Feast and Flood: Emu Plains & Nepean River

This course is for learners who are hands-on. The walk from Emu Plains is mostly beside the river where there is a sense of pre-1788 flora and fauna. First settlers, the Darug, and second settlers, the British, had to learn about the power and bounty of the river, Dyarubbin. What did the English elite see when they first voyaged the river? How high have the many floods reached? The bridges can tell that story themselves. Some of the characters are Watkin Tench, Yellahmiendi, and Toby Ryan. Meet 10:10 a.m. Emu Plains station, platform 2 (shops side), train leaves 9:18am at Central Station (country platforms).

This walk will go ahead whatever the weather, except where the guide deems there to be a threat to health and safety. In this situation you will be contacted with an alternative date. Please ensure your mobile phone number is up-to-date with WEA before enrolling and make sure you take it with you on the day in case the tutor needs to contact you.


  • People of the River: lost worlds of early Australia, Grace Karskens (2020)
  • 1788 - Comprising A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, Watkin Tench, ed. Tim Flannery (1997)
  • Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe (2014)
  • Reminiscences of Australia, Toby Ryan (1895)


The River walk enables people to walk right beside the river, with remnant native vegetation, water birds, flood level indicators, historic bridges, a new footbridge - and a café. Reasonable fitness required as you must be able to walk 11 kms over 5 hours (Grade 1-2 Walk / National Parks Association NSW), along well-maintained tracks, parkland, street, road, some stairs, bridges. You will need the following walking gear:

  • Walking shoes
  • Sunhat, sunscreen
  • Backpack with 2 litres water, morning tea and lunch
  • Clothing as befits the weather.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system: tributaries, choke points, the watershed.
  2. Identify resources for both pre-1788 and post-1788 life.
  3. Understand frontier conflict from Darug and English sides.
  4. Know how history is written: Toby Ryan, raconteur, MP, bridge-builder, publican, bankrupt.
  5. Imagine the settler life.
  6. Walking supports a healthy lifestyle.

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