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The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney are one of Australia's greatest tourist attractions. But they are not alone. In the US, three volcanoes in Oregon are known as the Three Sisters, as are huge monoliths in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah. For good measure, Canada and South Africa also have Three Sisters.


The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney are one of Australia's greatest tourist attractions. Meehni is 922 metres high, Wimlah 918 metres, and Gunnedoo 906 metres.

According to aboriginal legend, they were once three beautiful young women from the Katoomba tribe living in the Jamison Valley. They fell in love with three brothers from the neighbouring Nepean tribe, but tribal law forbade them to marry. The frustrated brothers refused to obey that law, and decided to capture the girls by force. That resulted in a fierce battle being waged between the tribes.

Fearing for the girls' safety, a witch-doctor from the Katoomba tribe turned the sisters into stone to protect them from harm. He intended to change them back when peace was restored, but ironically he himself was killed.

As no-one else knew how to reverse the spell, the sisters remain to this day as a magnificent rock formation which attracts tourists, photographers and abseilers from all over the world. People cooee to the Three Sisters from nearby Echo Point lookout, and the sisters reply a few seconds later with a ghostly echo.


Australia's Three Sisters are only one of many eminences of that name. In the US, three volcanoes in Oregon are known as the Three Sisters - South Sister (3158 metres), Middle Sister (3063 metres), and North Sister (3075 metres). A US Geological Survey report says "Three Sisters is one of three potentially active volcanic centers that lie close to rapidly growing communities and resort areas in Central Oregon. [They] have erupted repeatedly over tens of thousands of years and may erupt explosively in the future."

According to the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, the Three Sisters were probably named by members of the Methodist mission in Salem in the early 1840s. The individual peaks were then called Mount Faith, Mount Hope, and Mount Charity. Forty years later, residents of a small village in the area were invited to submit names for a new post office. Jacob Quiberg suggested Three Sisters. Postal authorities omitted the "Three" and the handful of wood frame buildings were named simply as Sisters. Today's "City of Sisters" (elevation 975 metres) has a population of 960.

Another family of Three Sisters is a spectacular landmark in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah.. Here's what DesertUSA says about the place:

Monument Valley became world famous when it was featured in many western film classics, including John Ford's Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Cheyenne Autumn. The Navajo Nation established the tribal park that includes some of the most dramatic buttes, mesas and monoliths, making the area accessible to thousands of tourists who visit the region each year and providing a major source of income to the Navajo people.


In Canada, Three Sisters Mountain Village Ltd is planning to build a major resort centre in Canmore, Alberta, just east of Banff National Park, but environmentalists and others oppose the scheme, and want wildlife corridors to be established there.

The proposed mountain village could become the largest single resort development of its kind in Canada, C B Mackintosh wrote in The Globe and Mail (Toronto) on January 20, 2004, adding:

Originally set to open in summer, 2001, the resort centre has been scaled back in size and given a new vision. Once billed as a mini-Whistler or mini-Vail, with three golf courses and dense residential and commercial development, the centre's new "health and wellness" focus espouses a community-oriented, "less is more" philosophy...

Much of the controversy surrounding the Three Sisters development has centred on the regional wildlife corridor that runs through the property. Large carnivores such as cougars, wolves and grizzlies rely on the corridor to reach habitat patches and to maintain gene pool diversity. In the Bow Valley, animals must navigate through or around the towns of Banff and Canmore, dodging railway tracks, roads and the Trans-Canada Highway.


South Africa's Three Sisters are three flat-topped hillocks just south of the town of Victoria West, on the main Diamond Route from Cape Town to Kimberley. When diamonds were discovered at Hopetown and Kimberley in 1866, prospectors from many parts of the world charted a course through Victoria West, which became a staging post for miners seeking fame and fortune on the diamond fields.


That story reminded us of the three glamorous Gabor sisters (Zsa Zsa, Eva and Magda) who, to quote, "swept into Hollywood from Hungary, dripped diamonds and collected men the way other people collect record albums or stamps."


Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

Story first posted March 2004

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