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Crossing the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari

Barr Smith Walk (Park 26)

photo-icon North Terrace & River Torrens, State Library of South Australia, B 7070, circa 1841

The River Torrens is called 'Karrawirra Pari' (Red Gum Forest River) in the Kaurna language. The Kaurna people are the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Adelaide Plains.

Before European settlement, the banks of the River were covered in dense vegetation and supported prolific wildlife. The water course itself provided abundant aquatic food.

The Torrens was critical to Colonel Light's plan for the City, who chose the site "because it was on a beautiful and gently rising ground, and formed altogether a better connection with the river than any other place".

Prior to the construction of the weirs, the River Torrens was an ephemeral watercourse and by the end of summer was reduced to a series of deep waterholes which were popular with the early inhabitants.

The River could change to a raging torrent after heavy rain and early settlers clearing trees and vegetation contributed to bank erosion. Prior to any bridge being constructed, the very early settlers used a ford to cross the river, or, further down stream, a punt.

A series of first bridges

John Barton Hack's Bridge: the very first temporary bridge was constructed by John Barton Hack and was probably little more than a series of planks at the site of the old ford. This appears too have been washed away in the winter rains of 1837.

The Hack-Fisher Bridge: the second temporary bridge was a combined effort between the Fisher Brothers and John Barton Hack around October 1837 and seems to have survived in some form until early 1839.

Hardy's Bridge: the first bridge of a more permanent nature with piers and handrails was built under the supervision of Town Surveyor Alfred Hardy in 1839. Bridging the river connected North and South Adelaide and was essential to the growth of the city, so this is an important place in the development of Adelaide. The demise of this bridge (again due to flooding) in 1844 left the city without a permanent bridge until 1856.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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