It is close to two years since we first walked ‘our section’ of The Great River Walk along the Nepean River. Two years ago, the metal walkway over a creek feeding into the river had water under and all around it. Now, the same area is dry and overgrown, in the middle of winter.
At Emu Ford the difference between two years ago and now is obvious, where previously water rushed over it bringing large branches of trees and now we watch as the level ever so gradually, sinks below the overflow. This is just one result of the massive drought New South Wales is experiencing and news of which fills our television screens.
This is a far cry from the Nepean flooding the area to the extent where the original wooden Victoria Bridge was taken out not once, but twice in the space of three years – 1857 and 1860. The area was subject to flooding. In 1900 and 1914 the flood waters extended into the middle of town.
From the river level, the walk uphill takes us to a marker by the path, near the top of the valley, indicating the height of the devastating flooding in 1867. Emu Plains, Castlereagh and the lower parts of Penrith were under flood with immense losses. Many houses were carried into the river by landslides.
It is hard from the above photo to appreciate the depth from the path down to the river, the width and length of the valley and it all being under water. But to stand at that location, trying to imagine the height of the marker as an additional layer of water across the valley is mind-blowing. Even if there is ever an end to the drought conditions and yearly rainfall increases, it is very doubtful a flood of the same magnitude could ever occur again since the Warragamba Dam built in 1960, significantly reduced flooding across the Nepean and Hawkesbury River valleys.