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Three Sisters, Katoomba, at Sunset


Blue Mountains History

The Blue Mountains region is rich in history. Once considered an impassable barrier, the Blue Mountains is now a major gateway to Western New South Wales.

We acknowledge the Aboriginal Dharug, Gundungurra, Wanaruah, Wiradjuri, Darkinjung and Tharawal Nations as the traditional owners of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

For countless generations,   Aboriginal peoples have shared the Blue Mountains land as their seasonal home, hunting ground, and ceremonial place,  The spirit of the land speaks through the Ancestors, the water and trees, birds and animals, with memories passed on from one generation to the next. Aboriginal peoples passed through the Blue Mountains on ancient access routes, which provided passage for trade, ceremony and travel. Aboriginal peoples hunted and gathered food, made tools and socialised across these lands. They collected food from plants and used every part of the animals they hunted for food, using them for clothing, weapons and tools. Aboriginal people understood how to preserve the natural environment by only taking what they needed and using everything they took. They would move on when the time is right to ensure there were plentiful supplies for the next season.

No-one is certain how many Aboriginal peoples lived in the Blue Mountains prior to European settlement, but it is certain that populations declined rapidly with colonisation.

Aboriginal peoples were devastated by the impacts of diseases such as smallpox and whooping cough and their movements were interrupted by the influx of European settlers.

European History at a Glance


Captain Cook lands at Botany Bay


Captain Phillip established the first settlement at Sydney Cove


Captain Tench reached the foothills of the Blue Mountains and named the Nepean River


Captain Tench and Lieutenant Wiliam Dawes were unsuccessful in crossing the Blue Mountains


Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains


Building of the Bathurst Road by William Cox

Early 1800’s

From the early 1800’s, European settlements expanded through Aboriginal country. Many Aboriginal peoples were relegated to ‘reserves’ as part of the Aboriginal Protection Policy established in the late 1800s. This impacted the Aboriginal way of life and their ability to care for Country. It also sanctioned the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents which further devastated families and communities and interrupted the flow of ancient knowledge and culture.


Governor Macquarie names Springwood and Blackheath


The first Blue Mountains Building established by Governor Macquarie


The Scotch Thistle Inn is built in Blackheath


Lennox Bridge / Mitchell’s Pass constructed by Major Mitchell


The Old Toll Bar House erected in Mount Victoria


Railway line first constructed from Lithgow to the Blue Mountains


First train journey from Penrith to Wentworth Falls


The Fish begins its service (train service from Sydney to the Blue Mountains)


First railway platform at Katoomba


Full operation of the Springwood Hotel


Katoomba named


Katoomba becomes known due to J.B. North’s Coal Mine


Great Western Hotel erected in Katoomba


Great Western Hotel renamed "The Carrington"

1890’s - 1910

Aboriginal peoples were permanently moved from their ancestral lands to Aboriginal settlements such as The Gully in north Katoomba. They were joined by non-Aboriginal families also needing shelter. Some lived in reserves in Burragorang Valley and worked on the reserves or on settlers’ farms.


“The Mountain Gazette” registered as a newspaper under the newspaper act


First motor vehicle descends Victoria Pass


New 10 tunnel deviation forming the Zig Zag railway


Major rock landslide caused from erosion at Narrow Neck near Katoomba


The Blue Mountains Sporting Drivers Club proposed that a Katoomba Racing Circuit be built in The Gully, Katoomba. The Gully was demolished to make way for a race car circuit. Homes were destroyed and the residents were evicted. This was a deeply sad event for the Aboriginal community.


The original Skyway was installed at Scenic World Blue Mountains

1958 - 1960

The Township of Burragarong Valley was bulldozed to make way for the waters of Warragamba Dam which opened in 1961. Houses, farms, churches and guesthouses were all purchased by the Government and bulldozed, with hundreds of residents displaced, to satisfy the water needs of Sydney’s burgeoning population. Lake Burragarong is Australia’s largest urban water supply, containing about 4 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.


The first race-meet was held on the Catalina racing circuit in February 1961. The area was named Frank Walford Park in honour of a former Mayor of the Blue Mountains.


The Mountains Gazette changed its name to the Blue Mountains Gazette


Blue Mountains Web was launched - :)


Greater Blue Mountains was announced as Australia’s 14th World Heritage Area on 29 November


Aboriginal Elder Dawn Colless nominated the Upper Katoomba Falls Creek Valley (The Gully) for consideration as an Aboriginal Place. Anthorpologist, Dianne Johnson, worked closely with Aunty Dawn and members of the Aboriginal community to prepare the submission for state government.


Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW), the Hon. Bob Debus, local Member of Parliament, officially declared The Gully “An Aboriginal Place” – a place of special significance to Aboriginal culture. At the time, on behalf of the Blue Mountains community, the Major Jim Angel, made a formal apology for the destruction of the community in 1957.


The Gully was opened in 2012 on the 10th anniversary of the declaration of The Gully as an Aboriginal Place.


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