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Yarra Swimming History

from: Yarra – A Diverting History of Melbourne’s Murky River by Kristin Otto

The Yarra River was once a major swimming destination for Melburnians. In the 1920’s the Ivanhoe, Alphington and Fairfield stretch was described as equal in popularity to St. Kilda beach.

Other swimming spots along the river included Deep Rock at Yarra Bend, a diving platform at the Mullum Mullum Creek confluence in Templestowe, a picketed swim enclosure at Yarra Glen, a diving board at Willow Pool, Warburton and a river beach on Herring Island near Richmond.

The Yarra River, as a swimming destination, declined after the 1930s which coincided with the advent of suburban swimming pools and deteriorating water quality.

Yarra River at Melbourne Girls College boat ramp on the Boulevard in Richmond. Photo: Lou Lockwood

Brighton Iceberger Doug Weir recalls his early days rowing on the Yarra in the 1940s: “Apart from the occasional floating dog corpse, the river was often stained pink due to effluent from the Rosella factory when making tomato sauce”. Doug rowed on the Yarra River in various Melbourne Grammar crews: “In 1948 I rowed bow in the second crew and I think we were second in the final of the Head of the River. My dad stroked the winning Melbourne Grammar crew in 1918 and went on to row for Victoria. I rowed bow and my twin brother was the stroke when I rowed in the third crew in 1947. It was all long ago but I still have vivid memories of the Yarra at that time”.

By Ria Bleathman, (Reproduced from the Brighton Iceberger Newsletter 17 September 2020).

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