23+ Swan River Facts You Probably Didn't Know About!

Ritwik Bhuyan
Sep 08, 2022 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Jan 10, 2022
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Read some Swan River facts here about the beautiful river in the capital city of Western Australia.

The Swan River is a popular river and tourist destination in Western Australia.

The Swan River has a different name in Aboriginal Noongar, which is Derbarl Yerrigan. The Swan River is known to run through the metropolitan city of Perth in Australia, which is the largest city and the capital of Western Australia.

The Swan River rises in the hills south of Corrigan as the Avon River and then flows 224 mi (360 km) southwest and northeast past Perth and Northam to the Indian Ocean at Fremantle. The river is known by the name Swan only in the lower 60 mi (97 km) of its course.

The Helena River and the Canning River are tributaries of the Swan River.

The Swan and Canning rivers run through Perth, where more than two million people reside. There's also an organization called the Swan River Trust that works to oversee the health, use, and condition of both the Swan and the Canning rivers.

During the ancient days of the Swan River settlement, the Swan River was actually used as the main route for transportation from Fremantle and Perth. This system of transportation continued until the Government Rail system was established between Fremantle and Perth's Guildford.

Since the beginning of Perth, the Swan River has existed and still exists now. The Swan River divides the city of Perth into North and South Perth.

Unique Facts About The Swan River

Let's learn some unique facts about the Swan River of the city of Perth.

  • Previously known as the Black Swan River, there was a race between Britain and France to occupy the area by the Swan River. This happened in the 1820s.
  • In 1829, Britain formed an area called the Swan River Colony, just beating France to the finish line. If France had been successful, people in Perth would have spoken French today. The colony was made up of free settlers and not convicts, and that is why the area doesn't have a convict heritage, unlike other places.
  • The Swan River Colony was renamed Perth in 1832.
  • Stormwater drains fill the Swan River with chemicals, sediments, plastic, and other pollutants, which is a serious health hazard. Due to this, local people are unable to eat the fish, shellfish, and crabs from the river.
  • In 1697, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh named the river Swarte Swaene-Revier. It was the first name given to the water body, and it referred to the famous black swans found in the area.
  • Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are found in the area. This is a common species of bottlenose dolphin but is specific only to this area. They are less social and are smaller in size than other dolphins. You can spot them at the river mouth in Fremantle.
  • There are over 130 species of fish and wildlife in the river. Fish like bull sharks, mullet, cobblers, herring, black brim, whiting, flathead, and blowfish are found there. Also, black swans, ibises, ducks, parrots, pelicans, bush-tail possums, kingfishers, and water rats are found there.
  • The river only flows for a short duration of time. It is an ephemeral river which means it flows during or after rain. During most of the summertime and also during autumn, the river is dry. During monsoon, however, the river runs through steep valleys and causes two shallow tidal basins.
  • The Swan River was once the only route for transport. The convict labor input in the region between the years of 1850 and 1868 was important for the construction of roads and the establishment of the Upper Swan Bridge and Barkers Bridge.
  • Since European settlement in 1829, many features of the river and around the city have changed and reshaped its profile. Later, in 1909, there was a new alignment of the Burswood Island canal and Heirisson Islands.
  • The 1926 flood in Mill Point, South Perth, saw the North Fremantle Railway Bridge partially break.
  • The South Perth Esplanade is a foreshore area of Perth Water in South Perth, Western Australia. It gives a view of the city of Perth across the Swan River. The northern riverbank earlier ran close to the base of the ridge, which is a single block south of St Georges Terrace. The southern side of this place had houses and market gardens running to the water's edge. There was also the Bazaar Terrace or Bazaar Street. During the starting days of the settlement, the waterfront road between Mill Street and William Street was a major commercial hub with port facilities and many adjoining jetties. This is the same place as the present Mounts Bay Road.

Facts About The Swan River's Course

The river flows through the city of Perth. The lower reaches of the Swan River are deep and wide, while the upper reaches are narrow and shallow. The deepest point of the Swan River is about 69 ft (21 m) around Mosman Bay.

  • The river drains the Avon and coastal plain catchments. So, the Swan-Avon River drains a catchment of around 46,718.3 sq mi (121,000 sq km).
  • The Canning River begins in Wandering and is known to flow through Armadale to Applecross. It joins the Swan River there.
  • The combined shoreline between the two rivers is more than 186 mi (300 km) long. In the Swan Canning Catchment, there are 31 major sub-catchments. The draining patterns from each of the Swan Canning catchments and sub-catchments are changed by local climate as well as the characteristics of the Swan Canning Catchment (type of soil and land formation).
  • The Avon tributary rises 137 mi (220 km) southeast of Perth, near Yealering. It moves northwest about 56 mi (90 km) northeast of Western Australia's capital, to Toodyay. The river then turns southwest in the national park of Walyunga, and then it becomes the Swan River.
  • The Canning River rises around 62 mi (100 km) southeast of Perth, not far from North Bannister. It then joins the Swan River at Applecross. The river narrows into Blackwall Reach and leads through Fremantle Harbor to the sea.

How was the Swan River formed?

The Noongar people believe that the Wagyl/Waugal made the Swan River. This is a snake-like being that moved over the land creating rivers, lakes, and waterways.

  • The lower parts of the river actually form an estuary created around 10,000 years ago by geological conditions. It is believed that the Swan River was probably brackish before settlers dredged the large flood delta nearby in the late 1800s.
  • Before a proper sewage system was built, a freshwater creek called Claise Brook emptied the network of natural lakes north of Perth. It naturally became an open sewer, dumping waste into the river for most of the 1800s and early 1900s. After the '80s, the East Perth redevelopment cleaned the surrounding area. The area is now used for houses.
  • After the town of Perth was established, there was a plan to reshape the river. It was done to reduce flooding in winters, make better access to boats by preparing deeper channels, remove marshy land, which definitely was a health hazard (breeding ground for mosquitoes), and prepare a larger area for irrigation.

Swan River Tributaries

The three major tributaries of the Swan River are the Avon River, Helena River, and the Canning River.

  • Canning River and Helena River have two dams: Canning Dam and Mundaring Weir. These two provide the water requirements for Perth and the areas nearby.
  • Much of the freshwater flow is provided by the Avon River.
  • The catchment climate has mild, wet winters, hot, dry summers, and high rainfall. The climate is mediterranean.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

Niyati Parab picture

Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

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