Maroondah Reservoir Pictorial Heritage 1862 to 2011

Interesting Features

Historical Timeline
The First Weirs1878-1891
Construction 1915 to 1929
The Yarra Track
The Blacks' Spur
Heritage Pictures 1872 to 1926
Images of 1957
Gallery of 2011
Interesting Features
Maroondah Reservoir Park
Walking Tracks
Present day Maps
Old Maps
References and Bibliography


1939 Blacks Spur after the bushfires

The Reservoir is 65 km east of Melbourne, about 225ha, 3km east-north-east of Healesville, comprising the dam wall and associated engineering, the pondage and the park land and recreation area south of the dam wall.

Wiih its distinctive classically-inspired outlet tower and dam wall, it represents the first of three major water supply reservoirs constructed by the MMBW during its second major phase of development, in the 1920s and 1930s.

It was officially opened in June 1927.

The dam wall is a distinctive example of early engineering techniques, with its gravity arch design and Cyclopean rubble concrete construction.

The construction of the dam wall represented an important advance in the technology of dam-building, utilising a by-cable aerial ropeway and travelling aerial cableway, the same system later used in the construction of the Silvan dam in 1927-31.

The reservoir, and the associated reservoir park, together comprise one of the most popular and enduring tourist destinations for day trips from Melbourne, providing generations of visitors with views of the natural forest catchment surrounding the reservoir and the landscaped gardens within the park.

With the completion of the dam in June 1927, the aqueduct sides were raised to increase its capacity to 50 million gallons per day (227 megalitres per day) and the inverted siphons were duplicated to provide for greater flow

With the Maroondah and O'Shannassy Dams completed by 1927, the systems were able to be used to supplement the Yan Yean system in the prolonged drought in the mid-1920s.

The Maroondah Reservoir, with its distinctive Classically-inspired outlet tower and dam wall, represents the first of three major water supply reservoirs constructed by the MMBW during its second major phase of development during the 1920s and 1930s.

The reservoir, and the associated reservoir park, together comprise one of the most popular and enduring tourist destinations.

By 1932, the Board had completed erecting the final 200 chains of perimeter fence to enclose the reservoir margin. Although there is no further documentation about the perimeter fence, the Maroondah Reservoir and Catchment comprised one of the most publicly accessible watershed areas, and the fence was established as a deterrent to interference with the water supply whilst allowing the public to continue to use the Fernshawe Road (later called Maroondah Highway) and the various walking tracks in the Catchment,

The Board also metalled the park roadway and parking areas, laid out pathways, erected two public shelters, a building to supply hot water for visitors, and undertook extensive landscaping of the Reservoir Park with 4,500 Pinus insignus, 968 poplars, cedar and Oregon, 320 willows and 79 shrubs

In 1928, a proposal was advanced for building a tourist railway line from Healesville to the Reservoir, but this was rejected by the Government.

The Maroondah dam consists of a gravity arch, Cyclopean rubble concrete wall, extending to a total length of 946 feet along the top. It is 135 feet height at the highest point, and a maximum thickness of 101 feet at the base. Compared with the Board's other storage reservoirs, the Maroondah dam is an unusually elongated structure.

The dam has a distinctive concrete walled walkway along the top of the curved dam wall, featuring large concrete pillars and sections with oblong holes. Circular cuts in the walkway floor represent cores cut vertically into the dam wall in 1989 in order to sink steel tensioning cables into the rock base of the wall. This was part of remedial work undertaken at that time, including the enlargement of the spillway. A section of one of the cores removed from the wall is located near the walkway entrance, and illustrates some of the smaller "plums" (large pieces of rock) that were set into the concrete during the dam's construction. An inspection tunnel traverses the interior of the dam wall for most of its length, and vents (added later) indicate the extent of the tunnel near the top of the wall.

Two recently restored brass plaques mounted on the entrance pillars to the walkway commemorate the construction of the dam between 1920 and 1927. The walkway along the top of the dam wall leads to a new bridge over the concrete spillway, expanded to twice its original width in 1989 to allow for peak flood conditions.

The natural rock wall on the eastern side of the spillway remains in its original condition, while the natural rock section of the lower end of the spillway (visible from the Reservoir Park below the wall) has also been widened since first constructed. The original section of rock is distinguishable because it forms a U-shape, unlike the recently-cut straight section of rock.

A plaque and time capsule were set in the base of the wall in 1991 during the centenary celebrations for the opening of the Watts River Diversion Weir and Aqueduct system. It is to be opened in 2041.

The equally distinctive outlet tower is located in the reservoir near its northern perimeter, visible from the dam wall. It is a circular domed structure in a Classical style featuring columns with capitals, and set on a circular concrete base. An arched bridge connects the tower with the land, and an entrance arch at the entrance to the bridge continues the Classical theme.

The reservoir receives inflow from a total catchment area of 14,680 ha, plus the Grace Burn Creek diversion weir via a channel to Lindupp's Basin and siphon. 

A natural manna gum forest covering about 0.5 ha is located on the northern bank of the Watts River, near the base of the spillway.


1940 Snowfall!

The features remaining from the 1920s, including the two valve houses, caretaker's house, toilet buildings, entrance pillars and gates, and plantings of exotic trees, are of particular interest in the way they demonstrate the way the Board maintained the functions of water supply whilst developing the park as a tourist mecca for healthy outdoor activities. 

The caretaker's house and older toilet buildings demonstrate the development of staff and visitor facilities throughout the catchment in the late 1920s. The later features added in the 1940s, including the rotundas, rose steps, pathways, compensation channel and sundial, demonstrate the continuing popularity of the park for visitors, and the distinctive role played by the Board's reservoir parks in providing recreational areas for public use.

The Maroondah Reservoir, with its distinctive Classically-inspired outlet tower and dam wall, represents the first of three major water supply reservoirs constructed by the MMBW during its second major phase of development during the 1920s and 1930s. 

Significant features  that have been retained from this early period of the Park's development are summarised as follows: 

Two concrete domed valve houses. These were among the earliest structures to be built in the park, and controlled the flow of water from the reservoir into the Maroondah Aqueduct, the water passing through "Echo Tunnel" and entering the aqueduct near the Sawpit Weir. The hydraulically operated valves (similar to those in the Silvan outlet tower) have since been replaced by a new valve system housed on the opposite side of the Watts River. 

Caretakers house. A red brick structure separated from the park by a fence, and with its own garden setting. This was one of two constructed in 1928-29, in the same period as modern sanitary conveniences were constructed in the park, and at Condon's Gully, Grace Burn Weir, Donnelly's Weir and Fernshaw. 

Two red brick toilet buildings. Constructed in 1929-30, and similar in design and materials as those at Condon's Gully, Grace Burn Weir and Donnelly's Weir. The Fernshaw toilets have since been demolished. The park toilets were once surrounded by high hedges.

1927 - view of reservoir

Reservoir in 1928

Reservoir in 1930

1940 reservoir road

View in 1935

View in 1935

1941 view

1945 car park

1945 view

1950 view

1950 view

1950 view

1870 State School at Fernshaw

1945 McKenzies bus at Reservoir

1948 Camping Ground at Dom Dom

Your reactions, comments, and suggestions about this site would be appreciated, to