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Murrumbidgee River

Murrumbidgee River
Major perennial river
Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga
Name origin: Aboriginal Wiradjuri language: "big water"[1]
Nickname: 'bidgee
Country Australia
States New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory
IBRA South Eastern Highlands, Riverina
Districts Monaro, Capital Country, South West Slopes, Riverina, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area
Municipalities Palerang, Cooma-Monaro, Queanbeyan, Yass Valley, Tumut, Cootamundra, Junee, Coolamon, Wagga Wagga, Narrandera, Leeton, Griffith, Greater Hume, Murrumbidgee
Part of Murray River, Murray-Darling basin
 - left Gudgenby River, Cotter River, Goodradigbee River, Tumut River
 - right Bredbo River, Molonglo River, Yass River, Lachlan River
Cities Cooma, Canberra, Gundagai, Wagga Wagga, Narrandera, Hay, Balranald
Source Peppercorn Hill
 - location Snowy Mountains, NSW
 - elevation 1,560 m (5,118 ft)
 - coordinates
Mouth confluence with Murray River
 - location near Boundary Bend, NSW/Vic
 - elevation 55 m (180 ft)
 - coordinates
Length 1,488 km (900 mi)
Basin 84,000 km2 (30,000 sq mi) approx.
Reservoirs Tantangara Reservoir, Lake Burrinjuck
Island Pine Island (in flood only)
The Murrumbidgee is a major tributary of the Murray River

Murrumbidgee River ([4]), a major tributary of the Murray River within the Murray–Darling basin and the second longest river in Australia. It flows through the Australian state of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. It descends 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) as it flows 900 kilometres (559 mi) in a west-northwesterly direction from the foot of Peppercorn Hill in the Fiery Range of the Snowy Mountains towards its confluence with the Murray River near Boundary Bend.

The river is bordered by a narrow strip of land on each side, which are both managed as the ‘Murrumbidgee River Corridor’ (MRC).[5] This land includes nature reserves, eight recreation reserves, a European heritage conservation zone and rural leases. The word Murrumbidgee means "big water" in the Wiradjuri language, one of the local Aboriginal languages.[1][6] The river itself flows through several traditional Indigenous Australian lands, home to various Aboriginal tribes.


  • Flow 1
  • History 2
  • Exploration 3
  • Floods 4
  • Wetlands 5
  • Tributaries 6
  • Population centres 7
  • River crossings 8
    • Downstream from Wagga Wagga 8.1
    • Wagga Wagga to Burrinjuck 8.2
    • Upstream from Burrinjuck 8.3
  • Images 9
  • Distances along the river 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


The reaches of the Murrumbidgee in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are now affected by the complete elimination of large spring snow melt flows and a reduction of average annual flows of almost 50%, due to Tantangara Dam. Tantangara Dam was completed in 1960 on the headwaters of Murrumbidgee River and diverts approximately 99% of the river's flow at that point into Lake Eucumbene.[7] This had extremely serious effects on native fish populations and other native aquatic life and has led to serious habitat loss. It is said that the Murrumbidgee River through the ACT is only half the river it used to be.[8]

The mainstream of the river system flows for 900 kilometres (560 mi).[9] The river's headwaters arise from the wet heath and bog at the foot of Peppercorn Hill situated along Long Plain which is within the Fiery Range of the Snowy Mountains; and about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Kiandra. From its headwaters it flows to its confluence with the Murray River. The river flows for 66 kilometres (41 mi) through the Australian Capital Territory near Canberra,[10] picking up the important tributaries of the Gudgenby, Molonglo and Cotter Rivers. The Murrumbidgee drains much of southern New South Wales and all of the Australian Capital Territory, and is an important source of irrigation water for the Riverina farming area.

The river system's current channels are relatively new with the Upper Murrumbidgee being an anabranch of the Tumut River (that once continued north along Mutta Mutta Creek) when geological uplift near Adaminaby diverted its flow. The contemporary Murrumbidgee starts at Gundagai but generally the stream that now includes the Upper Murrumbidgee is described as being part of the full river.[11]

In June 2008 the Murray-Darling Basin Commission released a report on the condition of the Murray-Darling basin, with the Goulburn and Murrumbidgee Rivers rated in a very poor condition in the Murray-Darling basin with fish stocks in both rivers were also rated as extremely poor, with 13 of the 22 native fish species found in the Murrumbidgee River.[12]


The Murrumbidgee River runs through the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri, Nari Nari and Muthi Muthi Aboriginal tribes.


