Wednesday 21 March 2012

The Woolwash

Whenever I ask the older generation of Campbelltown where they swam as children the answer is almost always at the Woolwash. The area known as the Woolwash is 4km east of Campbelltown and is a deep gorge along the Georges River around its junction with O'Hare's Creek. Although rumour has it that the Woolwash was at one time used for washing wool, there appears to be no evidence to support this story. In the early days people used the water for their own purposes, and also to water their cattle. But it was as a swimming hole in the searing summer heat of Campbelltown that the Woolwash gained its reputation.

It was during the 1930s that the Woolwash began to be the town's most popular swimming and picnic area. Many Campbelltown residents of that time remember crowds of about 100 people sitting and sunbaking on the sandy beach on the eastern side of the river. Unlike the muddy water hole at Bow Bowing Creek, the Woolwash water was normally very clear, unpolluted and nearly always flowing. It became so popular that in 1946 a kiosk was built and leased by Fred Lower. In 1955, council constructed a parking area near the top of the Woolwash road. Prior to its construction there were often up to about 50 cars parked along the road down to the turning area on a good weekend. A second car park was constructed in 1969 along with a kiosk and dressing sheds.

The area around the Woolwash was very popular for boy scout camps between the two world wars. Two camping areas were established in the 1930s about 200 metres up O'Hare's Creek, one on either side of the creek.

According to local resident Col Braithwaite, broken glass bottles were a major hazard in the area. People drank the contents of the glass soft drink bottles, threw the bottles into the water, then proceeded to throw stones at the bottles until they broke and sank. Many children often received bad cuts to their feet. Still, this was a small price to pay for a day at Campbelltown's charming piece of paradise.

Four unidentified children of the Denison family at the "The Woolwash" A. Denison Collection


"Around the Woolwash in the 1930s and 1940s" by Col Braithwaite in "Grist Mills" vol 16 no 1 p26

Written by Andrew Allen


  1. Is this still around today?

  2. Yes William, the Woolwash is still there. With increasing pollution over the years however, it has become a less popular place to swim. I haven't been there myself but I imagine the swimming hole has changed over time also.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. The woolwash is still there, I imagine it's not as it once was but kids these day still swim there. I've been swimming there multiple times and I always enjoy myself, nice walk down but going up can be tiring :)

  5. Thanks Rhianna. I wasn't aware that people still swam there. It's been polluted for quite a long time unfortunately.

  6. I explored the woolwash with my children 3 days ago. sad to see rubbish graffiti on the sandstone rocks from the local residents and burn out car shells along the way too. Such a shame really. Wouldn't swim in the river there due to river grass and algae on the water. There is a video on my YouTube page called the woolwash

  7. Hi, my name is Chris Munson, and I swam there in the 1950s and 60s. I also spent an hour there this morning. (Friday 8th March 2019)
    The road down is well maintained, and quite doable. It is a peaceful spot - yes, marred by spray painted graffiti.
    Much of it is just as I remembered it, although the bush is less dense, perhaps due to fire or clearing by Council.

  8. Thanks for the update Chris and sharing your memories. Shame about the graffiti. Andrew

  9. Swam down there today as I have nearly everyday for the last 15 years 😂

  10. That's amazing. I didn't realize it was still ok to swim.

  11. Me and my partner go down there maybe 2 or 3 times a week just for something to do we have been swimming there since we where kids but now the water there is to dirty and almost gone

    1. still heaps of water and even more since the recent floods, I will post my vid link soon. just made a new one

  12. I live in London but have a vague memory of swimming at the Woolwash in the sixties after my family emmigrated to Australia. I recall stepping off a ledge into a deep part of the river. Can anyone confirm this ledge exists. Thanks Catherine