Sparking the curiosity of avid walkers and local historians, the mystery surrounding a homestead ruin within the Myponga Reservoir Reserve has been solved – with its origins woven into the fabric of the town.

Myponga ruins

MYPONGA MYSTERY: Former District Council of Yankalilla Mayor Peter Whitford with SA Water's Myponga Reservoir rangers Stewart Dahms and Steven Pawelski at the Myponga Reservoir Reserve ruins which have been the topic of lots of discussion.

Having tracked down historical records, the District Council of Yankalilla and SA Water worked together to comb the archives and take a journey through time to before the reservoir’s construction.

Overlooking the water’s edge at the Homestead Ruin Lookout, located along the reserve’s 3.3-kilometre walking trail, the ruin is believed to contain footings of a farmhouse formerly owned by the Eatts family – who have a street adjacent the reservoir named after them in Myponga.

SA Water’s General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation Anna Jackson said the beautiful landscape provides an opportunity to connect with nature, exercise and take in the area’s history which remains ambiguous.

“During the process of opening the reservoir reserve for recreational access in April 2019, we were intrigued by times gone past in the area – the Eatts family in particular, who were early settlers in 1846, seemed quite influential within the town to have a street named after them,” Anna said.

“Fast forward more than a hundred years, South Australia’s rapidly expanding economy and population prompted the reservoir’s creation in 1962, providing access to another major water storage to support our thriving state.

“What was once known as Lovely Valley – whose name traces all the way back to 1838 – was identified as a suitable location for the reservoir to be constructed, which would serve many towns and an area of highly productive rural lands from Normanville to the metropolitan area, and McLaren Flat and Willunga.

“There is a rich cultural history dating back further and is reflected in the name Myponga which originates from the Aboriginal naming ‘Maitpangga’ – a traditional name in Kaurna language – and is said to be Mullawirraburka’s country.

“The area was used by Kaurna, Ramindjeri, Ngarrindjeri and Peramangk seasonally as a travel hub, and even neighbouring locations had significant cultural history before settlement which can be seen in their names – Willunga and Yankalilla are also Kaurna names, which connect to the landscape.”

Residents living in the area were relocated to enable the reservoir’s construction, with a local newspaper in the late 1950s reporting eight houses, including the Eatts’ family home, were acquired by the Government.

Among the houses now under water is the site of the Lovely Valley School which only operated for four years until 1869, while the former Lovely Valley creamery and buttery factory was eventually demolished during construction of the reservoir – only operating for 10 years until 1901.

Two roads now lie under the water’s surface which are the original Myponga to Yankalilla main road and Lovely Valley Road, with new roads constructed to replace these, one of which takes you across the dam wall offering stunning views of the reservoir.

In a twist to the mystery, the contractor’s specification for the reservoir mentioned there were to be three permanent houses built in 1958 for use by the then Minister of Works, Sir Glen Gardner Pearson, and his staff during construction – which could form the ruin.

“With more than 22,700 visitors drawn to the reservoir since opening, many are enjoying its natural beauty and soaking up the town’s charm and history,” Anna said.

“We all share a responsibility in preserving these picturesque places that store our water supply and are home to an array of native plants and wildlife.

“The reservoir remains of critical importance to South Australians, delivering safe, clean water to around 30,000 customers living on the Fleurieu Peninsula.”