• Duck Pond Centennial Park Environment and Nature

    5 things you didn’t know about Centennial Park’s ponds


The ponds in Centennial Park are some of the most popular features that visitors enjoy, but beneath the surface of these placid waterways are some interesting facts you may not be aware of!

Centennial Parklands has eleven ornamental ponds, covering an area of around 26 hectares. They provide important habitat for water birds and aquatic life and form the upper catchment of the Botany Wetlands, the largest freshwater wetland system in inner-metropolitan Sydney.

Here are five fascinating facts about our ponds that you may find interesting…


Fact #1: The ponds were originally dams!

In the 1830s Lachlan Swamp (in present day Centennial Park) was used as a key water source for Sydney. As part of the process of getting water from Lachlan Swamp to the Sydney town a bore (Busbys Bore) was constructed. As part of this process of ensuring the water source was reliable, a series of dams were built, however large scale flooding in 1874 destroyed these dams, requiring seven new dams to be constructed.

When Centennial Park was established in 1888 these seven dams were remodelled into many of the ornamental ponds you see today.


Fact #2: The ponds are fed from outside and underneath!

The ponds in Centennial Park play an important role in flood mitigation for the wider catchment area. They act as a detention basin, capturing stormwater runoff from surrounding surrounding suburbs (including Paddington, Woollahra, Bondi, Waverley and Randwick).

The diagram below shows where stormater enters the Parklands’ waterways, and then moves (in a downhill manner) through the pond system before exiting the Parklands on Alison Road (this stormwater eventually ends up in Botany Bay).


Stormwater flows through Centennial Park

Stormwater flows through Centennial Park


There is one variation on this. One of the Park’s ponds is a little different…


Fact #3: A natural spring beneath!

Lily Pond in Centennial Park is more than just a pretty backdrop. Unlike the other ponds in the Parklands that are fed by stormwater, Lily Pond is actually fed by a natural, underground spring in Lachlan Swamp. The water in this pond is usually clearer than other ponds in the Parklands for two reasons:

  • iron pyrites in the soil oxidise, releasing sulfur dioxide and causing the spring water to be slightly acidic – and therefore clearer;
  • the water in the pond is filtered up to the surface through sand – contributing to its clearer appearance.


Fact #4: Wide but shallow!

Recently one unfortunate park visitor dropped his glasses in a pond, which promptly sank. When he saw a Ranger he enquired whether we had anyone with diving equipment who could go down into the pond to see if they could retrieve his glasses. The Ranger lightheartedly informed the visitor that diving equipment was not all that necessary – the ponds may be big and wide…but they aren’t very deep.

In the style of 19th century urban park design, the ponds in Centennial Parklands are quite shallow – mostly less than 2 metres deep at their lowest points. Towards the shoreline, the ponds are often ankle to waist deep at most.

This shallowness of pond design is a European tradition, but does bring its challenges in an Australian climate. A very large, but shallow, surface area of water can suffer from evaporation loss in hot weather. In periods of prolonged dry weather or drought the ponds can rapidly become depleted.

In fact, they can look like…


The last 'big dry' was in 2003 - this photo was of Kensington Pond in Centennial Park

The last ‘big dry’ was in 2003 – this photo was of Kensington Pond in Centennial Park


Oh – the park visitor’s glasses were retrieved, by the way.


Fact #5: We have some amazing residents in our ponds!

Watch this…



Help us protect our ponds

If you are in any doubt about the impact of waste and pollution in Centennial Parklands’ ponds, then take a look how they used to look in the early 1980s!

Visitors to the Parklands and residents in surrounding suburbs can help keep our ponds clear of pollution. What goes into the drain in the street, or gets left on the ground in the Parklands, finds its way into the stormwater system, and eventually into waterways like the ponds in Centennial Park.

Polluted stormwater is bad for biodiversity because it often contains materials that are harmful to the living things in that ecosystem.

You can help keep our waterways clean and healthy by:

  • sweeping your gutters and driveways with a broom rather than hosing rubbish down the drain;
  • washing your car on the grass – putting soapy water down the drain encourages the growth of algae and can sometimes poison our aquatic wildlife;
  • pick up your dog’s poo – the nutrients in the faeces can encourage algal blooms; and
  • always place waste in a bin, never pile rubbish next to a bin or leave rubbish on the ground in the Parklands.

Thanks for your support!


- posted by Craig Easdown


Become an Insider


Similar Articles

  • Clean Up Australia Day
    Get your gloves dirty for a good cause this Clean Up Australia Day!

    We are very lucky to have such beautiful Parklands to enjoy, right on the doorstep of the city. While there are many strategies and initiatives in place to keep Centennial Parklands looking spectacular, every little bit of help goes a long way! You can help us by adopting the ‘leave no trace’ approach when you visit […]

  • Photo of the week thumbnail
    Photos of the Week: What a View!

    The Parklands is often recognised for its beautiful vistas. From lush woodland areas to pockets of ‘semi-wild’ open paddock, to rocky outcrops, to rolling greens set before a magnificent city skyline. This edition of Photos of the Week, ‘What A View!’ is a celebration of your striking photographs of some of the most iconic and romantic aspects of Centennial Park, […]

  • Willow Pond
    5 ways you can help us protect Centennial Park’s ponds

    Centennial Park’s ornamental ponds are some of its most popular features and many will know them for the beautiful habitat they provide for water birds and aquatic life. People are often surprised however, to hear that these water features (with the exception of Lily Pond), act as a detention basin for stormwater runoff and have an […]

  • Baby birds leave their nests as summer arrives

    Baby birds around Sydney are making the transition from nestling to fledgling, trying out their wings and learning to fly. Young birds are often seen on the ground throughout late spring and early summer and this is a normal stage in their transition to adulthood. Centennial Parklands is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 50 species […]