Meandering Murray River in South Australia.

Murray River

The Murray River is located in south-eastern Australia, and is the longest river in Australia, at 2,508 kilometers. Starting in the Australian Alps, it passes from the province of South Australia and then forms the border between Victoria and New South Wales. It is also generally considered the third longest river on earth, behind both the Amazon and the Nile rivers.


The river and its tributaries form the most important irrigation regions in the country. Known as the Murray-Darling basin, the catchments from this river system cover roughly 1.7th of the area of Australia, and drains much of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The other tributary rivers - Murrumbidgee, Darling, Lachlan, Warrego and Paroo Rivers, are five of the six next longest rivers, after Murray.

Though the river is large, its flow or output is much less than other rivers of similar size in other places in the world. The water flow varies greatly depending on the year and the season, and droughts have even caused the river to dry up completely.


Murray River
Mallee eucalyptuses reflecting in calm water of Murray River at sunset. Riverland, South Australia.

The Murray-Darling Basin is composed of several different types of ecosystems which hold a variety of plantlife. The three major types, or areas include aquatic species that are permanently in water, floodplain species that prefer wet conditions but can live through a drought or dry season, and desert plants that survive extremely low amounts of water.

The plants in and around major waterways are especially important, as they can help filter water, reduce salt levels in the area, stabilize river banks to avoid erosion, cycle nutrients into the ecosystem, and provide food or habitats for animals. 

Along the Murray river, riverine forests are plentiful. These water-loving forests are full of species like river red gum trees, river oaks, and flood-plain grasses, shrubs and herbs. 


Pelicans in Murray river
Flock of pelicans in the Murray Rivers.

Many different animals can also be found in and around the Murray river. Most notably, there is a wide variety of fish species that reside here, including trout cod, Murray cod, (both endangered species, Macquarie, silver and golden perch, (threatened species), Murray–Darling rainbowfish, Australian smelt, bony herring, freshwater catfish, and western carp gudgeon. Recreational fishing is very popular in this area, and many of these species can be eaten as well. 

Aside from fish there are other aquatic creatures such as the Murray short-necked turtle, Murray Crayfish, yabbies, shrimp,and platypus.

Additionally, several mammal species live along the river banks, and in the Murray-Darling basin in general. These include species such as swamp wallabies, wombats, eastern grey and red kangaroos, koalas, ringtail possums, echidnas, and sugar gliders


Murray River drought
Aerial Helicopter view of dried up and drought stricken Murray River Wetlands, lagoon and back water in near Mildura, Australia.

Unfortunately, the Murray river has faced adversity throughout the years, and has seen a decline in its healthy and species populations. Changes in the river flow have caused issues with some of the aquatic life, but more drastically, extreme droughts have become a huge problem. These droughts put stress on the river, and are highly detrimental to the red gum forests along the river banks, that rely on large quantities of water to survive.

Other problems which have threatened the river include the introduction of foreign species to the river. Brown and rainbow trout, redfin perch, loach and common carp are all introduced species which threaten the health and habitat of the other native species in the area. These intruder species quickly decimate food supplies such as aquatic plants, and through the ecosystems off balance.

As one of the longest rivers on earth and on the continent of Australia, Murray river is an impressive waterway. Serving as irrigation as well as a natural water source for the surrounding regions, the river helios to keep the country up and running smoothly. 


More in Bodies of Water