The Murrumbidgee River was known to Europeans before it was actually discovered by them.  In 1820 the explorer Charles Throsby informed the Governor of New South Wales that he anticipated finding "a considerable river of salt water (except at very wet seasons), called by the natives Mur-rum-big-gee". In the expedition journal, Throsby wrote as a marginal note: "This river or stream is called by the natives Yeal-am-bid-gie ...".[13] The river he had stumbled upon was in fact the Molonglo River, Throsby reached the actual river in April 1821.[14]

In 1823,

  • Nomination of Lower Murrumbidgee Catchment for UNESCO's HELP Pilot Demonstration Status by CSIRO
  • Murrumbidgee River Flows recorded by NSW Water
  • River pilot maps 1880-1918 / Echuca Historical Society
  • Snowy Flow Response Monitoring and Modelling
  • Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority website
  • Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach Map PDF 1.22MB
  • "Murrumbidgee and Lake George catchments" (map). Office of Environment and Heritage.  
  • "Murray River catchment (NSW)" (map). Office of Environment and Heritage.  

External links

  1. ^ a b "Murrumbidgee River". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW.  
  2. ^ "Our Catchment". Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority. Government of New South Wales. 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Map of Murrumbidgee River". Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Macquarie ABC Dictionary. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. 2003. pp. 647, 853.  
  5. ^ "Murrumbidgee River Corridor" (PDF). Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Room, Adrian (2003). Placenames of the World.  
  7. ^ Lintermans, Mark. "The re-establishment of endangered Macquarie perch Macquaria australasica in the Queanbeyan River, New South Wales, with an examination of dietary overlap with alien trout" (PDF). Environment ACT and Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology. Retrieved 8 June 2008. 
  8. ^ Lintermans, Mark (2000). The Status of Fish in the Australian Capital Territory: A Review of Current Knowledge and Management Requirements. Technical Report No. 15.. Canberra: Environment ACT. 
  9. ^ "Murrumbidgee River Catchment". Catchment Case Studies. NSW Department of Environment and Conservation. 1995. Archived from the original on 19 April 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  10. ^ "Interim recreation study for the natural areas of the ACT" (PDF).  
  11. ^ Sharp, K. R (2004). "Cenozoic volcanism, tectonism, and stream derangement in the Snowy Mountains and northern Monaro of New South Wales". Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 51: 67–83.  
  12. ^ Sustainable Rivers Audit (PDF). Murray-Darling Basin Commission. June 2008. pp. 14, 50. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 
  13. ^ Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1931 (ABS cat. no. 1301.0)
  14. ^ Reed, A. W., Place-names of New South Wales: Their Origins and Meanings, (Reed: 1969).
  15. ^ Discovery of the Monaro
  16. ^  
  17. ^  
  18. ^ "Evacuation begins". The Daily Advertiser. 5 December 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Butcher, Cliff (2002). "Chapter 9 Floods". Gundagai: A track winding back. Gundagai, NSW, Australia: A. C. Butcher. pp. 84–98.  
  20. ^ a b "Murrumbidgee River & Floods".  
  21. ^ "1852, June, Gundagai flood". News. Ministry of Police and Emergency Services. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  22. ^ "Diastrous Floods - Many Families Homeless - Four Men Drowned". The Argus (Melbourne). 29 May 1925. p. 11. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  23. ^ Australian Government Emergency Management database Archived 24 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Troy, Michael (23 October 2001). "Report warns of damage to Murrumbidgee River" (transcript). 7.30 Report (Australia:  
  25. ^ Kwek, Glenda (7 March 2012). "Wagga 'dodges a bullet' as severe weather warning issued for Sydney". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  26. ^ NSW Department of Natural Resources Murrumbidgee Region Archived 23 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ a b "Search Rivers and Creeks". Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. 
  28. ^ "Place name search". Geographical Name Register.  
  29. ^ "Gazetteer of Australia Place Name Search". Geoscience Australia. Australian Government. 
  30. ^ "Wagga's Gobbagombalin bridge proves its worth". The Daily Advertiser. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  31. ^ Owen, Brodie (20 August 2014). "Hampden Bridge erased from Wagga's landscape". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  32. ^ Heaton, J.H.,1984, The Bedside Book of Colonial Doings, Published in 1879 as 'Australian Dictionary of Dates' containing the History of Australasia from 1542 to May, 1879, Angus & Robertson Publishers Sydney, pp.215-216


