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Lake Parramatta

Lake Parramatta

Lake Parramatta Reserve is a 75-hectare bushland reserve located approximately two kilometres north of the Parramatta CBD. The native vegetation was retained to protect the water quality in the lake which provided Parramatta’s water supply until 1909. The reserve is now recognised as one of the most significant and beautiful bushland remnants in western Sydney.

 History of the Reserve

The reserve and surrounds were originally home to the Burramattagal clan of the Darug Aboriginal people prior to British settlement in 1788. Evidence still remains of their former occupation through the presence of shelter caves, hand-stencils, campsites, tree scars and midden deposits.

The State Heritage listed dam wall was completed in 1856 and utilises a single arch design, being only the second constructed in modern times and twelfth since Roman times 100BC. Parramatta was connected to the main Sydney water supply in 1909, with the lake and surrounding bushland retained for public recreation. Lake Parramatta remained a very popular swimming venue from this time until the 1970s, when pollution from increased surrounding suburban development reduced water quality to a level that made it no longer suitable for swimming. Swimming at the lake has once again resumed following significant works undertaken by Council to improve overall water quality.

 Flora and Fauna

Lake Parramatta Reserve is the largest surviving bushland remnant and has the highest diversity of native flora and fauna in the Parramatta Local Government Area. The remnant vegetation is representative of the shale / sandstone environment which covered the area prior to urban development. Lake Parramatta Reserve also contains the Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) known as Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest, of which only 0.5 percent its original extent remains intact. 

Fauna surveys in 2016-17 (see the Fauna Species hotspot map below) identified approximately 65 native species of birds, 18 mammals, 14 reptiles, 7 amphibians and the threatened invertebrate Dural Woodland Land Snail in the reserve. A number of these species are listed as endangered or vulnerable under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

To protect these unique native animals and their habitats, Lake Parramatta Reserve has been proclaimed as a Wildlife Refuge under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and declared a Wildlife Protection Area under the Companion Animals Act 1998.

 Regular Volunteering activities at Lake Parramatta

City of Parramatta Bushcare Volunteers have been carefully restoring the reserve for at least 25 years and continue to meet twice a month to control invasive plants, remove rubbish and plant native seedlings to protect much needed habitat, which directly benefits the icon species of the reserve: the Sugar glider and the Powerful Owl. On-ground works are also helping to protect the threatened Dural Land Snail.

The conservation kayaking activities that are held at Lake Parramatta Reserve are working towards the City of Parramatta’s bushland and biodiversity goals to protect and enhance the health of our natural ecosystem of plants and animals.  As one of the main threats to the Endangered Ecological Community in Lake Parramatta Reserves is weed invasion, initiatives such as conservation kayaking are also imperative to saving this fragile and at-risk community.

A variety of weeds such as ground Asparagus, Taro (Elephant Ear), Coral Tree, Privet, Box Elder, Senna, Lantana, Ludwigia and other woody weeds exist in the reserve, and volunteers control these species along the banks from within kayaks at their quarterly conservation kayaking workdays. These workdays would not be possible without the generous assistance of Friends of the Colo.

Council-appointed Bushland regeneration contractors have been restoring the reserve for many years, and with the extra help of a grant from Royal Bank of Canada, additional hours have been allocated to specifically target the invasive Coral Trees along the bank of the lake. 

By protecting and enhancing the health of the bushland and biodiversity in Lake Parramatta Reserve, volunteers are making sure native Australian animals and plants thrive. By protecting our natural assets, volunteers are helping to improve the quality of life for our residents, workers, visitors and also for Greater Western Sydney. Protecting Lake Parramatta Reserve is paramount for future generations and for the sustainability of our ecosystem.


Friends of the Colo - Willow Warriors Program involvement


Project Objectives

  •  Map, treat and monitor the weeds growing on the water’s edge or just back from the water particularly where it is inaccessible from the walking track that goes through the Bushland.
  • The 3 major weeds targeted are, Coral Trees, Box Elders (Acer) & Taro, but there is also Privet, Senna, Asparagus Fern and Lantana just back from the water’s edge
  • There are 3 alluvial flats in the water with Ludwidgia which needs to be sprayed by contractors and Council has assigned this to the aquatic weed contractors for treatment. The many scattered plants on the banks can be treated by volunteers
  • Complete the primary control of the Coral Trees, Box Elders and Taro by October 2017 and then focus on the other weeds particularly when they are in flower whilst also monitoring the Coral Trees, Box Elders and Taro
  • Once the weeds are controlled on the water’s edge the volunteers can consider if they want to then move up the creek line of Hunts Creek to treat the weeds growing along the creek
  • Continue to monitor the weed control on the water’s edge with activities once or twice a year from 2018 to 2020 and then reassess.
  • There is also interest in litter collection as bottles and other litter flushed out of the drain that run through residential and business areas that surround the reserve get trapped in the vegetation on the water’s edge and are not easy to get to by Clean up Australia day teams


