Melbourne's underground river

23 January, 2011

Where Melbourne's underground creek meets the Yarra River.
Where Melbourne's underground creek meets the Yarra River.
Image: Max Strating
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: I heard on the radio that there is an underground river in Melbourne, under Collins Street. I would love to find out more about this.

Answer: Your information is almost correct; it’s a creek, not a river and it actually runs under Elizabeth Street - Collins Street does however, cross over it. Originally known as Williams Creek, it was notoriously boggy and prone to flooding in winter. The most spectacular flood occurred in 1972 when in one hour, 78.5 mm of rain fell on the Central Business District and Elizabeth Street was turned into a fast flowing torrent, rising to an estimated height of nearly one and a half meters. 

Normally when it rains now, the ‘creek’ flows down a drain beneath the original creek bed, Elizabeth Street. It empties into the Yarra through an opening next to Flinders Street Station, opposite South Bank. In the event of sudden, heavy rainfall Elizabeth Street can still act to channel flash floods towards the Yarra; this happened in early 2010.

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