Great Dividing Range

The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria. The width of the range varies from about 160 km (100 mi) to over 300 km (190 mi).[3] The Greater Blue Mountains Area, Gondwana Rainforests, and Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Areas are located in the range.

The sharp rise between the coastal lowlands and the eastern uplands has affected Australia's climate, mainly due to orographic precipitation, and these areas of highest relief have revealed an impressive gorge country.[4]

Great Dividing Range
  • Eastern Highlands
  • Great Divide
The great dividing range
Highest point
PeakMount Kosciuszko (Snowy Mountains)
Elevation2,228 m (7,310 ft) [1]
Coordinates36°27′S 148°16′E / 36.450°S 148.267°E
Length3,500 km (2,200 mi) North–South
StatesNew South Wales, Queensland and Victoria
DistrictAustralian Capital Territory
Range coordinates25°S 147°E / 25°S 147°ECoordinates: 25°S 147°E / 25°S 147°E
Age of rockCarboniferous


Topography of australia great dividing range
The Great Dividing Range consists of a complex of mountain ranges, plateaus, upland areas and escarpments.
Great Dividing Range sign on the Kings Highway between Braidwood and Bungendore, New South Wales

The Dividing Range does not consist of a single mountain range. It consists of a complex of mountain ranges, plateaus, upland areas and escarpments with an ancient and complex geological history. The physiographic division name for the landmass is called the East Australian Cordillera. In some places the terrain is relatively flat, consisting of very low hills.[5] Typically the highlands range from 300 to 1,600 metres (980 to 5,250 ft) in height.[5]

The mountains and plateaus, which consist of limestones, sandstone, quartzite, schists and dolomite, have been created by faulting and folding processes.[6]

The crest of the range is defined by the watershed or boundary between the drainage basins of rivers which drain directly eastward into the Pacific Ocean, or southward into Bass Strait, and those rivers which drain into the Murray–Darling river system towards the west and south.[5] In central Queensland, the rivers on the west side drain into Lake Eyre basin. In north Queensland, the rivers on the west side of the range drain towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The higher and more rugged parts of the "range" do not necessarily form part of the crest of the range, but may be branches and offshoots from it. The term "Great Dividing Range" may refer specifically to the watershed crest of the range, or to the entire upland complex including all of the hills and mountains between the east coast of Australia and the central plains and lowlands. At some places it can be up to 400 km (249 mi) wide.[5] Notable ranges and other features which form part of the range complex have their own distinctive names.


The Great Dividing Range was formed during the Carboniferous period—over 300 million years ago—when Australia collided with what are now parts of South America and New Zealand. The range has experienced significant erosion since. (See Geology of Australia.)

For tens of thousands of years prior to British colonisation the ranges were home to various Aboriginal Australian nations and clans. Evidence remains in some places of their traditional way of life including decorated caves, campsites and trails used to travel between the coastal and inland regions. Many descendants of these nations still exist today and remain the traditional owners and custodians of their lands.

After British colonisation in 1788, the ranges were an obstacle to exploration and settlement by the British settlers. Although not high, parts of the highlands were very rugged. Crossing the Blue Mountains was particularly challenging due to the mistaken idea that the creeks should be followed rather than the ridges, and almost impenetrable, labyrinthine, sandstone mountains.[7]

Knowing that local Aboriginal people had already established routes crossing the range and by making use of Aboriginal walking trails, a usable ridge-top route was finally discovered by Europeans directly westward from Sydney across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst by an expedition jointly led by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth.[8][7] Towns in the Blue Mountains were later named after each of these men. This was the start of the development of the agricultural districts of inland New South Wales. A road was built to Blaxland by convicts within six months. Easier routes to inland New South Wales were discovered towards Goulburn to the southwest, and westwards from Newcastle.

Subsequent explorations were made across and around the ranges by Allan Cunningham, John Oxley, Hamilton Hume, Paul Edmund Strzelecki, Ludwig Leichhardt and Thomas Mitchell. These explorers were mainly concerned with finding and appropriating good agricultural land.

By the late 1830s the most fertile rangelands adjacent to the mountain ranges had been explored, appropriated from the traditional inhabitants and some settled. These included the Gippsland and Riverina regions in the south, up to the Liverpool Plains and the Darling Downs in the north.

Various road and railway routes were subsequently established through many parts of the ranges, although many areas remain remote to this day. For example, in eastern Victoria there is only one major road crossing the highlands from north to south, the Great Alpine Road.

