The popular Manly Dam circuit has something for everyone, even the family dog is welcome (on a leash). To avoid the picnic areas where the dog is not permitted, and to add a short hill climb for fitness, we park in Manning St opposite Balgowlah North Public School.
Manly Dam Water Supply
The Curl Curl creek catchment reserve for Manly Dam is surrounded by suburbia, except for a boundary with Garigal National Park across Wakehurst Parkway. Curl Curl creek was dammed in 1892 to provide a water reservoir for Manly village. The dam wall was raised progressively reaching 35m in 1922. At times the dam supplied areas from Seaforth and Balgowlah as far north as Mona Vale.
When a drought depleted supply, pumping began from Pymble Reservoir. Additional water supply reservoirs were built on the Warringah peninsula, and Manly dam ceased to be used for water supply in 1933.
The Manly Dam Nature Reserve
The nature reserve is home to over 300 plant and 80 bird species. The diverse vegetation adds to the interest of the walk. There are scribbly gums, bloodwoods and angophora on the sandstone ridge tops, sedges in the wetlands, and ferns and orchids in the cliff areas and shady rock overhangs. Curl Curl creek is also the most northerly habitat, and only habitat within Sydney, of the Climbing Galaxias fish.
There are six known aboriginal sites, most within the golf course area. Look out for the axe grinding grooves near the creek.
Sydneysiders now use the Dam for recreation. The water is safe for swimming. Besides walkers and water sports such is water-skiing and kayaking, the Manly Dam Reserve is a popular destination for mountain bikers. Bikes follow a separate route for much of the circuit, and are not permitted on the single track walking paths, but watch out for them on the shared use fire trails. If hidden treasure is your thing, look out for geocaches.
Manly Dam is an important education site, used by schools, universities for research, and the government.
The Manly Dam Circuit Walk
The tracks in the Reserve are sign posted, and included on a Warringah Council map of Manly Dam area.
From Manning St, head down the track, taking the right fork towards the high point of McCombs Hill. Follow the track back down towards the dam wall. If you have your four-legged best friend with you, she might appreciate being carried across the dam wall, as the metal grate is not friendly to soft paws. On the other side of the dam wall, the path heads around the dam, eventually joining the fire trail.
A left turn will take you across Curl Curl creek, and back onto single track. When you reach the bitumen, parking and picnic areas, turn right onto the nature track and follow it back to your car on Manning St.