The Katoomba Falls Reserve has been a central part of the “Katoomba experience” for 130 years.Its proximity to Scenic World guarantees that the flow of visitors will continue unabated. So far as I can tell, the falls and surrounding bushland are part of the Blue Mountains National Park while the reserve itself (ie the adjacent picnic and park lands etc) is administered by the Blue Mountains City Council. Both have a continuing battle to keep these areas attractive to visitors and yet maintain their conservation and scenic value.
It appears from the Sydney Morning Herald of July 7th 1880 that the reserve was established on June 4th that year. It would have included the area around the falls themselves, no doubt, as well as the more level ground which we now think of the as the Katoomba Falls Reserve. From then on, sundry improvements began to be made and the area developed as a picnic ground. For example, we read in the Nepean Times of Saturday 29th October 1887 that the local Congregational Church was to hold a Sunday School picnic there the following Saturday.
Railway picnics were great events in those days, bringing NSW Government Railway employees from far and wide for a day’s fun and games. The SMH reports of the picnics of 1912 and 1913 make it clear that crowds of 2000 people attended. The town council was criticised for not making better provision for such numbers. It is a subject worth reading about in Trove, and it's apparent that both Blackheath and Mt Victoria benefited from similar large assemblies.
At some point the town’s showground was established on the reserve, before moving to its present site around 1926. From that time the NRMA came onto the scene wanting to convert the showground site into a camping area. This was done and the site became a very popular venue in the 1930’s. I can only remember the place from the early 50’s but I am sure those early campers would be amazed at the facilities that are provided for visitors today. It is now known as the Blue Mountains Tourist Park and the website may be found here .
Cricket has been played at the reserve for a long time too. We read in the “Blue Mountain Echo” of Friday 2nd December 1910 of plans to set up a proper cricket ground there. Today there are two and the second one also serves as an off-leash dog area every morning.I have copied the comment below from the Orphan Rock blog, as it is also relevant here.
"If you consult the map on page 251 of The Burning Mists of Time, you will see that by 8th June 1880, North had already given the land for Katoomba Park, basically all that land on the ledge from Katoomba Falls around to and including the Orphan Rock.
Access to the Rock was stopped in 1974 when a mudslide obliterated the access track, and BMCC never repaired it. I think they took it as an excuse to remove some more track maintenance from their books.
In 1998 I took the Mayor and the Head of NPWS up to the top of the Rock to see if it could be re-instated. At the time there was an issue as to whether Council or NPWS "owned" the Rock. Nothing ever came of it. Philip Hammon June 2014"
There are three main picnic areas at Katoomba Falls Reserve and on any day, sunny or not, there are always people there making use of this excellent park.
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|The writer at Katoomba Falls camping area June 1958|