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While technically a river, the Yarrowee is locally known as ‘the creek’. In the long period of Wadawurrung occupation, its waterholes and swamps provided fish, duck, and eels. The water was then clear as it meandered through the valley. From 1837, pastoralists took its water for their sheep and from the mid-1850s miners turned it to mud as the whole valley was sluiced and dredged. From 1873, the woollen mill used the water for scouring and to dispose of toxic residues from dyeing. Several tanneries also discharged poison into it. For decades the Yarrowee was the main drain for Ballarat’s streets and domestic and industrial waste. Even so, the market gardeners who lined the banks continued to grow the vegetables that fed Ballarat, and local dairy farmers watered their cows at the creek. In 1887, the Health officer declared “I would prefer to be without milk than have it from cows drinking such a liquid”. Raging floods washed away bridges, fences and gardens until the deceptively quiet Yarrowee was tamed by the channelling which by 1916 reached the woollen mill, from behind which it still flows freely. After all of this interference, the original course has been lost. For the first thirty years of the suburb’s life the little Sunny Corner footbridge was the only way across the creek at Hill St. A cart bridge with three spans was built in 1886. The present single-span bridge with a reinforced concrete deck is the result of a realignment in 1916.
77 days ago
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