Formerly known as the ‘Black Swan River,’ there’s much more to the Swan River than meets the eye. Here are eight things that might surprise you:
1. Perth locals could have been speaking French: In the 1820s there was a race between France and Britain to occupy the land by the Swan River. In 1829, Britain eventually formed the Swan River Colony, only just beating France to the punch meaning people in Perth could have been speaking French today!
2. Western Australia does not have a convict heritage: The Swan River Colony was a representation of change. It was the first Australian colony made up of free settlers, rather than convicts. Eventually the colony was renamed in 1832 to what we know as Perth today.
3. Western Australians are concerned about the health of the Swan: Due to pollution from stormwater drains, which fills the river with chemicals, plastic, sediments and other pollutants, locals can no longer eat the fish, crabs or shellfish collected from the river – and, locals are worried. In fact, according to new research commissioned by Ocean Protect, West Australians are concerned about marine and waterway health in relation to population growth – over half rated it as their number one concern from a total list of 12 common concerns including increased traffic, housing density, competition for jobs and possible reduced water supply. The study also found that 68 per cent of West Australians don’t know that stormwater is the leading source of pollution in city and suburban waterways.
4. The Swan River was named by a Dutch explorer: The river was originally named Swarte Swaene-Revier by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh in 1697, in a nod to the famous black swans in the area.
5. The story of the kissing trees: On the southern shores of the Swan River, there are two old river gum branches that are draped next to each other, side by side. They are known as the ‘Bimban Born-Kissing Trees.’ According to Nyungar dreamtime, the trees tell a story of a forbidden love so strong that the land marked their passions forever!
6. Occupied by a special breed of dolphins: The Swan River is home to the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins, which are a breed of the common bottlenose dolphins, but are specific to the region. The Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins are smaller, have more teeth and are less social than the common bottlenose dolphin.
7. Home to over 130 species of fish and wildlife: Both land and water animals call the Swan River home, including bull sharks, cobblers, herring, mullet, black brim, whiting, flatheads and blowfish. The Swan River is also home to waterbirds and terrestrial animals, including the famous black swans, pelicans, ibises, ducks, parrots, kingfishers, bush-tail possums and water-rats.
8. Flows for a short period of time: The Swan River is an ephemeral river, meaning it flows for shorter periods during or after a period of rainfall. The Swan River is dry during most of the summer and during autumn as well. However, over the rainy seasons, it runs through steep valleys causing a widening at the coast to form two shallow tidal basins.