The closest suburbs to the northern trail head are Wright/Coombs, ACT
Cotter Dam Discovery Trail car park at the Cotter Reserve. If coming from Canberra turn left immediately once you cross the bridge into the Cotter Reserve
Cotter Dam Discovery Trail car park at the Cotter Reserve
The Cotter Reserve, located adjacent to the Cotter Dam, is one of Canberra’s best known riverside recreation areas containing picnic and playground areas with a campsite located nearby. There are a number of mainly short walks located at the Reserve itself or close by.
One of these walks is the Cotter Dam Discovery Trail. This walk is a bit of unique walk for two reasons. Firstly it’s a heritage trail that showcases the Reserve area itself as well as the heritage aspects of the broader Cotter area. It includes excellent interpretation signage and takes you on a short tour of the Reserve. Secondly this is one of Canberra’s newer trails and has been designed for wheelchair access which sadly isn’t as common as it should be. Two reasons are that many of Canberra’s trails are based in natural bushland or pre-date this type of planning.
As you approach the Cotter Reserve from the Canberra you will cross the Cotter River by bridge and as soon as you do the trail head car park is immediately on the left. You can choose to start closer to the main trail if you wish but that’s purely personal preference. Head to the trailhead signage and follow the trail on either the wheelchair option or by walking down to the river and taking the stairs. The walk follows along the river bank crossing under the bridge you drove over and then crosses over to the other side.
It’s at this point that the interpretation signage starts and there are plenty. There are signs located along the edge of the path providing lots of information and every so often markers are bedded into the path that are chronologically based and highlight key events for Canberra’s water supply.
The pathway up to the main viewing platform can be reached by either following the ramp designed for wheelchairs or by using the various shortcuts. The high point of the walk, literally, is the view and interpretation platform that faces the new Cotter Dam wall and provides in depth information on both the old and new Cotter Dam.
From here you can return back down the way you came or head down a small set of stairs that takes you past the old trout hatchery. This latter route provides the option to cross the river again and walk down the opposite side you came up on or return back on the current side of the river.
All up this walk is around 1.4 km at its shortest and a few hundred metres longer if you follow the ramp system.
While I have good knowledge of the Cotter Dam and its history, seeing all this information set out as it is on this walk is well worth the minimal effort if you are out that way.
Walk car park
The emus wander about freely
Trailhead with wheelchair access to the right
Down the stairs
Under the bridge
Follow the signage
Crossing over to the other side of the Cotter River
Start of the main trail signage
Seating on the trail
Wheelchair accessible ramp
Example of stairs on the trail
Approaching the lookout platform
Old and new dam walls
Old dam infrastructure
The Cotter Discovery Trail is an excellent heritage walk that is a relatively short drive from the centre of Canberra
View to Cotter Dam with interpretation material in the foreground
Cotter Dam wall and the bridge to cross over the river
Old trout hatchery
Information signage spread throughout the trail
Onto Cotter Avenue, the Honyong Walking Track is straight ahead at this point
Walking back along the river
You can head back under the bridge if you want
Heading back to the car
And back to the start
Google map to Cotter Reserve which includes the Discovery Trail
Walk car park
This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker