Visit the Dam
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.
Viewing area near serpentine spillway
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.
Things to do
- Walk across the dam wall via the Egyptian inspired gateways See top 5 activities
- Picnic or walk in the dam grounds Download map
- Visit nearby Picton or Bargo More about towns
- Visit nearby Mermaid Pools and Tahmoor Gorge bushwalks Pools and bushwalk details
10am to 5pm daily
Extended hours, 10am to 7pm, on weekends and public holidays during daylight saving time
Entry is free
No Entry is permitted 15 minutes prior to closing time
Avon Dam is about 100 kilometres drive from Sydney.
Follow the Hume Highway (F5) south from Sydney and take the Bargo exit to Avon Dam.
- Drinking water
- Electric barbeques
- Picnic shelters
- Toilets & disabled toilets
- Viewing areas
Restrictions are in place to protect our water supply and ensure that everyone has an enjoyable and safe visit Ė with penalties up to $44,000 applying:
- No wood, charcoal or solid fuel barbeques. Penalties of up to $5,500 apply
- Portable gas barbeques are permitted (except during total fire bans)
- No fishing, boating or swimming
- No camping
- No dogs, horses or other pets
- No access allowed to restricted and Special Areas
- No smoking within 10 metres of childrenís playgrounds and four metres of shelters, toilets and public buildings
- Keep to vehicle speed limits and be aware of pedestrians
Recreation Areas at SCA dams will be closed on ALL Total Fire Ban days.
The Avon experience
Top 5 things to see and do
1. Be photographed in Egypt!
Stand under one of the massive stone gateways at either end of the dam wall and have your photo taken. Your friends may think youíve been on holidays in Egypt! The gates were inspired by the popularity of all things Egyptian following the discovery of King Tutenkhamunís tomb in 1922. Construction of Avon Dam started in 1921 and was completed in 1927.
2. Walk across the dam wall
After your photo under the Egyptian style gateway, walk across the curved wall of the dam. Itís 223 metres to the other end, and youíre 72 metres above the river below. Pause halfway and admire the views of the lake upstream. Look downstream and youíll see the rockfill embankment built in the 1970s to strengthen the wall.
3. Step back in time
Be on the lookout for reminders of the damís 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.
4. Soak up the views
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.
5. Relax with a picnic
Relax with family and friends in the landscaped grounds. Throw down a rug and enjoy a picnic Ė youíre sitting on the site where the dam builders lived. Electric barbeques, drinking water, picnic tables and toilet facilities are located throughout the grounds. Thereís a childrenís playground at the top picnic ground, and a row of older-style picnic shelters closer to the dam walk and lake.
Facts & History
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 Damís main role today is to supply water to the Illawarra region. It is Sydneyís 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.
Why the dam was built
The Upper Nepean catchment south of Sydney is in one of the highest rainfall zones on the mid-NSW coast, and the areaís 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 Sydneyís growing needs. Tunnels, canals and aqueducts Ė 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 Schemeís capacity.
How the dam was built
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 damís 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.
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Lake and Catchment
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