Most of the Henley and Grange areas were low-lying reedy flood plains trapped in by the coastal sand dunes. During heavy rainfall the Torrens River brought water from the Adelaide Hills that fanned out across this area, creating a wetland haven for waterbirds as well as snakes lizards and frogs.
Local resident Edna Dunning remembers:
“When the floodwaters came down my first job on arriving home from school was to take off my shoes and socks and go down to rescue the chooks off their perch….. The floodwaters would spread across the paddocks, bringing with them oranges, lemons, paddy melons, cabbages, timber and the population would be out in force to see the flowing water.” [1983 H&GHS Journal]
A flood mitigation bill was passed by Parliament in 1917 to combat the damage caused by the floods and address the health risk raised because of the lack of mains sewerage in the western suburbs. The Chief Engineer of the Department of Works, Mr Eaton recommended a cutting through the sand dunes at Henley South providing an artificial outlet to the sea. Opponents to this scheme, the ‘Torrens Floodwaters Vigilance Committee’ considered the proposal would cause grave injury to those properties used for fruit and market gardening - as they relied on water from the River Torrens.
Thus the initial bill lapsed and no action was taken. A similar bill was passed in 1923 but again lapsed. Following major floods in 1931 and 1933, the "Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works" recommended the original proposal for a direct outlet for the river at Henley South be created at an estimated cost of £360,000 - about $36m in today’s currency.
Construction began in 1935 with the diversion of the Torrens River at Lockleys, and a new channel being dug to the sea, through the high Henley South sandhills – providing an artificial mouth for the river - now known as the Torrens Outlet.
The creation of the outlet was a major civil engineering work, taking three years to complete and required:
cutting through the sandhills, which were 9-12 metres high
removal of over 76,000 cubic metres of sand
construction of a reinforced concrete channel
driving more than 200,000 kilograms of steel piles into the ground
878 timber piles, each 6 metres long
pouring of 13 million kilograms of concrete
building an extension of Seaview Road to West Beach
building a concrete bridge over the channel - 45 metres long and 10 metres wide
When finished in 1937, the problem of regular flooding in the western suburbs was overcome. The reeds and lagoons gave way to residential developments, connecting the small villages dotted along the few roads. Housing development followed after the end of World War II.
In 2008, the Outlet was gifted two permanent pelican guardians. June resides on the north side, and Bernie on the south.