Australian Alps

The Australian Alps, an interim Australian bioregion,[1][2] is the highest mountain range in Australia. This range is located in southeastern Australia, and it straddles eastern Victoria, southeastern New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Alps contain Australia's only peaks exceeding 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) in elevation above sea level. The Alps are the only bioregion on the Australian mainland in which deep snow falls annually. The Alps comprise an area of 1,232,981 hectares (3,046,760 acres).[3]

The Australian Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range, the series of mountains, hills, and highlands that runs about 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) from northern Queensland, through New South Wales, and into the northern part of Victoria.[4] This chain of highlands divides the drainage of the rivers that flow to the east into the Tasman Sea from those that flow west into the drainage of the Murray–Darling basin (and thence to the Southern Ocean) or into inland waters, such as Lake Eyre, which lie below sea level, or else evaporate rapidly. The Great Dividing Range reaches its greatest heights in the Australian Alps.

The Australian Alps consist of two biogeographic subregions: the Snowy Mountains including the Brindabella Range, located in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory; and the Victorian Alps, located in Victoria. The latter region is also known as the "High Country", particularly within a cultural or historical context.

Australian Alps
Mount Feathertop and Razorback
IBRA 6.1 Australian Alps
The interim Australian bioregions,
with the Australian Alps in red
Area12,330 km2 (4,760.6 sq mi)
Localities around Australian Alps:
NSW South Western Slopes South Eastern Highlands South Eastern Highlands
Riverina Australian Alps South East Corner
Victorian Midlands South East Coastal Plain South East Corner


The Australian Alps are important for conservation, recreation, and as a water drainage basin, with much of their eastern slopes having its runoff diverted artificially into the Murray River and its tributary the Murrumbidgee River through the civil engineering project of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

They are protected by large national parks, in particular the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales and the Alpine National Park in Victoria. These are managed cooperatively as Australian Alps National Parks by agencies of the Australian Government and the state governments of this region.

The Australian Alps also contain the only skiing areas of mainland Australia. Along with the town of Cabramurra, New South Wales, these are practically the only permanent settlements in the area. Several medium-sized towns can be found in the valleys below the foothills, such as Jindabyne, New South Wales, Corryong, Victoria, and Mount Beauty.

The Australian Alps are not as high or as steep as the Alps of Europe, New Zealand's Southern Alps, or the Andes Mountains, and most of their peaks can be reached without using mountaineering equipment.


The Australian Alps have been classified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area. Their montane forests and woodlands support large breeding populations of flame robins and pilotbirds.[5]


The bogong moth seasonally migrates long distances towards and from the Australian Alps and gregariously aestivates in caves and other sites throughout the mountain range during the summer in order to avoid high temperatures and lack of larval food resources.[6] The moth is a food source for many species living within the region, such as the endangered mountain pygmy possum.[7] However, the moth has also been a biovector of arsenic, transporting it from lowland feeding sites over long distances into the mountains, leading to the bioaccumulation of the element in the environment and animals in the mountain range.[7]


Due to its mostly hot, dry climate, bushfires in Australia occur frequently, particularly in the well forested areas of the Australian Alps. The Alps, particularly the Victorian Alps, are periodically subject to major bushfires and have been almost entirely burnt through by bushfires on various occasions, notably; Black Thursday in 1851, Black Friday (1939), and during fires in 2003 and 2006-07.

Certain native flora in Australia have evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction and fire events are an interwoven and an essential part of the ecology of the continent. In some eucalypt and banksia species, for example, fire causes seed pods to open, allowing them to germinate. Fire also encourages the growth of new grassland plants. Other species have adapted to recover quickly from fire.

