Perth – Built on lakes and wetlands

Perth city was established as a British colony in 1829. The street plan for the city centre was drawn up on a desk in London with almost no consideration given to the fact that the site was covered in a collection of fresh-water wetlands, swamps and lakes. They were known as Perth Wetlands, Perth Great Lakes or the Great Lakes District.

A reproduction of a map created in 1838.

Whadjuk Noongar have lived on this land and been connected to country for over 40000 years with the wetlands providing a critical source for food and fresh water. No consideration was given to the impact that settlement would have on the local population either.

Most of the wetlands were reclaimed for market gardens, parks, housing or infilled due to an influx in water-borne disease caused by effluent pollution. Some also became nothing more than a drain. The lakes were located in the suburbs of Perth, West Perth, East Perth, North Perth, Northbridge, Highgate, Leederville, West Leederville, Wembley, Glendalough and Mt. Hawthorn. Over all, the hydrology of the Perth metropolitan region has a large number of lakes running parallel to the coastline north and south of the city, however the waterbodies known as Perth Wetlands referred to run out to the Swan River at Claisebrook Cove, opposite Perth Stadium.


NameFormer NameNoongar Name
Lake HerdsmanGreat LakeNgurgenboro
Lake MongerTriangle LakeKeiermulu
ClaisebrookClause’s BrookGoongoongup
Walter’s Brook———–Warndoolier
Smith’s LakeThree Island LakeDanjanberup
Hyde Park LakesThird SwampBoojamooling


Tea-tree Lake
Lake Kingsford
Stone’s Lake
Lake Poulett
Lake Thomson
Lake Henderson
Lake Georgianna
Lake Irwin
Lake Sutherland
Second Swamp
Perth aerial view pre colonisation. Pre 1829
A reconstructed map of the Perth Wetlands circa 1830, based on John Septimus Roe’s map of 1834.


The Western Australian Museum provides further online resources to assist with the study of the Perth wetlands.