See also

Distances along the river


Crossing Image Coordinates Location Description Notes
Taemas Bridge Wee Jasper 1930
Uriarra Crossing Uriarra
Cotter Road bridge Australian Capital Territory Cotter Road, near the confluence with the Cotter River
Point Hut crossing Gordon
Tharwa Bridge Tharwa 1895
Angle Crossing Williamsdale Angle Crossing Road, a ford
Billilingra Bridge Billilingra
Binjura Bridge Binjura
Bolaro Bridge Bolaro
Yaouk Bridge Yaouk
Tantangara Bridge Tantangara Tantangara Road, immediately downstream from the Tantangara Reservoir wall
Tantangara Dam Tantangara Tantangara Reservoir was constructed between 1958 and 1960. No public access to the dam to cross the river.
Long Plain Bridge Long Plain

Upstream from Burrinjuck

Crossing Image Coordinates Built Location Description Notes
Gobbagombalin Bridge 1997 Wagga Wagga Olympic Highway [30]
Wirajuri Bridge 1995 Hampden Avenue, replaced the Hampden Bridge
Hampden Bridge 1895 Demolished in 2014 [31]
Murrumbidgee River
Rail Bridge
2006 Main Southern railway line. Replaced the previous bridge built in 1881
Eunony Bridge Eunony Bridge Road
Low Bridge Mundarlo
Sheahan Bridge 1977 Gundagai Hume Freeway; looking south from Gundagai, bridge in midground
Gundagai Rail Bridge 1902 Tumut railway line, now disused
Prince Alfred Bridge 1867 Prince Alfred Road, former Hume Highway.
Gobarralong Bridge Gobarralong
Jugiong Bridge Jugiong

Wagga Wagga to Burrinjuck

Crossing Image Coordinates Built Location Description Notes
Balranald Bridge 1973 Balranald Sturt Highway
Matthews Bridge 1957 Maude
Hay Bridge 1973 Hay Cobb Highway
Carrathool Bridge 1924 Carrathool
Darlington Point Bridge Darlington Point Kidman Way
Euroley Bridge 2003 Yanco
Narrandera Rail Bridge Narrandera Tocumwal railway line
Narrandera Bridge Newell Highway
Collingullie Bridge Collingullie

Downstream from Wagga Wagga

The list below notes past and present bridges that cross over the Murrumbidgee River. There were numerous other crossings before the bridges were constructed and many of these still exist today.

River crossings

Population centres

Rivers of the Murrumbidgee River basin
Catchment river Elevation at
River mouth Coordinates[28][29] River length[27]
Murrumbidgee River 55 m (180 ft) Murray ~900 km (559 mi)
Numeralla River 706 m (2,316 ft) Murrumbidgee 94 km (58 mi)
Kybeyan River 745 m (2,444 ft) Numeralla 36 km (22 mi)
Big Badja River 735 m (2,411 ft) Numeralla 94 km (58 mi)
Bredbo River Murrumbidgee
Strike-a-Light River Bredbo
Gudgenby River Murrumbidgee
Naas River Gudgenby
Orroral River Gudgenby
Cotter River Murrumbidgee
Paddys River Cotter
Tidbinbilla River Paddys
Gibraltar Creek Paddys
Molonglo River Murrumbidgee
Jerrabomberra Creek Molonglo
Sullivans Creek Molonglo
Queanbeyan River Molonglo
Goodradigbee River 345 m (1,132 ft) Murrumbidgee 105 km (65 mi)
Yass River 345 m (1,132 ft) Murrumbidgee 139 km (86 mi)
Tumut River 220 m (722 ft) Murrumbidgee 182 km (113 mi)
Goobarragandra River 272 m (892 ft) Tumut 56 km (35 mi)
Doubtful Creek 1,290 m (4,232 ft) Tumut 15 km (9 mi)
Lachlan River 68 m (223 ft) Murrumbidgee ~1,440 km (895 mi)
Crookwell River 430 m (1,411 ft) Lachlan 78 km (48 mi)
Abercrombie River 378 m (1,240 ft) Lachlan 130 km (81 mi)
Bolong River 569 m (1,867 ft) Abercrombie 60 km (37 mi)
Isabella River 479 m (1,572 ft) Abercrombie 51 km (32 mi)
Boorowa River 303 m (994 ft) Lachlan 134 km (83 mi)
Belubula River 263 m (863 ft) Lachlan 165 km (103 mi)

