Yarrowee River

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Yarrowee 2.jpg
View of the Yarrowee River between Black Hill and East Ballarat west toward Peel Street. The Ballarat railway station clock tower is visible in the distance
Name origin: derived from Yarrow Water
Nickname: Yarrowee Creek
Country Australia
State Victoria
Region Central Highlands
Part of Gong Gong Creek
 - left Warrenheip Creek, Little Bendigo Creek, Canadian Creek, Redan Creek
 - right Gnarr Creek, Winter Creek, Moss Creek
City Ballarat
Source Gong Gong
 - location Gong Gong, Victoria
 - elevation 520 m (1,706 ft)
 - location Cambrian Hill, Victoria, Australia
 - elevation 377 m (1,237 ft)
Length 140 km (Expression error: Missing operand for round. mi) Includes Leigh River

Yarrowee is a major tributary and catchment of the Barwon River in Victoria, Australia. The river's origins are in the hills at Gong Gong, and it is notable for passing through the settlement of Ballarat and crossing the City of Ballarat local government area before becoming the Leigh River in the vicinity of Cambrian Hill and Golden Plains Shire.[1]

The river is a secondary water supply for the city of Ballarat. Its catchment contains several tributaries in the urban area including Gnarr Creek, Gong Gong Creek, Little Bendigo Creek and Warrenheip in the north eastern reaches and; Redan Creek, Canadian Creek and Buninyong Creek in the southern reaches.[2] It runs through the Ballarat suburbs of Gong Gong, Nerrina, Brown Hill, Black Hill, Ballarat East, Ballarat Central, Golden Point, Redan, Mount Pleasant, Sebastopol, Mount Clear, Magpie and Cambrian Hill. Tributaries in the catchment run through most other Ballarat suburbs. The river also marks the border between several suburbs.

It is a seasonal watercourse with highly varying levels of flow, often swelling in the winter months and prone to flash flooding, though it is not unusual for its flow (and that of its tributaries) to at times stop altogether.

History and Toponomy[edit]

It is widely believed that the name was derived from Yarrow Water, attributed to the early Scottish settlers of the area. Alternatively it could be derived from Yaramlok, the name given to the river by the Wathaurung Aborigines.[3]

Prior to the European settlement of Australia, the river was an important place for the Boro gundidj, a tribe of the Wathaurong Indigenous Australian people as they based themselves around its northern stretches.[4]

The river was important to the first settlers (squatters) of the region, with William Cross Yuille establishing his home near the swamp that is now Lake Wendouree, that was an important part of the river's catchment.

The Ballarat gold rush brought dramatic changes to the river. It was used as a source of water for extensive placer mining. The first bridge, a crude wooden structure, was built in 1855 at the present site of Bridge Road in response to increasing coach traffic.[5]

Indigenous inhabitants were driven away from the river by the increasing rush of new settlers.

During the 1860s, much of the river and its tributaries were sealed as drains using quarried bluestone to prevent erosion and help mitigate frequent flooding. The river was known to flood in the early days.

In 1869 a serious flood of the Yarrowee River put most of the lower section of the city including Bridge and Grenville Street underwater and causing the loss of two lives.[6]

In 1877 the Gong Gong reservoir was built to alleviate flooding and to Lake Wendouree as the primary water source for Ballarat.

By the turn of the century, the river had become heavily polluted during the early industrialisation of Ballarat.

During the 1960s, the river through the Ballarat CBD was re-routed, concreted and built over. As a result, it now forms an underground drain running under Grenville Street. Many other parts of the river also became wide and deep concrete stormwater drains. Several stretches of the river, remain, however in its natural bush and parkland setting.

Since the 1980s, major initiatives have been undertaken to restore the river's state and vegetation and several natural wetlands have also been re-established along the river's course.[7]

The river suffered flash flooding during the 2010 Victorian floods and the 2011 Victorian floods.

Yarrowee River in flood at Prest Street Redan, 13 January 2011


There are many crossings over the Yarrowee, including road, rail and pedestrian. Some additional roads allow passage through shallow sections of the river when the water levels are low.

  • Daylesford-Ballarat Road, Brown Hill
  • Hillview Road, Brown Hill
  • Springs Road, Brown Hill
  • Western Freeway, Brown Hill
  • Brown Hill Hotel (pedestrian)
  • Ried Crt (Brown Hill Oval) (pedestrian)
  • Ainley Street, Brown Hill
  • Stawell Street Nth, Nerrina
  • Oliver Street, Ballarat East
  • Queen Street Nth (pedestrian)
  • Newman Street (pedestrian)
  • Princes Street, Black Hill
  • Nicholas Street, Black Hill
  • Peel Street, Black Hill
  • Eastern Oval (pedestrian)
  • Scott Parade, Ballarat East
  • Serviceton railway line, Ballarat East/Ballarat Central
  • Grenville Street, Ballarat Central
  • Grant Street, Ballarat Central
  • Hill Street, Ballarat Central/Mt Pleasant
  • Prest Street, Redan
  • Whitehorse Road bridge, Sebastopol/Mt Clear (built of concrete and steel in the 1920s; destroyed when central pole collapsed during January 2011 floods; rebuilt October 2011)[8]
  • Docwra Street, Sebastopol
  • Midland Highway, Magpie
  • Leigh Gorge Bridge, Dereel/Elaine Road
  • Bannockburn/Skipton Road, Shelford
  • 'Two Bridges' Inverleigh/Teesdale Road, Inverleigh
  • Federation (pedestrian suspension) Bridge, Inverleigh
  • Hamilton Highway, Inverleigh
  • Standard gauge Melbourne/Adelaide railway, Inverleigh


  1. ^ Leigh River sediment sourcing and transport Corangamite Catchment Management Authority
  2. ^ http://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/media/365814/yarroweesubcatchmentplans2003.pdf
  3. ^ http://badac.ballarat.net.au/heritage/sebas/sebastapol.htm
  4. ^ "Ballarat’s Indigenous Heritage". Sovereign Hill Education. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  5. ^ pg 8. Sydney Morning Herald. Friday 6 July 1855
  6. ^ The Great Flood of Ballarat. pg 6. The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser. 23 October 1869
  7. ^ Quinlan, Kim Yarrowee: Don't call it a creek from The Courier. 11 Apr, 2002
  8. ^ City of Ballarat Community Magazine July 2011. pp12