Natural components

The Snowy Mountains alpine region
Omeo Plains from Mount Blowhard

Parts of the highlands consisting of relatively flat and, by Australian standards, well-watered land were developed for agricultural and pastoral uses. Such areas include the Atherton Tableland and Darling Downs in Queensland, and the Northern Tablelands, Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands in New South Wales. Other parts of the highlands are too rugged for agriculture and have been used for forestry. Many parts of the highlands which were not developed are now included in National Parks.

All of mainland Australia's alpine areas, including its highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres or 7,310 feet AHD), are part of this range, called the Main Range.[5] The highest areas in southern New South Wales and eastern Victoria are known as the Australian Alps.

The central core of the Great Dividing Range is dotted with hundreds of peaks and is surrounded by many smaller mountain ranges or spurs, canyons, valleys and plains of regional significance. Some of the major plains include the High Plains of South-Eastern Australia, the Southern Highlands, the Central Highlands and Bogong High Plains of Victoria. Other tablelands considered part of the Great Dividing Range are the Atherton Tableland, Canberra wine region and the Southern Tablelands.

The Dandenong Ranges, Barrington Tops, Bunya Mountains, Blue Mountains, Liverpool Range, McPherson Ranges and the Moonbi Range are some of the smaller spurs and ranges that make up the greater dividing range. Other notable ranges and tablelands which form part of the Great Dividing Range include the Liverpool Range, Mount Royal Range and the Monaro District. Whilst some of the peaks of the highlands reach respectable heights of a little over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), the age of the range and its erosion mean that most of the mountains are not very steep, and virtually all peaks can be reached without mountaineering equipment.

In some areas, such as the Snowy Mountains, Victorian Alps, the Scenic Rim and the eastern escarpments of the New England region, the highlands form a significant barrier. The eastern escarpment is the site of many spectacular waterfalls which were formed by rivers plunging off the tablelands. In other areas the slopes are gentle and in places the range is barely perceptible.[3]

Well known passes on the range include Coxs Gap, Cunninghams Gap, Dead Horse Gap, Nowlands Gap, and Spicers Gap.

Major cities located on the upland areas of the range include Canberra, Toowoomba and the outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns in north Queensland. Many towns and cities are located on the range, and also in lowland areas and foothills adjacent to the highlands. There is a strong natural history and cultural attachment to the Dividing Range region in towns and on many, sometimes remote, landholdings. Some of the towns/cities located on the range include:

Water catchments

Dangar Falls Dorrigo (1)
Some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Australia, such as Dangar Falls at Dorrigo, New South Wales, are located along the Great Dividing Range.

The lower reaches are used for forestry, an activity that causes friction with conservationists. The range is also the source of virtually all of eastern Australia's water supply, both through runoff caught in dams, and throughout much of Queensland, through the Great Artesian Basin.

Valleys along the chain of mountains have yielded a water source for important reservoirs and water supply projects such as the Upper Nepean Scheme, Snowy Mountains Scheme and Warragamba Dam. The Bradfield Scheme has been mooted as a way to transport water from the tropics in coastal Queensland south to dryer regions.

The Great Dividing Range creates the drainage basins of the Australian south-east coast drainage division and the Australian north-east coast drainage division, whose water flows to the east coast and into the Pacific Ocean, Tasman Sea, and Bass Strait with the westerly Murray–Darling basin which flow inland, away from the coast into the interior plains.

Some of the rivers which flow west of the ranges includes the Condamine River, Flinders River, Herbert River, Lachlan River, Macdonald River, Macintyre River and Namoi River.[2] Rivers that flow north into the Murray–Darling Basin from Victoria include the Goulburn, Mitta Mitta, Kiewa, Ovens, King, Loddon and Campaspe rivers. Rivers that flow east into the Pacific Ocean include the Brisbane River, Burdekin River, Clarence River, Hastings River, Hawkesbury River, Hunter River, Macleay River, Mary River, Richmond River and the Shoalhaven River. Those that flow south, primarily through Victoria, include the Snowy, Cann, Tambo, Mitchell, Latrobe, Thomson, Yarra, Werribee, Hopkins and Glenelg rivers.[3]


At some high hill passes the range provides cool sites appropriate for vineyards.[9]


Katoomba scenic railway track 1
A number of scenic railways, such as this one at Katoomba, climb various shorter routes along the range

The engineers of early rail passages across the Great Dividing Range needed to find low sections of the range to cross, as well as suitable, low gradient paths up the mountains on either side. Rail passages include:

Road transport

Many of Australia's highways such as the Alpine Way, Great Alpine Road, Hume Highway, Northern Highway, Melba Highway, Maroondah Highway, Sunraysia Highway, Federal Highway, Great Western Highway, Capricorn Highway, Cunningham Highway, New England Highway, Bruxner Highway, Oxley Highway, Warrego Highway, Waterfall Way, Thunderbolts Way, the Calder Highway, the Western Highway, and the Murray Valley Highway traverse parts of the range.

