Enjoying the Reservoirs in South Australia

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South Australia’s reservoirs may not immediately come to mind when you are thinking of things to do, but in 2019, Environment SA started to open them up to the public for recreational use. Here are the reservoirs in South Australia that you can now enjoy.

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What is there to do at the Reservoirs in South Australia?

While it does vary from reservoir to reservoir, spending time at one of them is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and nature. They have some great walking and cycling paths for exploring the areas.

Some are stocked with fish so are a great place to relax by throwing in a line. Others are open for kayaking with tours and kayak hire available. You will often find picnic tables and areas to gather with friends too.

Where are the South Australian Reservoirs?

While the reservoirs are spread all over SA, many of them are close to Adelaide. Others can be found in the Mid North, Southern Flinders Ranges and near Port Lincoln.

The Reservoirs Open to the Public

Not every reservoir in South Australia has been opened to the public (yet) but there are now eleven that you can enjoy. Each one has different hours and things that you can do there.

An important thing to remember is that these reservoirs supply drinking water to most of the people in South Australia, and as such contamination is one thing that Environment SA is careful about.

This means that the following rules are in place:

  • dogs or other pets cannot be taken to the reserves
  • horses cannot be ridden in the reserves
  • no motorised vehicles are allowed on the water
  • no rowboats, sailing boats or dinghies
  • no swimming in the reservoirs
  • no camping

The reservoirs are open to the public from 7:30 am until either 5 pm (standard time) or 8 pm (daylight savings), except on Christmas Day or total fire ban days.

If you would like to fish at Myponga, Happy Valley, South Para, Warren, Bundaleer or Beetaloo, you will need to have a fishing permit. Details are available on the government Reservoirs website here.

Note also that Murray Cod are protected, and while they can be found in many of the reservoirs, they are catch and release only.

Myponga Reservoir Reserve

Myponga was the first reservoir opened to the public in April 2019. It is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, around an hour south of Adelaide.

Before you even get to the reserve, ensure you drive around to the Myponga Reservoir Lookout to see the dam wall and have fantastic views back across the water.

Myponga has more than 10km of trails for hiking, with two different loops available.

One loop is suitable for families with children or those that like an easier stroll, and the other is a little more difficult (although still not hard). There are some great spaces along the way perfect for a picnic.

This is one of the best reservoirs for kayaking in South Australia. There is a paddling trail set up here at Myponga if you wish to explore the whole reservoir.

You can bring your own kayak, but you can also easily hire one from Myponga Kayak Hire. They will also hire you fishing gear if you are keen to try your luck. Myponga is stocked with Murray cod, and fishing here is under a catch-and-release ethos.

Myponga is a great place for birdwatching, especially since a section of the reserve has been set up as a bird sanctuary for some of the most endangered Fleurieu Peninsula waterbirds.

Hope Valley Reservoir Reserve

Hope Vally is the oldest (1873) and smallest of the reservoirs in Adelaide, and it’s one of the most accessible since it can be easily reached from the city centre by public transport.

There are almost 5km of walking and cycling trails here, including a path that takes you across the 800 m-long dam wall. There is a lookout on the wall for great views across the reservoir.

While there is no fishing or kayaking here, is it a good location for a family outing as it has a nature playground, picnic areas and fitness equipment available for visitors to use. It’s also a great location for bird watching

Bundaleer Reservoir Reserve

Bundaleer Reservoir is located in the mid-north of South Australia, around 50km north of Clare, between Spalding and Gulnare. It was first opened in 1903 to supply water to the surrounding area.

It is one of the smaller reservoirs and is open for cycling, hiking, fishing, kayaking, birdwatching, picnicking and more. The three trails are of different lengths and two of them will take you across the dam wall.

The trails are shared between cyclists and hikers, so if you are riding, take care.

Fishing at Bundaleer requires a permit, and here you will find golden perch, silver perch, Murray cod, rainbow trout and brown trout, so lots of options. You can fish from a kayak or set up on the shore in the shed fishing zone.

South Para Reservoir Reserve

South Para Reservoir is located just outside the Adelaide metropolitan area near Williamstown. It is the second largest of the state’s reservoirs, built after the end of World War II to supply water to the quickly-growing northern suburbs.

Today it also helps to supply water to the Barossa Valley too.

There is so much to see and do around the South Para Reservoir. There are of course hiking and cycling tracks, with the added bonus of being a Parkrun location too.

Each Saturday morning the 5km event commences at 8 am – a great opportunity to work on your fitness. In total, there are almost 9km of trails available to explore.

South Para is also the starting point for the annual Santa Dash – look out for dozens of Santas running and walking through the area on a Saturday in December. The trail then meanders its way to Williamstown ending with a Christmas fair.

Fishing is allowed in the reservoir too, where you can catch and release Murray cod, or take home golden perch and silver perch. A fishing permit is required.

Fishing can be done from the beach or a kayak, or you can just kayak around the reservoir instead.

There are two picnic areas available to visitors, one at the end of a hiking trail and one overlooking the water. This would be perfect for stopping for lunch mid-hike.

