The Mundaring Weir is a great tourist attraction filled with educational, historical & natural attractions for all to enjoy.
Last Sunday, my friend and I drove up to the Perth Hills to visit the Mundaring Weir, a famous dam in the Darling Scarp that holds great historical and engineering importance to Western Australia. The Darling Scarp or Darling Ranges as it’s also called, is only 45 minutes east of Perth City, and it features wide, fertile ranges where the Perth Hills reside with character townships that exude country charm and views that take your breath away.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited Mundaring before, nor even realised there was even a dam in Western Australia that held so much importance! Mundaring is full of educational, historical and natural attractions and I encourage you to consider spending the weekend up in Perth Hills to truly savior all it has to offer.
Directions to get there:
- From Perth, take Guildford Road or Great Eastern Highway to Midland
- Follow the Great Eastern Highway for approximately 16km towards Mundaring
- Turn right into Nichol Street and follow the signs
What is the Mundaring Weir?
The Mundaring Weir is a dam located 39 km (24 mi) from Perth CBD. It is built situated in the scenic Darling Scarp Ranges (ranges that extend from Bindoon to south of Pemberton), and is built on the Helena River to store water that is pumped out to the Goldfields and other regional outback areas of Western Australia. The Weir is owned by the Water Corporation; known not only as an important source of fresh water for all West Australians, but also as a tourist destination with educational, historical and natural attractions for all to enjoy.
Why is Mundaring Weir so important to Western Australia?
The Weir showcases amazing engineering, playing a vital part in the Goldfields and Agricultural Water Supply Scheme, piping freshwater to Karlgoorlie and a network of country centres in WA. Without this dam, these agricultural towns in the nearby wheatbelt would get no fresh drinking water.
Western Australia has always had a dry climate, but particularly in recent decades it’s become a whole lot drier, making water management in WA a serious, critical issue. I’ll put it into statistical perspective: when Mundaring Weir was first constructed over 100 years ago, it regularly filled and overflowed with water. Fast forward to nowadays, and the reduced rainfall means extra water has to be pumped into the weir, with more pressure and commitment than ever before to supply fresh water to WA country regions.
With that being said – then yeh, the Mundaring Weir Dam is kind of a big deal. As with any engineering feat of its size, it undergoes ongoing monitoring, repairs and maintenance to keep it functioning and pumping out the required water.
Dam Information Breakdown:
- Capacity – 63.6 million kilolitres
- Catchment area – 1,470 square kilometres
- Length of wall – 308 metres
- Height of wall (above riverbed) – 42 metres
- Water from Mundaring Weir is supplied to the Goldfields and Agricultural region. We transfer desalinated seawater and groundwater into Mundaring Weir to supplement this water supply
Brief History of Mundaring Weir
The town of Mundaring was formed in 1898, after prospectors made a dash to the area in hopes to find gold in Coolgardie, but instead, they discovered water. Around the sae year the town was formed, the State’s Engineer-in-Chief of Public Works, CY O’Connor, was asked to work out how to get fresh water to the arid goldfields. He decided to built a storage reservoir in the hills near Perth and pump water inland. Many called his scheme ‘madness’, but time proved otherwise, as it ended up being a unique, technological triumph.
The project involved building a 21million kilolitre storage reservoir at Mundaring and then pumping the water via eight large steam-driven pumping stations through a 557km steel pipeline. Unfortunately CY O’Connor was never able to enjoy his success, because the pumping trials began just weeks after his death in 1902. In January 1903, the Mundaring water flowed into Kalgoorlie and since then, the Weir’s capacity has been increased by raising the dam wall, with extra water coming in via the Helena Weir downstream of the main dam and water from this smaller dam is pumped back into Mundaring Weir.
Overall, the cost of the Mundaring Wier scheme was £2,655,220; number of pipes used: 60,000; Amount of water pumped daily: Up to 4.7 million gallons (25.5 million kilolitres).
On the other side of the weir, the pipe brings in water to maintain the required level. At the base of the dam is Pump Station #1..
The additional water flowing into the weir comes from various sources including the desalination plant at Kwinana, groundwater and other dams.
Below is CY O’Connor Lake.
Bibbulmun Track the Mundaring Weir
The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching 1000km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills, to Albany on the south coast, winding through the heart of the scenic South West of Western Australia. The track crosses the weir wall, following the northern side of CY O’Connor lake before turning south and continuing the journey to Albany. If you want to rise to the challenge of doing the trail, visit their website for more information. There are also a number of other marked nature walks around the Weir which allow you to enjoy the bush without damaging it.
