In April 2013 The Highway Mail published the following article titled “Take a walk through paradise”.
Durban had relied on wells for its water supply but the drought of 1879 forced engineers to look for additional resources. A proposed scheme on the Umbilo (Mbilo) River near Pinetown was chosen with a 10- million gallon settling dam, two sand filters and pipes to Durban.
Opened on 21 July 1887, the scheme supplied Durban with wholesome water until the ‘great flood’ on 1 June 1905 washed the dam walls away. A wall of water swept everything downstream into the sea, drowning residents living on the river banks.
Many early photographs capture groups of people in Victorian dress at the beautiful Umbilo (Mbilo) waterfall. Church and family picnics were held at the Waterworks before and after the flood.
By 16 May 1929 Huberta the hippo had wandered from Lake St Lucia to the ruins of the Umbilo Waterworks, where she stayed before moving on to the Eastern Cape where she was shot by a farmer. As Durban expanded the water works were moved to the Umlaas River, then Shongweni Dam on the Mhlatuzana River, followed by Nagle Dam on the uMngeni River.
Currently Durban’s water comes from the large Midmar and Inanda Dams, also on the uMngeni River. Ruins of the Umbilo
Waterworks are within the Paradise Valley Nature Reserve.
Take a walk through nature’s wonderland. There is a small admission fee that goes towards the maintenance of the nature reserve. Opening times are 7:30 am to 5 pm. There are picnic areas, braai facilities, toilets, self-guided walks, birding, a conference centre and boma.