One of our members played and trained for Canoe Polo at Lake Parramatta from 1994 to 2005 and knew there were some Coral Trees around the lake but in 2015 we helped the Parramatta Catchment Group with a Public Awareness Event at the lake to promote a swimmable river program, where we took groups paddling up the lake. When we noticed the extent to which the Coral Trees and Elephant Ear (Taro) had spread along the water’s edge and reported it to the council bushcare staff. I took a Council bushcare officer for a paddle on the lake to look at the weeds and demonstrated how Willows Warriors / Friends of the Colo (FOC) do weed control form the funyaks. We also noted that the weeds on the water’s edge, whilst very obvious from the water, would be hard to see and in some instances inaccessible from the bushland. It was from this event that the project started. On the first activity, one group of volunteers paddled around the edge of the lake and mapped the weeds they found whilst others started the treatment. I had hoped that Council might allocate funds for contractors to treat the larger infestations but the bushcare volunteers have said they really enjoy the days and prefer it is left to them. In 2016 a Green Army team treated Coral Trees and other weeds in one location.

The Parramatta Bushcare volunteers were involved in one activity in 2015, three activities in 2016 and plan four activities for 2017. We have also done one activity with Arden Anglican College and Jeff has done a couple of paddles by himself: one to tidy up the original mapping and put it on Google maps and the other was two hours of treating to make the treatment area continuous around the water’s edge. Arden and a local scout group are interested in doing more activities at Lake Parramatta and so we may have these groups focus on litter collection and removing Taro


Crown Land managed by City of Parramatta Council


Friends of the Colo

City of Parramatta and their Bushcare Groups

What type of activities will be involved in this project?

  • Paddling in the rafts and funyaks around the lake to treat or hand pull the weeds and do follow up hand pulling of seedlings. Some activities will involve collecting litter.
  • The first activity run in 2015 was open to anyone in the Parramatta Bushcare network but then we restricted the 2016 activities to the regular Lake Parramatta Bushcare volunteers as it reduced the need for JC to monitor what they were doing. But Talia Sawers is very keen to open the activities up to the recently expanded Parramatta Bushcare community and take more volunteers if I can find additional experienced paddlers to supervise them.
  • We will run some activities involving scout groups and school groups where we just collect litter or remove Taro and the young volunteers can go swimming and have fun from the funyaks and rafts after the work is complete

What weeds are being controlled or other issues addressed in this project?

  • Treating Coral Trees (thorny), Privet, Box Elders and Senna by injecting, scraping and painting or cutting and painting and hand pulling small seedlings
  • Treating scattered Lantana and Ludwidgia by hand pulling or cutting and painting
  • Hand removal of Taro by bagging and paddling the material back to the car park where it is stacked for collection by Council.
  • Collecting litter using reaching tongs and bagging before paddling back to the car park where it is stacked for collection by Council

Which organisation is running and insuring activities run under this project?

Friends of the Colo is running the activities and providing the public liability and volunteer accident insurance policy 

What grade are the walks or waterways on which the activities will be run?

The paddling is on flat water (Grade 1)

Who will be organising the activities and leading the activities? (if they are a new trip leader what is there experience to manage the group and risks)

  • One of FOC trip leaders will be leading the on-water activity and supervising the volunteers (up to 10 volunteers) and if more than 10 he will organise for another experienced paddler to attend and help supervise.
  • A City of Parramatta Bushcare Officer will promote the activities through the Parramatta Bushcare network and manage the registration of volunteers. City of Parramatta is very keen to make this a program for their volunteers as it provides the volunteers with a different bushcare experience and the chance to look at the reserve from a different angle.
  • FOC will list the activity in our program and add the event to the Adventure Conservation Facebook page but have volunteers register with Talia unless they are members that can be classed as experienced paddlers who will help with supervision of on water activities

What experience will the volunteers require before participating?

  • Nil as all training can be provided on the day
  • Experienced paddlers mean we do not need to supervise them when paddling on the lake and so we can take more than 10 volunteers

Are there specific activities planned / proposed at this point in time?

  • In 2017 we have proposed activities with Paramatta Bushcare for 19 February, 21 May, 20 August & 15 October

Will there be funding requirements for this project?

No specific funding requirements as the City of Parramatta provide the glyphosate, gloves, goggles, littler pickers, bags and a contractor to supervise the bushcare tasks and when possible a staff member to also supervise the activity

We do use FOC rafts, funyaks, paddles and PFD’s, tool kits and cordless drills, but wear and tear is minimal and is part of the regular maintenance. To date we have not lost any tools


View Lake Parramatta NSW in a larger map


and a link to the photos taken on the activities so far.

Other Conservation Volunteering Opportunities


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