Protected areas

Much of the range lies within a succession of national parks and other reserves. Most of the national parks are listed below, and there are almost double that amount of state forests. [11][12]

Mt hotham alpine range scenery
The Great Dividing Range, as seen from near Mount Hotham, Victoria
Mt. Feathertop444 edit
The view from the peak of Mount Feathertop, facing north-east, showing the Fainters and other mountains


In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, the Great Dividing Range was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as a "location".[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Kosciuszko National Park". Australian Alps National Parks. Australian Government. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Australian Rocks and Mountains". Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Shaw, John H., Collins Australian Encyclopedia, William Collins Pty Ltd., Sydney, 1984, ISBN 0-00-217315-8
  4. ^ Löffler, Ernst; A.J. Rose; Anneliese Löffler; Denis Warner (1983). Australia:Portrait of a Continent. Richmond, Victoria: Hutchinson Group. ISBN 0-09-130460-1.
  5. ^ a b c d e Johnson, David (2009). The Geology of Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 202. ISBN 0-521-76741-5.
  6. ^ Haggett, Peter (2001). Encyclopedia of World Geography. Marshall Cavendish. p. 3211. ISBN 0-7614-7289-4. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Crossing the Great Dividing Range—surveying an ancient land". About Australia. Australian Government. 10 December 2008. Archived from the original on 20 December 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Gregory Blaxland". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Archived from the original on 1 June 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  9. ^ Clarke, Oz (2002). New Wine Atlas: Wines and Wine Regions of the World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 300. ISBN 0-15-100913-9. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  10. ^ "NSW Railway Altitude Highs and Lows". Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  11. ^ Melway, Edition 35 2008, Touring Maps
  12. ^ Brisway, Edition 1, 2005
  13. ^ Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.

External links

Atherton Tableland

The Atherton Tableland is a fertile plateau which is part of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, Australia. The Atherton Tablelands is a diverse region, covering an area of 64,768 square kilometres and home to 45,243 people (estimated resident population, Census 2011). The main population centres on the Atherton Tablelands are Mareeba and Atherton. Smaller towns include Tolga, Malanda, Herberton, Kuranda, Ravenshoe, Millaa Millaa, Chillagoe, Dimbulah, Mt Garnet, Mt Molloy, Tinaroo and Yungaburra.

The principal river flowing across the plateau is the Barron River. It was dammed to form an irrigation reservoir named Lake Tinaroo. Tinaroo Hydro, a small 1.6 MW Hydroelectric power station is located near the spillway.

Basalt River

The Basalt River is a river located in North Queensland, Australia. The river rises on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range and flows generally east into the Burdekin River about 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Charters Towers. The river has a length of 179 kilometres (111 mi) and a catchment size of 2,900 square kilometres (1,100 sq mi).The river catchment is mostly used for livestock grazing. The river contains a number of large, permanent, deep and clear waterholes.

Central Highlands (Victoria)

The Central Highlands is a region of Victoria. This term is mainly used in a geological context to describe the part of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria that is outside the Alpine areas. The area is situated east of Ballarat, south of Bendigo, north and east of Melbourne, west of the Alpine areas and includes the Great Dividing Range. Major towns of the highlands include Castlemaine, Creswick, Daylesford, Gisborne, Kyneton and Woodend. All these towns are located in the western part of the Central Highlands usually referred to as the West Central Highlands. The eastern part of the Central Highlands referred to as the East Central Highlands also contains areas of rainforest.

Cunninghams Gap

Cunninghams Gap is a pass over the Great Dividing Range between the Darling Downs and the Fassifern Valley in Queensland, Australia. The Gap is the major route over the Main Range along the Great Dividing Range, between Warwick and Brisbane. The Cunningham Highway was built to provide road transport between the two regions.

It is situated in Main Range National Park, between the peaks of Mount Cordeaux and Mount Mitchell. On a clear day the pass forms a distinct break in Main Range's profile as seen from Brisbane. It is located in Tregony in the Southern Downs Region immediately beside the boundary to Tarome in the Scenic Rim Region local government area.

The highway itself is a scenic drive although steep with an 8-degree grade on the descent.

Deepwater River

Deepwater River, a mostly perennial stream of the Dumaresq-Macintyre catchment within the Murray–Darling basin, is located in the Northern Tablelands district of New South Wales, Australia.

The river rises on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, near Old Man Gibber, east of Deepwater, and flows generally north northwest, west, and then west, before reaching its confluence with Bluff River to form the Mole River, near Sandy Flat; descending 479 metres (1,572 ft) over its 84 kilometres (52 mi) course.The New England Highway crosses the river at the settlement of Deepwater.