Nevertheless, damage to surrounding human habitations and native fauna can be extensive and occasionally catastrophic. The 2003 Canberra bushfires severely affected almost 70% of the Australian Capital Territory’s pasture, forests (pine plantations) and nature parks. After burning for a week through the Brindabella Ranges above Canberra, the fires entered the suburbs of the city on 18 January 2003. Four people died and more than 500 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. The Victorian Black Saturday bushfires were particularly intense in parts of the Victorian Highcountry and destroyed several towns, including Kinglake and Marysville. The fires killed 173 people, Australia's highest ever loss of life from a bushfire.[8] Statewide, the fires affected 78 townships and destroyed over 2,030 houses, 3,500+ structures.[9]

Effects of climate change

In the spring and summer seasons of 2017-8 and 2018-9, dramatic drops in numbers of the moths in the Alpine caves were observed. According to Professor Eric Warrant of Lund University in Sweden, the drop in numbers was probably caused by a lack of rainfall due to winter drought in their breeding areas and climate change, the lack of rain producing insufficient vegetation to feed the caterpillars. Other biologists and ecologists have pointed to the dramatic effect on animals which feed on the moths, which are an important source of protein for wildlife, including the threatened mountain pygmy possum as well as other insectivorous mammals and birds. "The vulnerability of the Australian Alps to climate change is the worst in the world because we've got these short little mountains so when it gets warmer, there is nowhere for these cold-adapted species to go.", according to Euan Ritchie, a wildlife ecologist at Deakin University.[10]

Alpine huts

Within the Australian Alps there are about 120 active alpine huts that mostly date back to the early cattlemen's days, early skiing huts, and early research and surveying huts. Many of these have remained in use by fly fishers (seasonal), hikers and skiing groups throughout the year. Most of these huts are maintained by volunteers through the Kosciuszko Huts Association and the local National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Some of the more noteworthy huts include Moscow Villa Hut, Valentine Hut, Seaman's Hut and Mawsons Hut. In recent years many huts have been lost through lack of maintenance and bush fire - as occurred with the Pretty Plain Hut and Mount Franklin Chalet, which were destroyed by the Canberra bushfires of 2003.


Australian Alps, Vic

The Australian Alps viewed from Snowy River Road, near Suggan Buggan, State of Victoria.

Sunset Mt-Hotham Vic 1

Sunset over the Alps from Mount Hotham, Victoria.

Kiandra Courthouse after opening

The restored former courthouse and ski chalet of Kiandra, where skiing in Australia began.

Towards Kosciuszko from Kangaroo Ridge in winter

The Kosciuszko Main Range seen from Charlotte Pass ski resort.

Perisher valley snow fields

Perisher, New South Wales, is Australia's largest ski resort.


Sunset over Kiandra


New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory

Resort skiing areas

The Australian Alps are the main region in which skiing in Australia takes place (although skiing is also possible in Tasmania). Skiable terrain stretches through large areas of territory from June to October. New South Wales is home to Australia's highest snow country, oldest skifields and largest resort. Recreational skiing in Australia began around 1861 at Kiandra, New South Wales, when Norwegian gold miners introduced the idea to the frozen hills around the town.[11] The first and longest surviving ski club in the world, The Kiandra Snow Shoe Club is believed to have been formed at Kiandra in that year.[12][13] Steeper slopes and more reliable snows lie further to the south and in the 20th century, the focus of recreational skiing in New South Wales shifted southward, to mountains in and around the Kosciuszko Main Range region, where Australia's best vertical drop is found at Thredbo and Australia's biggest resort, Perisher is now found. The State of Victoria is the one with the largest number of skiing areas in Australia.[14]

Mount Bogong, with its peak at 1986 metres above sea level, is the highest peak in Victoria. The surrounding Bogong High Plains is one of the largest areas of snow country in Australia. It includes the leading resorts of Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.[15] Recreational and practical skiing was being practised in the Victorian Alps by the 1880s and 1890s with skis made from local timbers, and making use of single steering poles.[16] Skiing began at Mount Buffalo in the 1890s and a Chalet was constructed in 1910. Australia's first ski tow was constructed near Mount Buffalo in 1936.[17]

Cross country skiing is possible in the Australian Capital Territory as well as in New South Wales and Victoria, but downhill skiing can only be done in New South Wales and Victoria:

New South Wales


Mt hotham alpine range scenery
The Victorian High Country from Mount Hotham.
Fire activity swifts creek 2007 edit
The Victorian Alps Fire Complex during the 2006-07 Australian bushfire season, looking towards Dargo from Swifts Creek.
Panoramic view of Thredbo ski resort and the Thredbo River valley in the Snowy Mountains from the Kosciuszko Express Terminal.
Canberra from Mt Ainslie
The city of Canberra looking towards the Brindabella Ranges.


  1. ^ Environment Australia. "Revision of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) and Development of Version 5.1 - Summary Report". Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Australian Government. Archived from the original on 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  2. ^ IBRA Version 6.1 data
  3. ^ "Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA7) regions and codes". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Commonwealth of Australia. 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Geology of the Australian alps" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 30 November 2013. The Australian Alps are the highest part of a larger entity, the Eastern Highlands of Australia...
  5. ^ "IBA: Australian Alps". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
  6. ^ Warrant, Eric; Frost, Barrie; Green, Ken; Mouritsen, Henrik; Dreyer, David; Adden, Andrea; Brauburger, Kristina; Heinze, Stanley (2016). "The Australian Bogong Moth Agrotis infusa: A Long-Distance Nocturnal Navigator". Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 10. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00077. ISSN 1662-5153.
  7. ^ a b Green, Ken; Broome, Linda; Heinze, Dean; Johnston, Stuart (2001). "Long distance transport of arsenic by migrating Bogong moths from agricultural lowlands to mountain ecosystems". The Victorian Naturalist. 118 (4): 112–116. ISSN 0042-5184.
  8. ^ Huxley, John (11 February 2009). "Horrific, but not the worst we've suffered". Fairfax Media. Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Victorian Bushfires". Parliament of New South Wales. New South Wales Government. 13 March 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  10. ^ Khan, Jo. "Decline in bogong moth numbers could have catastrophic effects in the Australian Alps". ABC Science. Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Kiandra - Culture and History". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 November 2008. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  12. ^ "History". Selwyn Snowfields website. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  13. ^ Clarke, Norman W. (2006). Kiandra: goldfields to skifields. Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club (1870) Ltd. ISBN 0-646-46337-3.
  14. ^ "404". Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  15. ^ [1] Archived April 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Missing Page or Broken Link - Australian Alpine Club". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  17. ^ "National Parks and Reserves of the Australian Alps - Mount Buffalo National Park". Retrieved 2016-01-25.

External links

Alpine National Park

The Alpine National Park is a national park located in the Central Highlands and Alpine regions of Victoria, Australia. The 646,000-hectare (1,600,000-acre) national park is located northeast of Melbourne. It is the largest National Park in Victoria, and covers much of the higher areas of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria, including Victoria's highest point, Mount Bogong at 1,986 metres (6,516 ft) and the associated subalpine woodland and grassland of the Bogong High Plains. The park's north-eastern boundary is along the border with New South Wales, where it abuts the Kosciuszko National Park. On 7 November 2008 the Alpine National Park was added to the Australian National Heritage List as one of eleven areas constituting the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.

Australian National Heritage List

The Australian National Heritage List is a heritage register, a list of national heritage places deemed to be of outstanding heritage significance to Australia. The list includes natural, historic and indigenous places. Once on the National Heritage List the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 apply.The Australian National Heritage List, together with the Commonwealth Heritage List, replaced the former Register of the National Estate. Places on the Australian National Heritage List are places of outstanding heritage value for Australia and the Commonwealth Heritage List for heritage places that are owned or controlled by the Commonwealth of Australia.