Warren Reservoir Reserve

Warren Reservoir is also near the town of Williamstown, not more than a stone’s throw away from the South Para Reservoir. If fact, the trails here extend out of the reservoir reserve all the way to the South Para Reservoir.

It borders Mount Crawford Forest too for even more recreational options.

There are two shared-use loops for hikers and cyclists in the Warren Reservoir Reserve. Make sure you include the lookout over the dam wall in your walk or ride.

There are also two different areas where kayaks can be launched into the reservoir, and this is another that allows fishing. You can catch (and release) Murray cod, or take home silver perch and golden perch.

Beetaloo Reservoir Reserve

When Beetaloo Reservoir was built in the 1880s, it was the largest concrete dam in the Southern Hemisphere. Today it is the smallest of South Australia’s reservoirs.

It can be found in the Southern Flinders Ranges between Port Pirie and Laura and as it is managed by a different government department, things work a little differently here.

The reservoir is open to visitors 24 hours a day from 1st May until 1st November. Outside these dates, it is closed.

It may also be closed on extreme fire danger days (unlikely but possible from May to October) and occasionally for other operational reasons.

Beetaloo is primarily a location for fishing. Pick up your permit and spend a peaceful afternoon pulling in Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch.

There are no walking trails here, but there is a picnic area with a BBQ available. Beetaloo is also a good area for birdwatching.

Happy Valley

Nestled amongst the southern suburbs of Adelaide, Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve is popular with locals as a recreation area. It is just 35 minutes from the city centre and has been set up with good facilities.

On a recent visit, I saw the reservoir being used as a photographic background for what I presume were school formal photos. There was also a coffee van at the entrance, although it was closed during my late afternoon visit.

There are four walking/cycling trails, some easier than others, but the paths near the carpark are accessible to all. Ensure to walk around to the dam wall for the best views across the water.

There are interactive trails available, one will teach you about the reservoir and the other is a Geocaching trail. See the signs with the QR codes in the carpark for more details.

The kayak launch area is also accessible to those in wheelchairs too.

Fishing is allowed here too, where you will catch the usual Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch, but also carp and redfin – which both must be taken home and not returned to the water.

There is a sheltered BBQ and picnic area right on the banks of the reservoir, so this is a great place to gather with family and friends too.

Little Para Reservoir Reserve

Little Para Reservoir is the baby of the bunch, built in 1979 to supply the emerging suburbs of Golden Grove and Greenwich. It sits just outside the metropolitan area to the north of the city centre.

This is more of a low-key reserve, offering only a couple of kilometres of walking and cycling tracks along with a small picnic area. There is no kayaking or fishing here.

The only real activity is to walk or run along the 1km path to the lookout over the dam wall. While good for a short stop, this is not the reservoir for extensive entertainment.

Mount Bold Reservoir Reserve

Mount Bold is the largest of the reservoirs in South Australia, and the one with the most dramatic dam wall. It is located in the southern section of the Adelaide Hills near Clarendon and Kangarilla, about 45 minutes from the city centre.

Mount Bold has two separate lookout areas, one up high and the other on the dam wall. Both offer great views over the water.

While fishing and kayaking are not allowed, there are more than 13km of trails to allow you to explore the reserve. Cycling is also not recommended as the tracks are not adequate and can be quite challenging just for those on foot.

An exception to the challenging trails is the smooth 700m walk from the car park to the top lookout, which is worth the effort for the spectacular views over the reservoir and the surrounding hills.

Nearby you can find Kuitpo Forest with more recreational options, and I recommend also popping into Anvers Winery, just a minute or two down the road from the top lookout.

They are open from Thursday to Sunday for wine tasting and for lunch at their restaurant.

Barossa Reservoir Reserve

The Barossa Reservoir is the one that people are most likely familiar with – but not because of the reservoir itself, but because of its famous dam wall.

The Whispering Wall has been a popular tourist attraction for many years. The arc of the wall happens to be just the right angle that a person can stand at one end of the wall, talk in a quiet voice, and be heard clearly at the other end.

Located at the southern end of the Barossa Valley, it can be found between Lyndoch and Williamstown. Since the reserves have been opened, picnic areas have been added near the Whispering Wall so that visitors can enjoy a little longer here.

There are no walking/cycling trails here, and no fishing or kayaking is allowed.

Tod River Reservoir Reserve

A view through bushland to a dam wall and water of the Tod River Reservoir

Tod River Reservoir is the furthest from the city, located to the north of Port Lincoln on Eyre Peninsula. The reservoir is a great place to stop when you are exploring the area by car.

It only has some short walking/cycling trails to the dam wall lookout, but they teem with the abundant birdlife found here. The picnic area has a BBQ available for use, and you can also enjoy a game of tennis on the nearby courts.

You will also find a small museum (open Mon-Fri 8:30 am to 4 pm) here dedicated to the local water story on the Eyre Peninsula.

(As an aside, I grew up on the Eyre Peninsula and we either had “rainwater” or “tod water” depending on the season. I had no idea it came from a reservoir here)

Looking for more ways to enjoy nature around Adelaide? Try these posts
5 Best Walks in Adelaide
Kayaking with Dolphins in Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary
Visiting Cleland Wildlife Park

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About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.