Wamboin Community Association

The Waterways of Wamboin

by David McDonald   [29-Jul-18]

One aspect of Wamboin’s local history is the waterways of Wamboin: where they are and the origins of their names. Wamboin is not renowned for its waterways, but what we have are important parts of our landscape. Furthermore, some of their names reflect both the almost 200 years of European exploration and settlement here and, less prominently, the possibly 2,000 generations throughout which Aboriginal people were the custodians of the country that we call Wamboin.

Here we present information on the waterways of Wamboin. The Wamboin Community Association will welcome any information that you can provide that will fill any of the gaps or correct anything that is mistaken. Contact the author, David McDonald, ph. 02 6238 3706 or 0416 231 890, email david [at] dnmcdonald.id.au.

For the purposes of this listing, Wamboin is taken to be the locality of Wamboin, not the parish of Wamboin. This is because Wamboin straddles three parishes, and parts of the parish of Wamboin lie well beyond the boundaries of the locality of Wamboin. The boundary of the locality is shown in reddish dashes on the map in the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council online mapping system. Select the layers Boundaries | Suburbs, and zoom in to Wamboin. The waterways listed are those named on present-day maps, primarily the 2017 editions of the former NSW LPI’s 1:25,000 topographic maps ‘Sutton’ & ‘Bungendore’.

Click on a name to expand or collapse the available information.

Birchams Creek

Birchams (sic) Creek rises near the Denley Drive/Hogan Drive intersection and flows south through Birchmans (sic) Estate, to join the Yass River near the northern end of Merino Vale Drive.

Name Origin

‘Guise’s blocks in the high country [“Bywong” station] were first applied for in 1837 by Stephen Burcher of Liverpool who, although unsuccessful in his bid, is commemorated in “Bircham’s Creek” which, with Kowan Creek, forms the source of the Yass River’ (Lea-Scarlett 1972, p. 14).

Additional Information

Quote from the Sydney Monitor, Saturday 17 September 1836, page 3:

‘NOTICE. THE-following Cattle have been running for some time on Mr. Stephen Burcher’s station at the head of Yass River [.] One Cow, with yellow sides, white back, and belly, branded off side on thehip (sic), U. R. O. ALSO - Two Heifers and a Steer. S. BURCHER. September 17, 1836’.

Stephen Burcher, born c. 1796 (UK), arrived Sydney 1814 as a convict under a life sentence for stealing a horse when he was 17 years of age, granted ticket of leave, lived Liverpool (NSW), died 1838 aged just 42 years (Australian Royalty n.d.).


Australian Royalty: a family tree of colonial Australians, their forbears and descendants n.d., Stephen Burcher, internet resource, https://australianroyalty.net.au/individual.php?pid=I62947&ged=purnellmccord.ged.

Lea-Scarlett, EJ 1972, Gundaroo, Roebuck Society Publication, Roebuck Society, Canberra.

Black Joes Creek

The creek rises on the ridge running south from Birchmans Grove and flows north-west to join the Yass River 1 km south of Macs Reef Road, in Bywong. Approximately 2 km of the creek loops south into Wamboin, flowing west from the southern end of Newington Road, Bywong.

Name Origin

Oral history, attributed to the Bingley family whose members have farmed in the area since the 1840s, has it that there used to be an Aboriginal shepherd living in the area whose name was ‘Black Joe’. We have not been able to corroborate this from documentary sources.

Additional Information

The Queanbeyan Age newspaper, Thursday 13 May 1869, page 3, published a notice:

‘AMATEUR CONCERT, in aid of raising funds to pay the remaining debt on the Presbyterian Church, will be held in the ASSEMBLY ROOM OF THE ROYAL HOTEL, GUNDAROO On Friday, the 21st inst., When the following Programme will be strictly carried out…’. One of the items on the program was ‘Old Black Joe’, to be performed by ‘D. S. C.’.

‘Old Black Joe’ is a parlour song composed by Stephen Foster (1826-1864), first published, in the USA, in 1853 (Wikipedia 2018, ‘Old Black Joe’).

Brooks Creek

Brooks Creek rises in the high country—the western edge of the Lake George Range—close to the southern end of Ryans Road. From there it flows north, paralleled by Valley View Lane, crossing under Bungendore Road just south of Clare Lane. It continues north, on the eastern side of Bungendore Road, goes under the Federal Highway at Grove Road and soon afterwards turns west to join the Yass River near the Sutton Road/Shingle Hill Way junction.