In wildflower season (July to November) the area around the Weir explodes in a vibrant array of native flowers, this would be a particularly nice time to walk the trails here.
Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail
Designer of the Mundaring Weir, CY O’Connor, believed that water could be pumped so far and lifted so high through a steel pipeline that it would reach the inhospitable goldfields almost 600km from the Mundaring reservoir. Opening in 1903, the ‘scheme of madness’ is an engineering success story.
The steel pipeline flows life-giving water from picturesque Mundaring Weir in the forested Perth Hills, right through to the open spaces of WA’s wheatbelt to Mount Charlotte Reservoir overlooking Kalgoorlie- Boulder; the city built on gold. There are sites of the former steam driven pump stations; some you can walk around following signed trails.
The above sign reads:
“A path and a Playground –
Imagine running along the top of the pipe using both hands to carry something that you didn’t dare drop. The workers’ children used the pipe as a quick way of getting from the houses to No 1 Pump Station to deliver their fathers’ cooked lunches. The lunches had to arrive hot! Children 100 years ago made up their own games. Bowling hoops on the pipe was a favourite. Running behind, they pushed their hoop with a stick along the top. (Climbing on the pipes is no longer allowed for safety reason).”
When visiting Mundaring sites please ensure your safety by staying on the signed and formed pathways, roads and recreational areas. Be aware of uneven surfaces and walking hazards and take care when moving about the area.
No 1 Pump Station
Formerly known as the CY O´Connor Museum, No 1 Pump Station is the first in a series of eight steam pump stations built in 1902 to deliver water from Perth’s hills nearly 600km east. It still houses its original boilers and one of its original steam engines. Check it out on Mundaring Weir Road to learn more about the engineering feat of pumping water from Mundaring Weir to the Goldfields. Information on Entry Fees & Opening Hours here.
The Mundaring Railway
Mundaring Weir was the end station of the Mundaring Weir Branch Railway, which was constructed by Public Works Department of WA for the transport of materials for the construction of the dam.
After completion of the weir, the location became popular with picnickers and sightseers. With the landscaped grounds of the weir, and the lower zig-zag section of the end of the railway line features in postcards and special picnic excursion trains that travelled to the weir from Perth in the 1910s, until the 1940s. The Railway is another attraction to check out while in the area of Mundaring.
Facilities at the Mundaring Weir
Facilities here are accessible toilets, water, picnic shelters, gas barbeques, sculptures and children’s play area. You can also learn about the history of the Mundaring Weir Dam with interactive information at various strategic points scattered around the precinct.
You can enjoy great views from the north side of the dam wall, walk across the wall or picnic on the south side. There are BBQ and picnic huts too, and chances are you’ll see some kangaroos.
One we finished in Mundaring, we followed the scenic drive through the Bickley-Carmel Valley (and for wine lovers, this is a great place to stop along the way at one of the wineries for tastings and a delicious gourmet lunch). If you arrive to Mundaring Weir in the morning and if you got the extra time – spend the afternoon in Kalamunda visiting the local markets or sampling the fresh local produce.
On our return to Perth, we went back via the famous Zigzag Road, a fascinating remanent of an historic railway line that offers amazing views of the CBD and the Swan Coastal Plain. Here, we parked up the car and watched the sunset. It was awesome.
FYI: There is an official Zig Zag Cultural Centre (home to the Perth Hills Visitor Centre) where you can find a range of information on local attractions to help you further enjoy your visit to the Perth Hills and more.
The trip to Perth Hills was worth the picturesque drive there and back; the views being sensational. Walking along the bridge at the Mundaring Weir and basking in the sunlight was awesome as I thought about how the weir all came together all those years ago. Mundaring Weir is a beautiful, peaceful place set with low hills, natural bush, birds chirping, wildflowers and wildlife that is abundant everywhere you go. You will be impressed by the engineering of the dam, the history and the countryside all in one. This is such a great place to go with family, friends, guest visitors to our state or even a tinder date!
On a side note, visitors to the Perth Hills will also be impressed by the restaurants and the high level of sophisticated accommodations to be found in the area (with country bed and breakfasts, spa retreats and other private luxurious hideaways). On our way to the Mundaring Weir, we stopped into the Mundaring Weir Hotel for lunch, which is a must-do in my opinion. You can read about my experience at the Mundaring Weir Hotel here.
For new visitors, there is a Mundaring Visitor Centre for those who wish to take the extra time to collect maps of the area and get more information for your day trip. Information is located at the bottom of the article. Download the Water Corporation Mundaring Weir Brochure
Mundaring Weir is open every day of the week until 6pm (closes at 5pm in winter).
Mundaring Village Weir Road, MUNDARING WA 6073