The northern Victorian Rivers region encompasses the Ovens, Goulburn-Broken, Loddon, Wimmera and Campaspe catchments. The lower Ovens, Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon rivers flow through the Victorian Riverina bioregion, with the Goulburn-Broken, Campaspe and Ovens and contributing significantly to the water resources of the Murray.
The region includes many significant wetlands, including Wetlands of International Importance listed under the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar) and nationally important wetlands listed under the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DIWA). Some of these wetlands include:
- Lower Goulburn Floodplain (DIWA)
- Woolshed Swamp (DIWA)
- Ovens River (DIWA)
- Lake Hindmarsh (DIWA)
- Lake Albacutya (Ramsar)
- Kerang Wetlands (Ramsar)
Information about the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s water holdings in the Northern Victorian Rivers is available from Portfolio & Planning.
The Ovens catchment is located in north-eastern Victoria and centres on the Ovens River. The total catchment area is 7,867 km2. The river originates near Mount Feathertop and Mount Hotham in the Great Dividing Range and flows northwards to meet the Murray at Lake Mulwala. Several major tributaries join the Ovens River including the King River and the Buffalo River.
The Ovens River is largely unregulated, meaning it is unique among the rivers within the southern Murray-Darling Basin because it still has a relatively natural flow regime.
The river is ecologically significant because it:
- supports large sections of river red gum forests and woodlands along its floodplain and so provides habitat for fauna dependent upon this vegetation
- supports a significant riparian vegetation that provides an important habitat corridor for fauna
- provides in-stream habitat for threatened native fish species including the Murray cod.
The Ovens River is listed under the Directory of Important Wetlands as a nationally significant wetland.
The Goulburn-Broken catchment is situated in north-central Victoria and centres on the Goulburn and Broken Rivers. The total area of the catchment is 21,831 km2.
The Goulburn River originates on the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range near Alexandra and Yea. It flows in a generally westerly direction before turning northwards near Seymour and continuing to the Murray River. The Goulburn River is intensively regulated and supports extensive irrigation areas.
The Broken River passes through riverine plains before joining the Goulburn River near Shepparton. The Broken River is one of the main tributaries of the Goulburn River. Other tributaries include the Rubicon, Delatite, Howqua and Jamieson Rivers.
Originally, the Goulburn-Broken catchment was covered with grasslands, woodland and forests. Today, only isolated remnants remain within a large, intensively cleared irrigation and grazing region. These remaining pockets of vegetation, which include river red gum forest and woodland communities, provide important breeding areas for waterbirds, including many colonial nesting species.
The Goulburn River influences the Gunbower Forest Ramsar Site and the Koondrook unit of the NSW Central Murray State Forests Ramsar Site (Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest Living Murray Icon site) during periods of high flow. These sites are located on the floodplain of the Murray River.
An important asset within the catchment is the Lower Goulburn Floodplain and its associated wetlands. These are listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DIWA) as being nationally significant.
Each of these wetlands provide a diversity of habitats for species including the great egret, fork-tailed swift and Australian Painted Snipe which are each listed under the CAMBA international migratory bird agreement.
A number of threatened species, including the superb parrot, growling grass frog (also known as the southern bell frog) and Murray cod, as well as other ecological communities in the catchment are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The Campaspe catchment, located in north-central Victoria, is based around the Campaspe River and its major tributary, the Coliban River. Other significant tributaries include the Axe, McIvor, Mt Pleasant, Forest, Wild Duck and Pipers Creeks. The Campaspe River originates in the Great Dividing Range near Trentham. It flows for 150 km before joining the Murray River at Echuca.
The total area of the Campaspe catchment is 4,279 km2. Major townships include Echuca, Rochester, Elmore, Heathcote, Bendigo and Kyneton.
The Campaspe catchment is an ecologically significant area because it:
- includes flora and fauna of national, regional and local conservation significance including the Murray cod and the trout cod
- supports populations of the iconic platypus
- provides important ecological links to the Murray River by enabling species to travel between the two river systems
- provides important refugia for species in times of drought, including pools at the Campaspe Siphon and Campaspe Weir.
The Loddon catchment, situated in northern Victoria, stretches from the relatively well-watered highlands around Daylesford, through gently rolling country to the north and west, to the dry expanses of the northern Victorian plains. The total area of the catchment is 13,321 km2.
The major watercourse is the Loddon River which rises on the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range and flows northward through Central Victoria before joining the Murray River.
The region supports extensive agricultural production. The upper catchment is predominately intensive horticulture, with mixed farming (including dairy farming) and cereal cropping in the mid and lower areas of the catchment. Apiculture (bee keeping), forestry and gold mining also occur in the region.
Major townships include Bendigo, Swan Hill, Kerang, Castlemaine and Maryborough.
The Boort District Wetlands are located within the Loddon catchment and provide important refugia for species in a heavily modified catchment. These wetlands include Lake Boort, Little Lake Boort, Lake Yando, Lake Leaghur, Lake Meran and Little Lake Meran. They represent an assortment of wetland types including shallow and deep freshwater marshes. One of these deepwater marshes, the Woolshed Swamp, is recognised as nationally important under the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.
The Loddon catchment is ecologically significant because it:
- includes a diverse range of endangered flora and fauna, including river swamp wallaby grass, Macquarie perch, plains wanderer and the golden sun moth
- supports habitat for a number of waterbirds listed under migratory agreements, including the white-bellied sea eagle
- provides breeding habitat for fish species such as the Murray cod
- supports important vegetation including remnant river red gum.
The Wimmera-Avoca catchment is located in western Victoria and covers an area of 44,227 km2. The catchment centres on the Wimmera and Avoca Rivers. Neither river connects with the Murray River. Both rivers terminate in lakes and wetlands and play a critical role in supporting water-dependent species located there.
The Avoca River terminates at the Kerang Wetlands, which are listed as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Avoca River provides flows to the wetlands that in turn, provide habitat for a range of native and migratory species. Many of these species are listed and protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999. The Kerang Wetlands support communities of river red gum, black box and tangled lignum species that provide critical habitat for protected bird species.
The Wimmera River terminates at Lake Hindmarsh, the largest inland freshwater lake in Victoria. Lake Hindmarsh is nationally significant and is listed under the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia. In wet years, water can overflow from the lake and fill Lake Albacutya, an internationally important wetland listed under the Ramsar Convention.