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.

Comments (3)

sort by
greg 22 April, 2015 16:38
hi Does the museum have a map that show williams creek before it was covered over?
Discovery Centre 25 April, 2015 11:17
Hi Greg - for a really comprehensive collection of historical maps of Melbourne, try the collections at the State Library of Victoria.
Glen Eira College student 14 July, 2015 19:09
Hello, I am a student from Glen Eira College and I am in year 9. This year at school we have, for 4 periods a week a program called Year 9 Program. This term is partly about city experience. We are going to the city and we have to find several places for which we have clues. One clue was about Williams creek and we need to take a picture/have proof that we found it. My group and I do not know whether or not you can actually access the creek or if there is a sign somewere that we could use as proof. I would quite like to know what you think about this, THank you for your consideration, GEC student
Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.