaring would place bets every year as to what date the dam would overflow. The last time it overflowed was in 1996 and they say it will now never overflow again due to the way the water is pumped onwards into holding dams.
We walk across the dam and enjoy the vista down into Helena Valley.
At the other end we are rewarded by a very friendly Mr Whippy van and eat ice-creams as we walk back down to the car.
Before heading home we stop in at the Mundaring Weir hotel and enjoy a drink out in the warm sunshine of the beer garden overlooking the playground in the beer garden.
Just as we reach the car we spot kangaroos across the road feeding. We walk quietly over so as not to disturb them.
Then we are back in the car heading home, we point out to Lewis the pipeline heading to Kalgoorlie.
I think he understands where the water comes from now.
Have you taken your kids out to explain history or how things work?