Wetlands AustraliaNational Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
The Living Murray's icon sites - a natural tourist trail
Denise Fowler, Murray-Darling Basin Authority
The Living Murray icon site trail (Murray Darling Basin Authority)
The Living Murray program is helping to restore the health of the Murray River by focusing on six icon sites which were chosen for their high ecological and economic value as well as their cultural significance. The Murray, with its floodplains, wetlands, forests and estuarine systems, forms a unique environment with outstanding ecological values. The icon sites are home to many rare and endangered species and internationally significant wetlands, as well as the world's largest river red gum forests.
The Murray River region has also long been a popular tourism destination, and, according to Tourism Australia (2009), nature-based activities are a significant component for both international visitors to Australia (64 per cent) and domestic travellers (19 per cent).
The Living Murray's icon sites are all very different and so provide a range of experiences for visitors. Recognising this, The Living Murray program is working in partnership with other organisations to develop products aimed at both local communities and visitors to raise awareness about the natural and cultural values of the icon sites, and what governments and communities are doing to help restore the health of the river.
- The Barmah-Millewa Forest icon site supports the largest river red gum forest in Australia, and is the largest and most intact freshwater floodplain system along the Murray River. It is an internationally significant wetland and an important feeding and breeding habitat for thousands of waterbirds. Bird watching, camping, bushwalking, fishing and canoeing are popular activities at this site.
In 2010 environmental water (including The Living Murray water) was released to maintain key bird breeding areas in the forest, resulting in the best bird breeding event in 60 years. This provided an opportunity for bird watchers to see thousands of nesting birds from more than 28 species.
- The Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest icon site has a diverse range of habitats including floodplains, wetlands creeks and open woodlands. It is the second largest river red gum forest in Australia and home to several rare or threatened species such as the carpet python and white-bellied sea eagle. Popular recreational activities include camping, kayaking, fishing, riding and bushwalking. A DVD is available online for visitors to watch before visiting the site. It tells the story of the area through the personal memories of those who live in or have visited the forest. See Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest Storylines .
- Hattah Lakes icon site is a large floodplain wetland system consisting of more than 20 shallow lakes bordered by riverine forest. It provides vital habitat for many plants and animals, including migratory birds from the northern hemisphere. The site has been a focus for traditional Aboriginal society for thousands of years and has high cultural values.
In 2010 water was pumped into Lake Kramen for the first time since 1993 to maintain habitat for native fish and waterbirds. The return of water to the lakes has encouraged tourists and locals to return to enjoy activities such as bushwalking, bird watching, camping or canoeing.
An interpretive information display in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park Visitor Centre gives more information about The Living Murray and a DVD has been produced which includes the personal stories of those who live at or have visited the site. See the Hattah Lakes Storylines webpage.
- The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands icon site comprises one of the most significant floodplain ecosystems in semi-arid Australia and contains the largest remaining area of natural river red gum forest in the lower Murray. Bushwalking and exploring the rich cultural history of the area are popular activities.
A new display in Mildura's Alfred Deakin Visitor Information Centre gives more information about The Living Murray program and work underway at Hattah Lakes and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands.
- Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth icon site, at the end of the system, is an internationally significant site. The area where the Murray meets the sea is one of the most important havens for large concentrations of wading birds in Australia, as well as being a breeding ground for many species of waterbirds and native fish. Because of this, and the outstanding scenery, the mouth of the Murray is a popular tourism destination.
- The River Murray Channel icon site comprises the whole of the river channel from near Albury to the sea - more than 2000 km. The Murray River, with its weirs, locks and barrages, is a highly regulated system but with its own natural and cultural values. It connects the headwaters, floodplains and wetlands with the estuary and ocean. The river has long been a popular tourism destination, with many people exploring the river by house boat or paddle boat.
By working to restore the health of the river The Living Murray program is helping to maintain the natural values which attract many visitors to the region. Learnings from the program are also helping to inform the development of the Basin Plan.
Interpretive signs at the Murray Mouth(Denise Fowler)
The living Murray program
The Living Murray program is a joint initiative funded by the NSW, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Australian governments, coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. It involves:
- recovering water for the environment
- delivering environmental water
- building water management structures to help deliver water and to make the most of the water available
- monitoring the effects of watering on plant and animal communities.
Communication products mentioned in this article have been produced in partnership with a number of agencies. These include: Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria); Department for Water (South Australia); Forests NSW; Parks Victoria; Mallee Catchment Management Authority; North Central Catchment Management Authority; Murray Catchment Management Authority; Environment Victoria; Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE; Sunraysia Institute of TAFE.
Design, editorial and illustration services for the showcased displays were provided by Ecocreative® www.ecocreative.com.au.