Grounds resemble an Egyptian oasis
Remarkable for its Egyptian inspired architecture and landscaping, a visit to Avon Dam is like stepping back in time. Massive stone gateways guard the entrance to the dam wall, and the grounds resemble an Egyptian oasis. Avon is one of four dams that make up the Upper Nepean water supply scheme south of Sydney on the Illawarra Plateau.
From the top picnic area, drive or walk above the concrete spillway to the lower carpark near the dam wall, then walk across the wall for impressive views of the lake upstream and gorge downstream.
From the lower carpark near the dam wall, walk south along a flat pathway to a viewing area near the serpentine spillway for more views of the lake.
HOURS - Entry is free
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Stand under one of the massive stone gateways at either end of the dam wall and have your photo taken. Your friends may think you've been on holidays in Egypt! The gates were inspired by the popularity of all things Egyptian following the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. Construction of Avon Dam started in 1921 and was completed in 1927.
After your photo under the Egyptian style gateway, walk across the curved wall of the dam. It's 223 metres to the other end, and you're 72 metres above the river below. Pause halfway and admire the views of the lake upstream. Look downstream and you'll see the rockfill embankment built in the 1970s to strengthen the wall.
Be on the lookout for reminders of the dam's glory days as a picnic spot in the 1930s and 1940s, when Upper Nepean dams competed for the most beautiful gardens. Avon Dam retains remnant features that evoke images of an Egyptian revival landscape. As you walk from the dam wall to the viewing area near the spillway, keep an eye out for remnants of fountains and ponds to your left, and an old fernery to your right.
Elevated paths and the dam wall provide excellent views of the lake in its natural bushland setting. Avon Dam draws water from a catchment of 142 square kilometres of mostly protected bushland. Look out for the jagged teeth of the serpentine spillway. The unusual design allows more water to spill from the lake during floods.
Relax with family and friends in the landscaped grounds. Throw down a rug and enjoy a picnic - you're sitting on the site where the dam builders lived. Electric barbecues, drinking water, picnic tables and toilet facilities are located throughout the grounds. There's a row of older-style picnic shelters closer to the dam walk and lake.
Avon Dam is about 100 kilometres drive from Sydney. Follow the Hume Highway (M31) south from Sydney and take the Bargo exit to Avon Dam.
Located about 100 kilometres south of Sydney, Avon Dam was the third and largest of the four dams constructed to collect water from the Illawarra Plateau. Created by damming the Avon River and completed in 1927, Avon Dam's main role today is to supply water to the Illawarra region. It is Sydney's second largest dam after Warragamba, but has a small catchment.Find out more
Located about 100 kilometres south of Sydney, Avon Dam was the third and largest of the four dams constructed to collect water from the Illawarra Plateau. Created by damming the Avon River and completed in 1927, Avon Dam's main role today is to supply water to the Illawarra region. It is Sydney's second largest dam after Warragamba, but has a small catchment.
Water from Nepean Dam and water transferred via Nepean Dam from the Shoalhaven can be sent to Avon to secure water for the Illawarra.
Together, the Nepean, Avon, Cataract and Cordeaux dams also provide an additional supply of water for Sydney, via Pheasants Nest Weir, Broughtons Pass Weir and the Upper Canal.
The Upper Nepean catchment south of Sydney is in one of the highest rainfall zones on the mid-NSW coast, and the area's rivers, located in narrow gorges, provide ideal dam sites.
As early as 1888, two weirs were built on the Cataract and Nepean rivers to capture this rainfall as part of the Upper Nepean Scheme to help meet Sydney's growing needs. Tunnels, canals and aqueducts - known as the Upper Canal - diverted the water 64 kilometres to Prospect Reservoir.
The scheme provided only temporary relief, and the 1901 - 1902 drought brought Sydney perilously close to a complete water famine. After two Royal Commissions, authorities agreed that a dam be built on Cataract River. The successive building of Cataract, Cordeaux, Avon and Nepean dams between 1907 and 1935 greatly increased the Upper Nepean Scheme's capacity.
Work on Avon Dam began in 1921 and was completed in 1927. The curved dam wall was built using cyclopean masonry. This consisted of sandstone blocks, quarried from the site, fitted into an irregular pattern and packed with sandstone concrete. The blocks were lifted into place by electric powered cranes.
The rock was quarried to make a deep cut through a ridge to a neighbouring creek to provide the dam's spillway, which discharges into the Avon River 800 metres downstream.
A 9.6 kilometre road was built from Bargo railway station to transport construction materials. The dam builders lived near the construction site in single-storey barracks for single men. Land was placed at the disposal of the married men who were assisted in constructing temporary houses for themselves and their families.
To meet modern dam safety standards, Avon Dam was strengthened in 1971 by buttressing the downstream face with a rockfill embankment.
A tunnel linking Avon and Nepean dams, to enable the transfer of water between dams in either direction, was completed in 1973.
In the 1980's the downstream face of the dam was strengthened. In 2005 the access road was upgraded for safety purposes, and in 2006 works were undertaken above the operating level of it's gravity fed outlet.
WaterNSW acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which we work and pay our respects to all elders past, present and emerging. Learn more