The Murrumbidgee River has about 90 named tributaries in total; 24 rivers, and numerous creeks and gullies. The ordering of the basin, from source to mouth, of the major tributaries is:

Aerial photo of Tuggeranong Town Centre, with Murrumbidgee River behind, Bullen Range is behind and Tidbinbilla Tracking Station is visible too.
Swimming hole on the Murrumbidgee at Hay, New South Wales
Bridge over the Murrumbidgee at Carrathool, New South Wales.


  • Lowbidgee Floodplain, 2,000 square kilometres (772 sq mi) between Maude and Balranald
  • Mid-Murrumbidgee Wetlands along the river from Narrandera to Carathool
  • Fivebough and Tuckerbil Swamps
  • Tomneys Plain
  • Micalong Swamp
  • Lake George
  • Yaouk Swamp
  • Black Swamp & Coopers Swamp
  • Big Badja Swamp

Major wetlands along the Murrumbidgee or associated with the Murrumbidgee catchment include:[26]


Major flooding occurred during March 2012 along the Murrumbidgee River including Wagga Wagga, where the river peaked at 10.56 metres (34.6 ft) on 6 March 2012.[25] This peak was 0.18 metres (0.59 ft) below the 1974 flood level of 10.74 metres (35.2 ft).[20]

The reduction in floods has consequences for wildlife, birds and trees. There has been a decline in bird populations and black box flood plain eucalypt forest trees are starting to lose their crowns.[24]

In 1925, four people died and the flooding lasted for eight days.[22][23]

The most notable flood was in 1852 when the town of Gundagai was swept away and 89 people, a third of the town's population, were killed. The town was rebuilt on higher ground.[21]

The river has risen above 7 metres (23 ft) at Gundagai nine times between 1852 and 2010, an average of just under once every eleven years. Since 1925, flooding has been minor with the exception of floods in 1974 and in December 2010, when the river rose to 10.2 metres (33 ft) at Gundagai.[18] In the 1852 disaster, the river rose to just over 12.2 m (40 ft). The following year the river again rose to just over 12.5 m (41 ft). The construction of Burrinjuck Dam from 1907 has significantly reduced flooding but, despite the dam, there were major floods in 1925, 1950, 1974 and 2012.[19][20]

Murrumbidgee River in major flood in December 2010 and flood marker showing the height of the 1974 floods in Wagga Wagga


Here we may remark on the tenacity with which the Murrumbidgee River long eluded the eye of the white man. It is scarcely probable that Meehan and Hume, who on this occasion were within comparatively easy reach of the head waters, could have seen a new inland river at that time without mentioning the fact, but there is no record traceable anywhere as to the date of its discovery, or the name of its finder. When in 1823 Captain Currie and Major Ovens were led along its bank on to the beautiful Maneroo country by Joseph Wild, the stream was then familiar to the early settlers and called the Morumbidgee. Even in 1821, when Hume found the Yass Plains, almost on its bank, he makes no special mention of the river. From all this we may deduce the extremely probable fact that the position of the river was shown to some stockrider by a native, who also confided the aboriginal name, and so it gradually worked the knowledge of its identity into general belief. This theory is the more feasible as the river has retained its native name. If a white man of any known position had made the discovery, it would at once have received the name of some person holding official sway.[17]

, when writing on Australian exploration, commented on the relatively tardy European discovery of the river and that the river retained a name used by Indigenous Australians:

Ernest Favenc
Charles Sturt Monument located at Wagga Beach in Wagga Wagga

The Murrumbidgee basin was opened to settlement in the 1830s and soon became an important farming area. [16] and his party rowed and sailed down the length of the river from Narrandera to the Murray, and then down the Murray to the sea. They also rowed, sailing when possible, back up against the current.Charles Sturt In 1829, [15]

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