Name Origin

Named after Captain Richard Brooks, the first large landholder in the Bungendore region, who initially occupied the area in about 1823-1824. Born in Devon, England, c. 1765, died Liverpool (Sydney) 1833 ‘after being gored by a bull’ (Proctor 2001, p. 28), and/or his daughter Charlotte Brooks (c. 1811-1885) who inherited a component of his Lake George landholdings located to the south-east of Wamboin (Turalla Station).

Additional Information

‘The pioneer settler in the district was Richard Brooks who in May 1825 was allowed to purchase for £1000 a tract of 4000 acres which he selected “at a place known by the Native Name of Bungandore in the County of Argyle two miles Southwd. of Lake George”’ (Lea-Scarlett 1968, p. 227).

And see Maher 2016, for details on Capt. Richard Brooks and his family.

‘William Moore of Piper’s Hill, Campbelltown, purchased 640 acres at the head of Brooks Creek on the track from Gundaroo to Bungendore in 1838 and for many years lived quietly but industriously on his property that he named Creekborough. He died there in January 1861 aged 84 …’ (Lea-Scarlett 1972, p. 14.).

The creek was first visited by Europeans (Charles Throsby Smith, Joseph Wild & James Vaughan) on 3 December 1820. They camped there that evening on an expedition heading west from Lake George aiming to locate the Yass River, a waterway that had been described by local Aboriginal informants (Lea-Scarlett 1972, p. 2). Their campsite was probably in what we now call Bywong.

Both alluvial and reef gold mining took place along the creek and in the adjoining hillsides, mostly to the north of Wamboin in the southern Gundaroo area, during various stages between the early 1860s and the end of the 19th century.

Brooks Creek, especially its downstream section from near where it turns west, was formerly known as Shinglehouse/Shingle House Creek. This part of the creek was probably the Yass River until the Cullerin Uplift occurred 10-5 million years ago (Finlayson 2008).


Finlayson, D. M. (compiler) 2008, A geological guide to Canberra region and Namadgi National Park, Geological Society of Australia (ACT Division), Canberra.

Lea-Scarlett, EJ 1968, Queanbeyan: district and people, Queanbeyan Municipal Council, Queanbeyan, N.S.W.

Lea-Scarlett, EJ 1972, Gundaroo, Roebuck Society Publication, Roebuck Society, Canberra.

Maher, C 2016, Richard Brooks: from convict ship captain to pillar of early colonial Australia, Rosenberg Publishing, Kenthurst, NSW.

Procter, P (ed.) 2001, Biographical register of Canberra and Queanbeyan: from the district to the Australian Capital Territory 1820-1930: with Bungendore, Captains Flat, Michelago, Tharwa, Uriarra, Hall, Gundaroo, Gunning, Collector and Tarago, The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra, Canberra.

Kowan Gully

Kowan Gully is the most prominent of the headwaters of the Yass River. It rises near the ACT border in the high country south of Wirreanda Road. The official NSW spelling for the waterway/gully is ‘Kowan’, whereas the official spelling for the nearby ACT locality is ‘Kowen’.

Name Origin

‘Larmer records “Kowan Creek” (sic) on his map of the area south-west of Weereewaa (Lake George) in 1837’ (Jackson-Nakano 2005, p. 23).

‘The district of Kowen has been spelt in different ways, including Kowan, Kohan, Coen, Cohen and even Kohn ... A phonological reconstruction of Kowen suggests that it was partially derived from the Aboriginal placename for the area, which was “kuwain”... Kuwin was also the first element of the aboriginal Kuwiniyan, from which Queanbeyan was derived, although its meaning is unknown…’ (ACT Heritage Council 2015, p. 2).

In contrast, Jackson-Nakano (2005, p. 23) suggests that ‘“Kowan” and other spellings may be a corruption of Cohen. JJMoore’s overseer at nearby “Canberry Station” was James Cohen, also spelled Cowen, so there may be some connection between Kowan and all other subsequent spellings for this overseer’s name’.


ACT Heritage Council 2015, Background information, Kowen Cultural Precinct (Blocks 16, 30, 60, 71-73, and 94, Kowen), the author, Canberra.

Jackson-Nakano, A 2005, Ngambri ancestral names: for geographical places and features in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounds, the author, [Canberra].

Mill Post Creek

The creek rises in the high country along the ACT border in the vicinity of Mt Cohen, and flows north-east, through ‘Millpost’ station and the Lake George Range, to join Turallo Creek north of the Bungendore Sewage Treatment Plant.