Baw Baw National Park

The Baw Baw National Park is a national park located on the boundaries between the Central Highlands and Gippsland regions of Victoria, Australia. The 13,530-hectare (33,400-acre) national park is situated approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi) east of Melbourne and 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of the Latrobe Valley. The park contains the Baw-Baw Plateau and borders the Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort.

Geographically, the Baw-Baw Plateau is a plateau of several peaks that includes Mount Baw Baw, Mount St Gwinear, Mount St Phillack, Mount Erica and Mount Whitelaw; all largely subalpine terrane outcrops of weathered granite boulders dot the plateau with alpine meadows punctuated by stands of snow-gum. Much of the slopes of the plateau within the national park form the catchment area for the Thomson River and the Thomson Reservoir, and the Tanjil and Tyers rivers.

Bimberi Nature Reserve

The Bimberi Nature Reserve is a protected nature reserve located in the Brindabella Range of New South Wales, in eastern Australia. The 10,868-hectare (26,860-acre) reserve is situated approximately 30 km (19 mi) south west of Canberra, which is in the Australian Capital Territory.

Brindabella National Park

Brindabella National Park is an 18,454-hectare (45,600-acre) national park in New South Wales, Australia, that is located approximately 267 kilometres (166 mi) southwest of Sydney central business district in the Brindabella Range. Much of the eastern boundary of the national park forms part of the western border of the Australian Capital Territory with New South Wales.

On 7 November 2008, the park was registered on the Australian National Heritage List as one of eleven areas constituting the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.

Buffalo River (Victoria)

The Buffalo River, a perennial river of the North-East Murray catchment of the Murray-Darling basin, is located in the alpine region of Victoria, Australia. It flows from the eastern slopes of the Buffalo Range in the Australian Alps, joining with the Ovens River west of Myrtleford.

Cooma–Snowy Mountains Airport

Cooma–Snowy Mountains Airport (IATA: OOM, ICAO: YCOM) is an airport located 9 nautical miles (17 km; 10 mi) southwest Cooma, New South Wales, Australia. The airport serves the town of Cooma and the resorts of the Snowy Mountains and Australian Alps. The airport experiences increased traffic during the winter months.

Dart River (Victoria)

The Dart River, a perennial river of the North-East Murray catchment of the Murray-Darling basin, is located in the alpine region of Victoria, Australia. It flows from the northwestern slopes of the Alpine National Park in the Australian Alps, south and joins with the Mitta Mitta River within Lake Dartmouth.

Eucalyptus pauciflora

Eucalyptus pauciflora, commonly known as snow gum or white sallee, is a species of flowering plant in the family Myrtaceae. It is a small tree or large shrub growing 4–8 m (13–26 ft) tall, occasionally reaching 20 m (66 ft), and native to subalpine and lowland habitats in eastern Australia. It is amongst the hardiest of all eucalyptus species, surviving the severe winter temperatures of the Australian Alps. Other common names include cabbage gum and weeping gum.

Gibbo River

The Gibbo River, a perennial river of the North-East Murray catchment of the Murray-Darling basin, is located in the alpine and East Gippsland regions of Victoria, Australia. It flows from the northwestern slopes of the Australian Alps, south and joins with Morass Creek southeast of Lake Dartmouth.

Happy Jacks Creek

The Happy Jacks Creek, a perennial river that is part of the Murrumbidgee catchment within the Murray–Darling basin, is located in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia.

Kosciuszko National Park

The Kosciuszko National Park is a 6,900-square-kilometre (2,700 sq mi) national park and contains mainland Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, for which it is named, and Cabramurra the highest town in Australia. Its borders contain a mix of rugged mountains and wilderness, characterised by an alpine climate, which makes it popular with recreational skiers and bushwalkers.

The park is located in the southeastern corner of New South Wales, 354 km (220 mi) southwest of Sydney, and is contiguous with the Alpine National Park in Victoria to the south, and the Namadgi National Park in the Australian Capital Territory to the northeast. The larger towns of Cooma, Tumut and Jindabyne lie just outside and service the park.

