Parramatta River

Parramatta River

Infobox River
river_name = Parramatta River

caption = Parramatta River from Gladesville Bridge
origin = New South Wales
mouth = Port Jackson
basin_countries = Australia
watershed = 130 km²

The Parramatta River is a waterway in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The Parramatta River is the main tributary of Sydney Harbour, a branch of Port Jackson, along with the smaller Lane Cove River and Duck River.

The river begins at confluence of Toongabbie Creek and Darling Mills Creek west of Parramatta and travels in an easterly direction to a line between Greenwich Point, Greenwich, and Robinsons Point, Birchgrove. Here it flows into Port Jackson, still about 21 km from the ocean.

The total catchment area of the river is approximately 130 km² and is tidal to Charles Street Weir in Parramatta, approximately 30 km from Sydney Heads.

River governance

The whole of Sydney Harbour including its tributary rivers is now subject to a long range Catchment Management Plan. The Government has almost eliminated local representation by disbanding the former local catchment management boards.

The New South Wales Government has a documented policy in relation to access to the harbour and river foreshores, including public access to intertidal lands where landowners have absolute waterfronts but where the waterfront is exposed at low tide.Moorings and jetties are the responsibility of NSW Maritime, who are also responsible for the management of the Harbour and river seabed. Many bays contain swing moorings, mostly privately owned, but some associated with commercial marinas.


Ferry services and wharves

There are River Cat services along the Parramatta River to Circular Quay. The main wharves are:
* Parramatta, (Southern side of River)
* Sydney Olympic Park, (Southern)
* Meadowbank, (Northern)
* Kissing Point, (Northern)
* Cabarita Park, (Southern)
* Abbotsford, (Southern)
* Five Dock, (Southern)
* Gladesville, (Northern)


The Parramatta River, along with Sydney Harbour, is the most significant waterway in Sydney. Since settlement, the river and the harbour have presented a formidable barrier to development north of the waterway - it literally cuts Sydney in half. As a result, the many crossings are extremely important to the life of the City.From east to west (including those crossing Sydney Harbour), they are:
* Sydney Harbour Tunnel
* Sydney Harbour Bridge
* Gladesville Bridge
* Mortlake Ferry (the last vehicular ferry operating on the river)
* Ryde Bridge (now a dual bridge)
* Old Meadowbank railway bridge (converted into a pedestrian and cyclist bridge)
* John Whitton Bridge (the new railway bridge)
* Silverwater Bridge at Silverwater.
* Pedestrian Bridge near Rydalmere ferry wharf.
* Carlingford Line railway bridge and adjacent water pipe bridge
* James Ruse Drive bridge
* Gasworks Bridge, Parramatta (historic iron lattice bridge named for the Gasworks which used to be situated nearby)
* Bridge of Oars, Parramatta
* Lennox Bridge, Parramatta

Ecological and environment issues

Water quality concerns

Until 1970 the river was an open drain for Sydney's industry and consequently the southern central embayments are contaminated with a range of heavy metals and chemicals. The Northern Bays are less affected as the Sydney Harbour Bridge was not completed until 1932 and so industrial development was already well established on the southern side of the Harbour.

Dr Gavin Birch of the University of Sydney has published a number of papers which show that Sydney Harbour is as contaminated as most other harbours in industrialised cities, that the main sediment contamination is in the southern central embayments (Blackwattle to Homebush Bays), that there are five particularly contaminated areas of Sydney Harbour, and that four of them are in the Parramatta river system.

The main contaminated areas of the Parramatta River are:
* Homebush Bay - dioxins, lead, phthalates, DDT, PAHs (coal tars) mainly originating from nearby chemical factories of Berger Paints, CSR Chemicals, ICI/Orica, and Union Carbide.
* Iron Cove - various metals and chemicals with no clearly defined point source. Pollution may possibly enter through Iron Cove Creek and Hawthorne Canal.
* Off former AGL site, now redeveloped as Breakfast Point.

Water quality is monitored by the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change for faecal coliforms and e. coli, but only as far west as Cabarita. The Department does not monitor water quality further west on the River, despite increasing development and the use of the river for recreational boating. In the areas monitored, the water quality is generally acceptable except after heavy rains.


The Parramatta River is subject to a number of fishing bans because of its contaminated sediments. There is a complete fishing ban in Homebush Bay because of the dioxin contamination, and a complete commercial fishing ban throughout the rest of Sydney Harbour and its tributaries, including the Parramatta River.

The Parramatta River is one of the few significant coastal rivers in New South Wales which has not been the subject of a Healthy Rivers Commission Investigation. The Cooks River and Botany Bay have been subject to such an investigation. Some have campaigned for a Healthy Rivers Commission inquiry to bring together all the information on the state of the river and its sediments and fish and assist in watershed management.

