The Swan River runs through the metropolitan area of the city. It was originally called Derbarl Yerrigan, its Noongar Aboriginal name. Its lower reaches are relatively wide and deep whereas the upper reaches are quite narrow and shallow. Its source is near Yealering in the Darling Range and it flows 175 kilometres to its mouth at Fremantle.
The rivers have special significance within the Perth region, with a diverse range of cultural and natural heritage values, including continuing cultural importance related to Noongar culture. According to Noongar tradition, the rivers were formed by the Waugal. The landscape demonstrates the ending of the Gondwanaland period with the breakup of the Indian and Australian tectonic plates following rifting along the Darling fault-line.
The rivers are home to rare and priority flora and fauna listed on international and state-based registers. There have been archaeological discoveries in the river valley which have extended the scientific knowledge of the great antiquity (at least 40,000 years) of continuous human habitation in Australia. The Swan River Colony was established as the first free (non-convict) colonial settlement in Australia. The rivers provided Perth’s first transport and communication corridor and access to the upper reaches of the Swan and the Canning and downstream to Fremantle. They were used for passive and active recreation including swimming, fishing, prawning, crabbing, boating, walking, birdwatching, horse racing and picnics, and are linked to international sporting events including the Avon Descent White Water Race. As a physical resource and a spiritual place, the rivers offer opportunities to build community and understanding of our unique riverine landscapes.
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