The waters of the Snowy River, the Murray River, and Gungarlin River all rise in this park. Other notable peaks in the park include Gungartan, Mount Jagungal, Bimberi Peak and Mount Townsend.

On 7 November 2008, the Park was added to the Australian National Heritage List as one of eleven areas constituting the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.

Mount Buffalo National Park

The Mount Buffalo National Park is a national park located in the alpine region of Victoria, Australia. The 31,000-hectare (77,000-acre) national park is located approximately 350 kilometres (220 mi) northeast of Melbourne in the Australian Alps. Within the national park is Mount Buffalo, a moderately tall mountain plateau, with an elevation of 1,723 metres (5,653 ft) above sea level.

On 4 November 1898 an area of 1,166 hectares (2,880 acres) was reserved around the plateau and Eurobin Falls as Mount Buffalo National Park, making it one of the oldest national parks in Australia. In 1908 a road was opened to the plateau and the park was expanded to 10,406 hectares (25,710 acres); and in 1980 to its current size to take in most of the surrounding foothill country.On 7 November 2008, the park was added to the Australian National Heritage List as one of eleven areas constituting the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.

Mount Kosciuszko

Mount Kosciuszko is Australia's highest mountain, at 2,228 metres (7,310 ft) above sea level. It is located on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park, part of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves, in New South Wales, Australia, and is located west of Crackenback and close to Jindabyne.

The 1863 picture by Eugene von Guerard hanging in the National Gallery of Australia titled "Northeast view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko" is actually from Mount Townsend.

Mount McKay (Australia)

Mount McKay is a mountain in the Australian Alps region of Australia's Great Dividing Range. Skiing is possible during the winter. Nearby is the Falls Creek Alpine Village.

Namadgi National Park

Namadgi National Park is a protected area in the south-west of the Australian Capital Territory, bordering Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. It lies approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) southwest of Canberra, and makes up approximately 46% of the ACT's land area.The national park protects part of the northern end of the Australian Alps with its spectacular granite mountains. Its habitat ranges from grassy plains over snow gum forests to alpine meadows. The fauna is also varied: eastern grey kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, magpies, rosellas and ravens are commonly seen. The water catchment area of the park supplies approximately 85% of Canberra's water.

In this sub-alpine region the weather ranges from cold winter nights to warm summer days, and it can change very quickly. Snow normally falls on the Bimberi and Brindabella Ranges during winter, and is not uncommon throughout most of the park. The highest mountain is Bimberi Peak at 1,911 metres (6,270 ft) which is the highest peak in the Australian Capital Territory.

The national park is classified as an IUCN Category II protected area.

Snowy River National Park

The Snowy River National Park is a national park located in the alpine and East Gippsland regions of Victoria, Australia. The 98,700-hectare (244,000-acre) national park is situated approximately 390 kilometres (240 mi) northeast of Melbourne and 350 kilometres (220 mi) southwest of Canberra, south of the Black-Allan Line that marks part of the border between Victoria and New South Wales.

On 7 November 2008, the park was added to the Australian National Heritage List as one of eleven areas constituting the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.

Tumbarumba Creek

Tumbarumba Creek, a watercourse of the Murray catchment within the Murray–Darling basin, is located in the region bordering the Riverina and Australian Alps of New South Wales, Australia.

Victorian Alps

The Victorian Alps, an extensive mountain range that forms the southern part of the Australian Alps located in the Australian state of Victoria, is part of the Great Dividing Range, an Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) sub-bioregion of approximately 519,866 hectares (1,284,620 acres), and an administrative sub-region bordering the Gippsland and Hume regions.

Coastal mountain ranges
(not part of the
Great Dividing Range)
Great Dividing Range
Inland mountain ranges
Island mountain ranges
Mountains not within a specific range
Victorian Alps
mountain ranges

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