Major wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas

Major wetlands include:
* Bicentennial Park Wetlands (nationally significant, JAMBA CAMBA)
* Newington Wetlands (nationally significant, JAMBA CAMBA)

There are significant stands of mangroves along the river west of Henley (on the North shore) and Mortlake (on the southern shore) and in the Lane Cove River. The mangroves have actually colonised areas that were previously salt marsh. Research into historical drawings and writings indicates that the mangroves were far fewer at English colonisation. Council information panels in Glades Bay explain that the bay's now extensive mangrove stands would once have been open water, sandy beaches and outcrops of rock. Land clearing and development has allowed soil and various nutrients to be washed into the river. This has provided an ideal environment for mangroves to colonise. The excessive siltation of the river is an ongoing problem.


Many areas of the river, particularly the swampy heads of bays, have been reclaimed, often being used as rubbish dumps before being converted into playing fields. Large sections of Meadowbank Park were created in this manner. Some industrial sites were also reclaimed heavily from the river, particularly in Homebush Bay. Most creeks leading into the bays have been channelised (lined with concrete walls and floor).


While some areas of the river with heavily contaminated sediments have not been remediated, there is significant remediation of sediments about to start in Homebush Bay. These include the dioxin contaminated sediments near the former Union Carbide plant and the lead contaminated sediments near the former Berger Paints plant. The former AGL site has been analysed, a remediation plan developed and approved, remediation completed and construction commenced on medium to high density residential development, but the sediments, which independent research shows to be contaminated with pollutants from the AGL operations, have not yet had the investigation stage finalised (as of 2000).

Other areas have had sediments covered with concrete to prevent the fish eating the benthos. Some of these companies claim that the contamination is best left alone, but environmentalists have argued that the contamination could be being passed up the food chain and claim that the companies are trying to avoid the costs incurred in pollution cleanup.

Recreational activities


There are a number of sailing and yachting clubs on the River:
*Abbotsford 12ft Flying Squadron in Abbotsford
*Concord & Ryde Sailing Club at Putney
*Parramatta River Sailing Club at Gladesville

Sailing and rowing take place under an aquatic licence granted annually by Waterways.

ea Scouts

There are Sea Scouts at:
* Rhodes: First Yaralla
* Meadowbank: First Epping


The river has a long historical association with rowing. There is a monument in honour of Henry Searle, a champion sculler of his day, in the river at Henley.

Some of the school rowing sheds are:
* MLC School
* The King's School
* Sydney Boys High School
* Newington College
* The Scots College
* Sydney Grammar School
* Shore School

There are also a number of rowing clubs:
* Leichhardt Rowing Club (Iron Cove)
* Drummoyne Rowers in Iron Cove
* Sydney Rowing Club at Abbotsford
* UTS Haberfield at Haberfield
* Balmain

While a number of regattas are still held on the river each year, mainly in Iron Cove and Hen and Chicken Bay, many of the major regattas are now held at the Sydney International Regatta Centre (SIRC) where rowing was held for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Early GPS Schoolboy Head of the River races were held on the Parramatta River before moving to the Nepean River and later SIRC.

Most rowing training is done in the middle to upper reaches of the river between Abbotsford and Homebush Bay because there is less water traffic and therefore less waves and more protection from wind. Rowing also takes place in the Lane Cove River and Iron Cove which also have less traffic.

Foreshore walks and cycleways

Much of the foreshore is still in the hands of industry and private individuals as residences, however there is an increasing amount of waterfront land available as foreshore reserve with walkways and cycleways. As former industrial sites undergo remediation and redevelopment, the foreshores are opened up for public access. Where there is no foreshore access, cycleways are routed through quiet residential streets with clearly marked sections of the road reserved for cyclists.

Major foreshore parks include:
* Cabarita Park
* Kissing Point Park, Ryde
* Meadowbank Park
* Putney Park
* George Kendall Riverside Park, Ermington
* Bicentennial Park, Homebush Bay
* Millennium Parklands, Homebush/Auburn

Heritage items on or near the foreshore

Major heritage buildings on or near the foreshore include:
* Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital (now Rivendell unit for Teenagers)
* Callan Park, a former psychiatric hospital, with fine sandstone buildings
* Gladesville Psychiatric Hospital, with many sandstone buildings in parklike surroundings on the southern side of Victoria Road. All the buildings on the Northern side were demolished and sold for redevelopment in about 1990.
* Yaralla, the italianate mansion of Dame Edith Walker, a generous benefactor of the Concord Community, still preserved in magnificent and extensive grounds through a trust structure in favour of a hospital.
* the Newington armaments depot with its armaments railway and concrete bunkers

External links

* [ Parramatta River] at NSW Department of Natural Resources
* [ Parramatta River] defined by the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales
* [ Sydney Harbour and Parramatta River Catchment map] at EPA website
* [ The Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust]
* [ Information on proposed remediation at Homebush Bay and the Rhodes peninsula]

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