The Hawkesbury River

Hardback - July 2017 - AU $120.00

eBook - July 2017 - eRetailers Google Books Kobo

A definitive account of the natural history of the Hawkesbury River and the pivotal role it has played in history.

The Hawkesbury River is the longest coastal river in New South Wales. A vital source of water and food, it has a long Aboriginal history and was critical for the survival of the early British colony at Sydney. The Hawkesbury’s weathered shores, cliffs and fertile plains have inspired generations of artists. It is surrounded by an unparalleled mosaic of national parks, including the second-oldest national park in Australia, Ku-ring-gai National Park. Although it lies only 35 km north of Sydney, to many today the Hawkesbury is a ‘hidden river’ – its historical and natural significance not understood or appreciated. + Full description

Until now, the Hawkesbury has lacked an up-to-date and comprehensive book describing how and when the river formed, how it functions ecologically, how it has influenced humans and their patterns of settlement and, in turn, how it has been affected by those settlements and their people. The Hawkesbury River: A Social and Natural History fills this gap. With chapters on the geography, geology, hydrology and ecology of the river through to discussion of its use by Aboriginal and European people and its role in transport, defence and culture, this highly readable and richly illustrated book paints a picture of a landscape worthy of protection and conservation. It will be of value to those who live, visit or work in the region, those interested in Australian environmental history, and professionals in biology, natural resource management and education.

- Short description


"Professor Boon is not only passionate about his subject but is very knowledgeable too. He seems to have spent a great deal of his life exploring and studying the area. This is reflected in the detail he records. Your reviewer's only worry, as a resident of the area, is that the author makes it so attractive that we are likely to be deluged with visitors."
WorkBoat World, October 2017, p. 40


Hardback | July 2017 | $120.00
ISBN: 9780643107595 | 584 pages | 245 x 170 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Illustrations, Photographs

ePDF | July 2017
ISBN: 9780643107601
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers

ePUB | July 2017
ISBN: 9780643107618
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • Highly-readable and informed narrative with colour photographs, historical images and illustrations throughout
  • Uncovers the fascinating hidden history of the river, from its place in Aboriginal culture to the role it played in colonial Australia and in society today
  • Explores the natural characteristics of the river, the relationship it has with the surrounding environment and the effects of human impact


Prologue – the best hidden river in the world
1: Geography – Physical and human
2: Geology – A skeleton of sandstone
3: How the Hawkesbury came to be an estuary
4: Hydrology – Floods, droughts and river regulation
5: The vexed matter of water quality
6: Biota – Plants, animals and mythical creatures
7: Jewels in the crown – The protected areas
8: An Aboriginal river
9: European discovery and early exploration
10: European occupation and exploitation
11: Barrier I – Road and ferry crossings
12: Barrier II – Railway crossings
13: Conduit – Boats and shipping
14: A strategic river – Defending the northern gateway to Sydney
15: The river as muse – Artists, musicians and writers inspired by the Hawkesbury
16: Epilogue – Whither the Hawkesbury?

View the full table of contents.


Paul Boon is a Professor in the Institute for Sustainability and Innovation at Victoria University, Melbourne, and has published extensively on aquatic ecology and management. He is an Associate Editor of the journals Marine and Freshwater Research and Pacific Conservation Biology, a past President of the Australian Society for Limnology, and serves on numerous science advisory committees. The Hawkesbury stole his heart as a boy; he spent his childhood and adolescence on the river and conducted field studies for his BSc(Hons) project on mangroves at Brooklyn.