The Hobart Rivulet rises on the slopes of Mount Wellington and flows generally northeast over O'Grady's Falls, Strickland Falls, through South Hobart and past what was known as the World Heritage-listed Cascades Female Factory towards the Hobart central business district.
The rivulet was an important source of drinking water for the Mouheneener Aborigines, and later for the first European settlers. The site for Hobart was originally chosen in part due to the availability of fresh water from the rivulet - unlike the rancid creek at Risdon Cove on the eastern shore, where they had originally tried to settle.
Because of the pure water of the upper portion of the rivulet, the Cascade Brewery was built beside it. There were several typhoid epidemics during the late 19th century due to poor water quality further downstream. It was also an important source of energy for early industry in Hobart.
When Hobart was founded in 1804, many of the early settlers erected their tents along the section of Collins St, between Elizabeth and Murray Sts. The rivulet became an important part of the town. In 1815 with a government grant Arnold Fisk built the first mill with a second in 1818 built by the Government. In 1819 Fisk then built a third mill on the section of land known as Lower Mill on the banks of the rivulet between, Murray & Elizabeth Streets. Besides these mills, the rivulet provided power for timber mills and water for breweries. Much of the early wealth in Tasmania came from the industries built on the banks of the rivulet.
Gigs from the ships in port rowed up the stream and sailors went ashore at any one of the many bridges. Hotels grew up on the banks, one of the more notorious being the Terminus Inn, more commonly known as the “Do Drop Inn”.
General view of the Hobart Rivulet running along side small houses and businesses in Lower Collins Street
The course of the stream was subject to a number of diversions as the township grew. Minor changes resulted from land reclamation, water supply dams, minor flood controls and mill races. But the first major diversion was the ‘New Cut’, begun in 1824. It ran parallel to Collins Street to join the Park Street Rivulet rather than across the original ‘natural’ bed of the Rivulet (under the present City Hall and then into the Derwent near the site of the present Zero Davey building).
In 1882 the flow of water and detritus was contained in a canal with timber retaining walls which ran along the line of what is now Evans Street. In time the rivulet was enclosed, and the city of Hobart continued to grow over it. Several bridges were constructed - including the sandstone Wellington Bridge (1841), which was a social hub in the mid 1800s and now lies under the city's main shopping mall. It is visible through a viewing portal there.
In 1914-16 the stream was diverted through a major culvert and tunnel under the Queens Domain to reach the River Derwent north of Macquarie Point. The canal was then filled in and became Evans Street. The rivulet now emerges near the Royal Hobart Hospital on Collins Street before flowing underneath the Cenotaph and emptying into the Derwent. Originally it emptied into the River Derwent near where the modern-day Franklin Wharf is. It descends 544 metres over its 7.3-kilometre course.
Molle Street bridge
The thousands of people who use the Molle Street bridge to pass over the Hobart Rivulet each day may occasionally notice the fine stonework on either side of the roadway, but few would realise how handsome the structure is when viewed from creek level. The Molle Street bridge was constructed by Robert Barter Wiggins in 1866. The stone for the bridge was sourced from a quarry on Forest Road, West Hobart. Some people claimed that Wiggins’ workmanship was unsatisfactory but the structure has staunchly withstood the test of time, including some significant floods.
Hobart Rivulet Park Walking Trail
Following Hobart Rivulet upstream from the city to the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington, this trail has a gentle uphill grade and is well suited to bikes and dogs on lead. Along the way are glimpses of the city’s history. Until the 1860s Hobart Rivulet was the main source of fresh water for the new settlement and so the colony grew up along its banks. You will pass the World Heritage Listed Female Factory, an institution used to house convict women and their children.
Further upstream is the historic Cascade Brewery. The playground and barbecue facilities in Cascade Gardens make this an ideal spot to take a break before retracing your steps to the city.