A number of recreation activities occur in and around the dam and catchment area. Canning Dam features a number of picnic areas (with gas barbecues), look outs and historic walks – many with disabled access. Bushwalking occurs throughout the catchment, particularly along the Bibbulmun Track, which passes through the catchment about 10 km upstream of Canning Dam. Several mountain bike trails run either through the Canning National Park or adjacent State Forest areas
The Canning Dam and reservoir provide a major fresh water resource for the city of Perth, Western Australia. The dam is situated on the Darling Scarp and is an impoundment of the Canning River. It is noted for its innovative structural and hydraulic design that was considered to be at the forefront of concrete gravity dam design at the time of construction. The Canning Dam was Perth's primary water supply up until the 1960s when other sources of fresh water were tapped. Currently the dam supplies approximately 20 percent of Perth's fresh water. Inflow into the Canning Reservoir is estimated to be 22 gigalitres (780,000,000 cu ft) and has a storage capacity of 90,352 megalitres (3,190.8×106 cu ft).
Since its completion in 1940, the Canning Dam has contributed to a wide range of environmental and ecological problems in surrounding regions, problems include more common algal blooms, habitat loss and sedimentation. Despite these issues, Canning Dam and the adjacent parks and forests provide a variety of recreational activities for the public such as bushwalking, historic walks and picnic facilities.