The Swan Canning Riverpark covers 72.1 square kilometres of river reserve and adjoining public lands. The Swan Canning Riverpark supports a diverse array of plant and animal life, some endemic to the region. The Swan and Canning rivers, which stretch and snake their way for 280 kilometres from Wickepin to the deep blue of the Indian Ocean in Fremantle, represent an important slice of West Australian history, as well as holding significant cultural values for Perth, serving as an important feature of the city’s landscape.
Today, the rivers and immediate landscapes showcase Perth’s urban beauty and cater for a range of water and land-based activities, which can be enjoyed all year round. But long before Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh named the Swan River in 1697, the land was roamed and cherished by numerous Noongar groups.
The Swan Canning Riverpark is truly the heart of Perth, ensuring it is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. There is a wealth of activities waiting to be discovered, and many informative websites to help you on your way.
- Take in the river views from Kings Park while enjoying a picnic – visit the Kings Park website.
- Enjoy a walk or bike ride along the foreshore. There are numerous dual use paths along the Swan and Canning rivers. Walking guides and cycling guides are available on the Department of Transport website. For bushwalkers, Canning River Regional Park, Walyunga National Park and Avon Valley National Park offer opportunities to get up close to the natural river environment.
- Try sailing – visit the Yachting Australia website.
- Enjoy a river cruise.
- Try your luck fishing for mulloway, tailor or black bream - visit the Department of Fisheries website for information including bag and size limits, Recfishwest or the Australian Anglers Association Club. Find tips on fishing to keep the rivers healthy on the River Guardians website.
- Discover the natural beauty of the river by kayak or canoe – hire a kayak from Point Fraser or Mosman Park, or explore the Canning River Canoe Trail, which stretches from the Mt Henry Bridge to Hester Park. Find out more at Canoeing Western Australia.
- Snorkel or dive the rivers and find out what wonders lie beneath - visit Diving Western Australia.
- Explore the rivers by boat – more information including public moorings, speed limits, launch facilities and tips to keep the rivers healthy are available in the Swan Canning Riverpark Boating Guide on the Department of Transport website. Read more about fishing, boating, diving and kayaking safety. Sewage/sullage discharge is totally prohibited in the Swan Canning Riverpark. For more information, please visit the Department of Transport website.
- Go birdwatching. The Swan Estuary Marine Park protects three biologically important areas of Perth's beautiful Swan River. It encompasses Alfred Cove, 190 hectares adjacent to the suburbs of Attadale and Applecross, Pelican Point, a 40 hectare area in Crawley, and Milyu, 95 hectares adjacent to the Como foreshore and Kwinana Freeway. The park is an ideal place to watch the many species of birds that visit and live in the Riverpark.
Whadjuk Noongar history
The Aboriginal names for the Swan River and Canning River are Derbal Yerrigan and Djarlgarra/Dyarlgarro respectively. The Riverpark hosts many historical, mythological and cultural sites of significance reflecting the importance of the rivers in sustaining the Whadjuk Noongar people for more than 40,000 years. Significant sites to the Whadjuk Noongar people on the Swan and Canning rivers include spiritual sites, camping grounds, burial sites, historical locations, mythological and sacred sites and ceremonial sites.
As important as the land was for sustaining the Noongar communities, their dependence and interconnectedness with the rivers and the surrounding landscape was much more than physical - the land and water were intrinsically linked to the very existence of the Noongars, like a life force that created their identities and was ultimately central to their survival.
Pervading the everyday lives of Whadjuk Noongars was their relationship with the Swan River and its surrounds – being of spiritual significance, giving a sense of ownership and identity with their surroundings.
The strong connection to the Swan and Canning rivers is largely attested by the Waugal - a powerful serpent-like dreamtime spirit who watched over the law and punished transgressors. Noongars believe the Waugal created the rivers, waterholes, lakes, valleys and landforms on its journey from inland Western Australia to the ocean.
A number of important Waugal sites are known along the Swan River (such as the spring at the base of Mount Eliza), and along some of its tributaries (e.g. Bennett Brook). However, one of the most significant of the Waugal sites on the Swan River occurs at Rocky Bay (Garangup), just to the northwest of Fremantle. It is here that the Waugal is believed to have crawled into the limestone cliffs to sleep after causing a great flood that submerged the land between Rottnest Island (Wadjimup) and the coast (Walyalup). There is still a large limestone cave at Rocky Bay which has a central pillar supporting the roof.
Despite significant changes to the landscape since colonisation, the land and rivers are still very important to Noongars.
On this website, you can also learn about Parks and Wildlife’s marli riverpark interpretation plan, a framework for sharing the unique cultural values of the Riverpark and download Indigenous history of the Swan and Canning rivers by Debra Hughes-Hallett, which was the source for some of the information on this page. You can also listen to recordings of local Whadjuk Noongar Elders sharing stories of the Riverpark on the Heathcote, Bicton Baths and Point Walter site pages.
You can also follow self guided walking tours using the geotourist app available for Android or Apple smartphones. You can view the guides and listen to the audio for each point of interest online - click on the link below.
In most reserves surrounding the Swan Canning Riverpark, dogs are permitted but must be on a leash. However there are a number of locations where dogs are not allowed. Please note, dog exercise guidelines are administered by each local council and can vary, so please ensure you check each local council’s guidelines before bringing your dog. For a general guide, online lists of dog friendly parks in the Perth metropolitan area are available.
Always bring a water bottle as some of the surrounding Riverpark reserves don’t have drink fountains.