Nathan Mifsud

Every Yarra Crossing

Ongoing observations from mouth to dam

Watercolour painting of a wooden punt crossing the river carrying a horse and cart with hay and two men on horses.

Punt over the Yarra at Richmond, 1871, Charles Norton

Just shy of a million years ago, volcanoes north of Narrm produced gentle but unstoppable outflows of molten rock that cut the Yarra’s tail from its mouth. This shaped the lower bends of its present course, as the river felt blindly around the cooled lava to find its way back to the bay.

Since moving here, I’ve been enchanted by the waterways that thread the city. When I first arrived, my commute to work was along Darebin Creek, a tributary of the Yarra—upstream in crisp air, downstream in the evening—and my body often felt light as I cycled the trail, as if the lava-lined valley had been carved for the sole purpose of swooping down its curves at dusk.

Later, when I explored the volcanic plains that spread west across Victoria, the circuit I took ended with Darebin Creek. On turning home shortly before its confluence with the Yarra, I realised that I’d have to pick up where I left off. The silty snake awaited.

The idea to investigate crossings—bridges, boats, tunnels—originated in a novelty route I designed. It connects 42 crossings (some two-thirds of the total) and is best cycled on a warm night beneath a bright moon, finishing with a punt service across the river mouth at dawn.

Clearly, I’m all for a madcap box-ticking exercise, but the motivation behind this project is different. I’ve set rules for myself: visit only one crossing per outing (unless they’re very close together), and if it’s a solo trip to make an observation, get there without a car. This means it will take me years. Heck, I may never document all of the crossings. That’s OK. It’s about the process.

The sites become places of reflection. I pay unusual attention to everyday features I might otherwise miss: insects, trees, passers-by, discarded trash. I share photos and unpolished lists of what I notice. Collectively, they form a splintered survey of Birrarung—an accumulation of moments by the water.

Crossings so far

Ordered from mouth to dam. Italicised crossings are not accessible on foot, so I observed them from afar and beneath.

  1. Webb Bridge21-01-30
  2. Charles Grime Bridge21-01-30
  3. Queens Bridge21-06-30
  4. Sandridge Bridge21-06-30
  5. Evan Walker Bridge21-06-12
  6. Princes Bridge20-11-16
  7. Morell Bridge22-04-09
  8. Cremorne Railway Bridge21-07-07
  9. Church Street Bridge22-11-18
  10. Gardiners Creek Bridge22-12-16
  11. Monash Freeway22-12-16
  12. Wallen Road Bridge21-12-30
  13. Hawthorn Railway Bridge21-12-30
  14. Hawthorn Bridge20-12-21
  15. Victoria Bridge20-11-28
  16. Walmer Street Bridge20-12-22
  17. Collins Bridge20-11-07
  18. Johnston Street Bridge20-09-12
  19. Kanes Bridge20-09-13
  20. Eastern Freeway20-09-20
  21. Fairfield Pipe Bridge20-09-27
  22. Chandler Highway20-10-04
  23. Fairfield Railway Bridge20-10-04
  24. Darebin Creek Trail20-11-01
  25. Main Yarra Trail20-10-18
  26. Burke Road20-10-18
  27. Ruffey Trail21-06-14
  28. Westerfolds Park21-06-14
  29. Diamond Creek Trail22-12-09