Dumaresq River

The Dumaresq River ; (Indigenous Bigambul: Karaula) a perennial stream of the Macintyre catchment within the Murray–Darling basin, is located in the Northern Tablelands and North West Slopes regions of New South Wales and the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia.Part of the course of the river marks the boundary between Queensland and New South Wales.

Kybeyan River

The Kybeyan River, a watercourse that is part of the Murrumbidgee catchment within the Murray–Darling basin, is located in the Monaro region of New South Wales, Australia.

The river rises on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, near Greenland Swamp, and flows generally north and north-west, joined by three tributaries before reaching its confluence with the Numeralla River, near Warrens Corner; descending 317 metres (1,040 ft) over its 36-kilometre (22 mi) course.

Liverpool Range

The Liverpool Range is a mountain range and a lava-field province in New South Wales, Australia.

The eastern peaks of the range were the traditional territory of the Wonnarua people.

Main Range (Snowy Mountains)

The section of the Great Dividing Range between the Ramshead Range and Dicky Cooper Bogong in the Snowy Mountains is known as the Main Range. It can also be used more generally for the peaks (not necessarily on the Great Dividing Range) on or on short spurs off the range. It contains many of the highest peaks in mainland Australia. Some peaks on the Main Range include (from the south):

The Ramsheads

Mount Kosciuszko

Muellers Peak

Mount Townsend, Mount Alice Rawson and Abbotts Peak (on Abbotts Ridge)

Mount Northcote, Mount Clark and Mount Lee

Carruthers Peak

Mount Twynam and Little Twynam

Mount Anton and Mount Anderson

Mount Tate

Dicky Cooper Bogong

McPherson Range

The McPherson Range is an extensive mountain range, a spur of the Great Dividing Range, heading in an easterly direction from near Wallangarra to the Pacific Ocean coastline. It forms part of the Scenic Rim on the border between the states of New South Wales and Queensland. Further west of the McPherson Range is the Main Range. Towards the coast the range continues into the Border Ranges and other mountainous terrain formed by the Tweed Volcano.

The Australian electoral Division of McPherson was named after the mountain range.

Monaro (New South Wales)

Monaro ( mə-NAIR-oh), once frequently spelled "Manaro", or in early years of settlement "Maneroo" is a region in the south of New South Wales, Australia. A small area of Victoria near Snowy River National Park is geographically part of the Monaro. While the Australian Capital Territory is not considered part of the region, some towns in the Monaro have close links with Canberra.

Moonbi Range

The Moonbi Range, a mountain range that is part of the Great Dividing Range, is located in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia.

The range is located roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) north east of the city of Tamworth situated at the bottom of the Wentworth Mounds, which is part of the Moonbi Range. These mounds form a spur of the Great Dividing Range where the North West Slopes meet to the Northern Tablelands. The Moonbi Range rises from 500–1,300 metres (1,600–4,300 ft) above sea level and it generally forms the divide between the watersheds of the Cockburn River to the south, and the Macdonald River to the north, which are both themselves tributaries of the Namoi River.The higher parts of the area often receive a snowfall in the winter, and the highest peak in the range is called Black Jack Mountain at 1,300 metres (4,300 ft).

Mount Royal Range

The Mount Royal Range is a mountain range in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia.

Mount Yengo

Mount Yengo is a mountain that is located in the Lower Hunter region of New South Wales, in eastern Australia. The 668-metre (2,192 ft) mountain is part of the Calore Range, part of the Great Dividing Range, and is situated within the Yengo National Park, approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) east of the Macdonald River and 17 kilometres (11 mi) east by south of Putty.

Palmer River

The Palmer River is a river located in Far North Queensland, Australia. The area surrounding the river was the site of a gold rush in the late 19th century which started in 1873.

Scenic Rim

The Scenic Rim is a group of forested mountain ranges of the Great Dividing Range straddling the border between south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales, Australia.

Southern Tablelands

The Southern Tablelands is a geographic area of New South Wales, Australia, located south-west of Sydney and west of the Great Dividing Range.

The area is characterised by high, flat country which has generally been extensively cleared and used for grazing purposes. The area is easily accessible to the Australian federal capital city of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. The area is included with the Southern Highlands and parts of the South West Slopes in the district that is known as Capital Country. In a wider sense, the term "Southern Tablelands" is also sometimes used to describe a broader region that includes the Monaro, the Southern Highlands and Australia's capital Canberra.

Tweed Range

The Tweed Range is a mountain range which is the western extension of the Tweed Volcano caldera rim, part of the Scenic Rim of the Great Dividing Range, located in northern New South Wales, near the southeastern border of Queensland, in 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

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