Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Blue Lake


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

17 March 1996

Part of the shoreline is rocky with wet heaths and grasses (2009),  Photo: Sarah Stuart-Smith

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3


New South Wales


338 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

South-East Coast

Wetland type: 

  • M - Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes
  • U - Non-forested peatlands; includes shrub or open bogs, swamps, fens
  • Va - Alpine wetlands; includes alpine meadows, temporary waters from snowmelt

Key features of the site:

Blue Lake is found in the state of New South Wales (NSW) within Kosciuszko National Park, and is located approximately 3.5 kilometres northwest of Charlottes Pass. Charlottes Pass is the highest township in Australia and is located within the Australian Alps, approximately 215 kilometres southwest of Canberra.

Blue Lake is one of only four cirque lakes found on the mainland of Australia. Blue Lake is a clear, deep (up to 28 metres), open, freshwater lake, with a predominantly muddy bottom.

The other three lakes, Cootapatamba, Albina, and Club are shallower than Blue Lake and are held entirely by terminal moraines. These four with another glacial lake, Hedley Tarn, make up the alpine lakes, which are the highest lakes on the Australian mainland, being at elevations between 1890 and 2070 metres.

Blue Lake was formed by glacial gouging of the granite bedrock. It receives water from Blue Lake Creek originating from Mount Twynam and from snowmelt. The surface of Blue Lake is frozen for approximately four months of the year, it overflows in spring with the snow thaw, and during the remainder of the year the lake level remains stable. The alpine lakes contain the freshest waters in Australia.

Blue Lake consists entirely of open water with boulders reaching the lake margin in the east and north east, and the remaining shores being pebbly. Tall alpine herbfield communities surround the north eastern area with wet heaths and grasses abutting the shoreline of the lake. The margins of Hedley Tarn consist of heath, fens and bogs.

A number of rare or threatened plants are found within the Ramsar site, including the branched carraway, wedge oschatzia and the snow-wort and it supports the endangered ecological community of montane peatlands and swamps. Threatened animal species found around Blue Lake include the mountain pygmy possum and the broad tooth rat.

Historically, indigenous people did not live permanently in the alpine area but probably visited in summer, to perform ceremonies and to collect bogong moths for food. The first official European exploration of the region was undertaken by the Polish explorer, Paul Edmund Strezelecki, who climbed and named Mt Kosciuszko in 1840.

Currently, Kosciuszko National Park is the most visited National Park in NSW and Blue Lake is a popular tourist destination for visitors to the National Park. Camping is not permitted within the catchment of Blue Lake.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Blue Lake Ramsar site meets three of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: Blue Lake and Hedley Tarn are found within Kosciuszko National Park and are a rare example of a near-natural alpine wetland within the South-East Coast Drainage Division. Blue Lake is one of only four cirque lakes found on the Australian mainland, and Blue Lake is the deepest of these alpine lakes which contain the freshest water in Australia.

Criterion 2: The Blue Lake Ramsar site is known to support one nationally listed species, the vulnerable anemone buttercup. The site may also support the nationally endangered mountain pygmy possum.

Criterion 3: The Ramsar site contains the only high altitude alpine wetlands in Australia. In addition to supporting nationally threatened species, the site supports other populations of plant and animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of this particular biogeographic region. This has been acknowledged through the inclusion of Kosciuszko National Park as a biosphere reserve in the UNESCO man and the biosphere program.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.