River History Walks: Emu Plains & Nepean River

The walk at Emu Plains is mostly beside the beautiful Nepean 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 of the river are Watkin Tench, Yellahmiendi, and Toby Ryan. Meet at 10:10 a.m. at Emu Plains station, platform 2 (shops side) with the train from Sydney leaving at 9:18am from Central Station (country platforms), please check for updates via Sydney Train's website before the day of the course.

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 ensure that you have it with you on the day in case the tutor needs to contact you. Note: You will need to sign a waiver indicating that you are able to complete a full day's walk. Also note: there is some construction work beside the Nepean River, along with post-flood repair work, which may impact parts of the walk.


  • 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)


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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