Gardiners Creek - Recent History.
1. Gardiners Creek is some 30km long and today it flows entirely within an urban environment. It starts as a minor stream near Mitcham and gathers increased flow when its impounded waters at Blackburn Lake are joined by several small and intermittently flowing streams. The creek flows in a generally South Westerly direction for about 15km until it approaches the Monash Freeway near Ashburton, then it turns North West and follows the Freeway for another 15km until it joins the Yarra River near Hawthorn. It is the major natural water course flowing through Melbourne's South Eastern suburbs. Its larger tributaries are Damper Creek, Scotchman's Creek and Back Creek. It has several smaller tributaries. Gardiners Creek flows through numerous linear parks or reserves, of which the most outstanding is Blackburn Lake and Sanctuary. Local Govrenment and citizens groups are very active in the regenerative planting of these parks and reserves. They are home to an abundance of bird life. Shared use walking and cycle tracks follow Gardiners Creek for most of its length, often on both sides of the creek line.
2. Gardiners Creek was formerly known as Kooyongkoot, a word meaning a place where water fowl could be found in the language of the people who inhabited the area before the arrival of Europeans. There are a number of archeological sites along the creek, including one near Canterbury road where stone artifacts have been unearthed. European occupation of the Gardiners Creek corridor commenced around 1830. In 1838, land speculator John Gardiner took up major land holdings along the creek which is named after him today.
3. During the period 1880 to 1890 a group of artists, who were predominantly residents of Box Hill and Blackburn, established an "Artists Camp" on the banks of Gardiners Creek near the site of the present day Box Hill Golf Course. This group later became known as the famed Heidelberg School with many of their paintings depicting scenes from the bush beside Gardiners Creek. A particularly famous work, "The Bush Burial", was painted by Heidelberg School member, Fredrick McCubbin near the present Blackburn Lake.
4. In 1888 Gardiners Creek was dammed to form Blackburn Lake in order to provide an assured water supply to market gardens and orchards which had developed down stream. Prior to the damming, this part of the creek had been used for mining an ore of antimony. The lake was easily accessed from Melbourne by steam train and became popular as a tourist destination.
5. In 1909 land on the Blackburn Lake foreshore was purchased by the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society which commenced a flower farming operation. During 1914 to 1918 the lake precinct was also used as a day visit convalescence centre for wounded soldiers. The popularity of the lake continued to increase and it was used extensively from the 1920s and onwards for organized swimming events and other water sports. These activities ceased in the early 1960s. Due to increased urbanisation and inadequate environmental controls at the time, the lake waters and Gardiners Creek generally, became unfit for water based activities. This remains the case today although the water quality is reportedly improving. The lake and its surrounds reverted to public ownership in 1965 and became a declared sanctuary.
6. Uses of the Blackburn Lake foreshores and the rest of the Gardiners Creek parklands today are primarily for walking (or jogging), cycling and appreciation of the environment.