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Natural Attractions - NEPEAN DAM

Nepean dam If you have followed the list of the dams on our Natural Attractions pages, you have arrived at the fourth and last of the great engineering masterpieces of the Upper Nepean river system - the Nepean Dam.

Completed in 1935, it is smaller than the other great dams, but an integral link in the water catchment area which supplies the city of Sydney and the Illawarra area.

Both the dam itself and the tourist's picnic and lookout areas are on a more modest scale than the other dams, but the Nepean has a special quality of its own which makes it as an interesting place to visit, or to take the family.

Easily accessible.

The Nepean is the most easily accessible of the dams, being just a kilometre or so off the freeway, and a few kilometres from Bargo.

The entrance road and park-like picnic areas have the same well-kept and neat appearance as the other tourist attractions.

Except here it is obvious time and fashions have changed since the extravagant and novel days of the earlier dams.

Well appointed picnic grounds

For all the familyA peaceful place to rest and play.

There are a number of picnic areas on several levels leading down to the dam itself, but here they don't intrude on nature so much - the tall trees and scrub come right up to the edge of the lawns, giving you a more immediate feeling of being in the bush itself.

Facilities are excellent. On the upper area is a shelter area with tables seating up to 80 people, a smaller one for up to 20, with electric barbecues and boiling water.

Other tables are scattered throughout the area (10), with BBQs, benches, and a kids' playground and lawns to play on. Toilet facilities are modern and clean (including a disabled facility).

Private picnic areas.

Best of all is the natural bushland which surrounds you closely - giving more of a sense of being in the outdoors.

Further down is another sheltered area (up to 20 people), and a terraced lawn with undercover area for up to 60 (both with electric BBQs & hot water).

Quaintest of all is a row of cabanas, each just big enough for a family, with tables and BBQs, on a viewing platform which overlooks the dam.

Family cabanas

the lakeSilence and tranquility.

On this lower level are also the exotic touches typical of earlier landscaping - a walkway flanked by camellias and azaleas, the remnants of formal garden beds once lovingly attended by former curators, a lovers' seat, and lookouts from which to see the lake stretching up into the gorges.

Here the awesome silence of the bushland and valleys is broken only by the sounds of native birdlife.

The sculptured parks in this wilderness seem empty without the laughter of children to decorate them.

Comparative architecture and engineering.

At the dam itself the progress of both engineering and architecture is evident in comparison with earlier constructions.

Although based on monolithic sandstone construction, the use of concrete is more evident in the wall of the dam and spillway.

Here also, the architectural style has moved along (a quarter of a century) - neo-Victorian and art deco give way to a sort of 'post-modernist' look. The stonework is less rusticated and decorative - more formal and geometric.

entrance to the dam wall

the dam wallFunction and form.

The superstructure on the wall is more severe and seems to reflect the sheer surfaces carved out of the cliffs widened to make room for the dam.

The angularity of the stonework and the little buildings themselves (there are more on the other side) is reminiscent of the style of earlier public buildings in Canberra (this too, was the 1930s).

Less ornate, more functional, only at this dam are you invited you to walk across, and when you do there is another little park, and vantage points to look from on the other side.

Technical details.

Nepean Dam. Completed 1935. Sandstone masonry and concrete. Built by NSW Dept. Public Works.

Wall 710 feet wide; 1066 feet above sea level and 225 feet deep when filled. Lake 881 acres. Catchment area 123 square miles; average rainfall 43 inches.

Water flows down river to a weir at Pheasant's Nest where it is diverted through the Nepean Tunnel 4 1/2 miles to the Cataract River at Broughton's Pass weir, thence 2 miles through the Cataract Tunnel to the Upper Canal. It then flows some 57 kilometres by gravity to the Prospect Water Filtration Plant near Prospect Reservoir, from where it is reticulated throughout Sydney.

the spillway

How to get there.

From Sydney. Take the M5 south from Sydney, then F5 towards Canberra - about one hour.

To get to the Nepean Dam, turn left at the Bargo exit about 10 minutes from the Pheasants Nest Roadhouse. Follow the signs, turning right at the first road just inside the gates (all weather road).

From Wollongong. Take the freeway north towards Sydney, then the Picton turnoff; follow for about 15 minutes until you come to the F5; turn left towards Goulburn. Turn left at the Bargo exit about 10 minutes from the Pheasants Nest Roadhouse. Follow the signs, turning right at the first road just inside the gates (all weather road).

From Goulburn/Canberra. Take the freeway towards Sydney. About ten minutes past the Mittagong turnoff to the Highlands, take the Bargo exit. Drive a little further on towards Bargo: look out for the bridge over the railway line on the right; turn right here, back over the freeway, then follow the signs, turning right at the first road just inside the gates (all weather road).

Nepean Dam is open 7 days a week 10.00am to 5.00pm. (Closes 7.00pm on weekends and Public Holidays during Daylight Saving Time.) Entrance is free.

For more information contact the Sydney Catchment Authority on (02) 4640 1200 during business hours Monday to Friday contact 13 20 52 or see their website - www.sca.nsw.gov.au.

Last updated 17/6/07