Discover the lost city of Barren Jack on the Murrumbidgee River

The site chosen for NSW's first major irrigation dam was on the Murrumbidgee River, less than sixty kilometres from Yass.

Built in the shadow of Barren Jack, a mountain known by local Indigenous people as Booren Yiack, the project was initially called Barren Jack, then later changed to Burrinjuck Dam.

Settlers: A family pictured by its tent at Barren Jack prior to 1908. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Settlers: A family pictured by its tent at Barren Jack prior to 1908. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

In early 1907, Barren Jack City had only two houses including Mr Steer's store. By October, it had a population of about seven hundred, mainly employed in the weir construction.

The Goulburn Evening Post onOctober 10, 1907, described 'Barren Jack City' as being sited at the base of Barren Jack mountain, partly on the side and partly set into the side of it.

The streets were laid out and filtered water supplied via a pumping station on the river bank. Public buildings were above the high water mark, but some were below as a temporary measure.

Services: Barrenjack City Hospital. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Services: Barrenjack City Hospital. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Single men's quarters were in three rows of barracks housing; seventy two men each in twin rooms. Houses built by their occupants were on leased blocks.

Evening News [Sydney] on February 7, 1908, described Barren Jack City as 'a model township ... clinging to the side of a high and steep hill and commanding a view of great beauty.' At the 'foot of the city, the famous Murrumbidgee River runs peacefully...' the newspaper reported.

It had been laid out with carefully designed streets, state of the art drainage and water arrangements. Houses, built of galvanised iron or bagging were spaced out on alignments by engineers, giving uniform street frontages.

Views: Burrinjuck City 1913 as Burrinjuck Dam begins filling. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Views: Burrinjuck City 1913 as Burrinjuck Dam begins filling. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

At the foot of the town was Lee Street. From about its centre, Station Street ran up to the top of the hill where the railway terminus from Goondah was constructed.

All crossroads were completed, named and built on. There was a public hall, savings bank, library, hospital, fire brigade and school.

Burrinjuck Public School began part-time with fifteen students in 1907. It later became full-time, operating until 1911.

Burrinjuck Dam 1922. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Burrinjuck Dam 1922. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Services including those of resident medical officer Dr Clouston were provided for a levy of one shilling and three pence per week.

The Barren Jack City population was eleven hundred when Evening News on February 7, 1908 published a report on it, describing its children as 'hardy and in fine condition, and look like toddling rosebuds.'

The Sydney Morning Herald onSeptember 13, 1913, described Barren Jack City as 'a specimen of mushroom growth destined to destruction' once Burrinjuck Dam was completed and filled. Construction was interrupted by World War I but completed in 1928.

Barren Jack City is no more. Only a few buildings remain as evidence of its once thriving community.

Barrenjack City. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Barrenjack City. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society Collection.