Name Origin

Not known

Additional Information

We are not aware which was named first, Mill Post Creek or ‘Millpost’ station. Furthermore, the origin of the name does not seem to be recorded, nor available in oral histories. It is possible that the creek and property are named after an early post mill (see Wikipedia contributors, ‘Post mill’) in the area, but residents are not aware of any reports of one there. It is also possible that it is named after a locality or farm in the UK from which early settlers came but that, and the post mill possibility, remain speculation. Note Millpost Hill and Millpost Trig Station between Denley Drive and Hogan Drive, and the old property ‘Millpost’ in the Nanima area (Lea-Scarlett 1972, pp. x, 66).


Lea-Scarlett, EJ 1972, Gundaroo, Roebuck Society Publication, Roebuck Society, Canberra.

Reedy Creek

Two waterways called ‘Reedy Creek’ are found in or close to Wamboin. The one which flows through Wamboin rises near Norton Road at around the 10 km mark, flows north between Norton Road and Weeroona Drive, past the end of Reedy Creek Place, passing under Bungendore Road immediately south of the Bungendore Road/Macs Reef Road junction, and there joins Brooks Creek.

Name Origin

The middle part of its course meanders, as a reedy waterway, through Clare Valley.

Additional Information

The other nearby Reedy Creek rises on the Queanbeyan Fault, at the NSW/ACT border in Kowen Forest, from where it flows west under Sutton Road, and then south, beside Sutton Road, joining the Molonglo River near Pialligo Avenue. This is outside the boundary of Wamboin.

Woolshed Creek

Woolshed Creek rises near Weeroona Drive and flows north-east, under Warramunga Close near its junction with Woolshed Lane, and joins Reedy Creek close to Bungendore Road immediately south of the Bungendore Road/Macs Reef Road junction.

Name Origin

The woolshed after which it is named is found on Woolshed Lane, close to its junction with Macs Reef Road.

Additional information

‘Ray [Murphy] also notes that much of the Wamboin/Geary’s Gap shearing was done in the shearing shed that still stands just south of the intersection of Macs Reef Road and Gundaroo Road [the old name for the current Bungendore Road]. The flocks from the Ryans, the Taylors, the Donnelleys, the Reardons, and from Lumley were brought there.’ Ned Noel, Wamboin Whisper, Sep. 1997, p. 16.

Stony Creek

Stony Creek rises on the ridge to the west of Birchmans Estate. It then flows north-west to join the Yass River near ‘Woodfield’ station.

Name Origin

Presumably named after the rocky nature of some of the terrain through which it flows.

Yass River

The Yass River rises in Kowan Gully near the ACT border in the high country south of Wirreanda Road. From there it flows north, under Norton Road, and then west to the vicinity of Fernloff Road and then north, forming the western boundary of the parish of Wamboin, heading to Sutton, Gundaroo, Yass and joining the Murrumbidgee River in Lake Burrinjuck.

Name Origin

‘… thought to be derived from “yarh”, an Aboriginal term for which no meaning can be reliably attributed to... Also: for “waters”...

Origin: 1st Origin-said to be named after an Aborigines comments to Hume in 1821 “Yass boss, plains”

2nd Origin - said to be named after comments made by a Mr Angel to Hume in 1824. “Yas, yas, plenty of clear country here”.

3rd Origin-Yarrh or Yharr was the native name of the river that runs through the town (there is no “s” in the local dialect)’ (NSW Geographic Names Board, n.d.).

Additional Information

First visited by Europeans (Charles Throsby, Joseph Wild & James Vaughan) on 27 October 1820, near what is now Bywong. Throsby referred to it by its Aboriginal name ‘Boongaroon’ (Lea-Scarlett 1972, p. 2).

‘Another sound that gave trouble to English speakers was the trilled r when it occurred at the end of the word. G. A. Robinson wrote it r.r – his full stop usually indicates syllable division. The placename “Yass” presumably ended in this trill, which was partly devoiced. This sound is probably what lies behind Hume and Hovell’s spelling “Yarrh” ... According to Mowle…, “Yass should be Yarr”’ (Koch 2009, p. 132).

‘Yass’ is an Aboriginal word for ‘waters’ (McCarthy 1959, p. 18).


Koch, HJ 2009, ‘The methodology of reconstructing Indigenous placenames: Australian Capital Territory and south-eastern New South Wales’, in LA Hercus & HJ Koch (eds), Aboriginal placenames: naming and re-naming the Australian landscape, ANU E Press, Canberra.

Lea-Scarlett, EJ 1972, Gundaroo, Roebuck Society Publication, Roebuck Society, Canberra.

NSW Geographic Names Board n.d., Geographical Names Register Extract, ‘Yass’, http://www.gnb.nsw.gov.au/place_naming/placename_search/extract?id=SXjtwpsEMn.