Yarra River

The Yarra River or historically, the Yarra Yarra River,[3] (Aboriginal: Berrern, Birr-arrung, Bay-ray-rung, Birarang,[5] Birrarung,[6] and Wongete[1]) is a perennial river[3] in east-central Victoria, Australia.

The lower stretches of the river are where the city of Melbourne was established in 1835 and today Greater Melbourne dominates and influences the landscape of its lower reaches. From its source in the Yarra Ranges, it flows 242 kilometres (150 mi) west through the Yarra Valley which opens out into plains as it winds its way through Greater Melbourne before emptying into Hobsons Bay in northernmost Port Phillip.

The river was a major food source and meeting place for indigenous Australians from prehistoric times. Shortly after the arrival of European settlers land clearing forced the remaining Wurundjeri to neighbouring territories and away from the river. Originally called Birrarung by the Wurundjeri, the current name was mistranslated from another Wurundjeri term in the Boonwurrung language; Yarro-yarro, meaning "ever-flowing".[1][2]

The river was utilised primarily for agriculture by early European settlers. The landscape of the river has changed dramatically since 1835. The course has been progressively disrupted and the river widened in places. The first of many Crossings of the Yarra River to facilitate transport was built in Princes Bridge. Beginning with the Victorian gold rush it was extensively mined, creating the Pound Bend Tunnel in Warrandyte, and the Big and Little Peninsula Tunnels above Warburton. Widening and dams, like the Upper Yarra Reservoir have helped protect Melbourne from major flooding. The catchment's upper reaches are also affected by logging. Industrialisation ultimately led to the destruction of the marshlands at the confluence of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers in the area around Coode Island in West Melbourne.

Today, the mouth and including Swanson and Appleton Docks are used for container shipping by the Port of Melbourne which is the busiest on the continent. The city reach which is inaccessible to larger watercraft, has seen increased use for both transport and recreational boating (including kayaking, canoeing, rowing and swimming). In recent years however recreational use of the river is threatened by high levels of pollution in its lower stretches. The upper reaches remain relatively healthy.

The annual Moomba festival celebrates the Yarra River's increasing cultural significance to Melbourne.

Yarra
Yarra River Pound Bend
The Yarra River through Pound Bend near Warrandyte.
Yarra River is located in Victoria
Yarra River
Location of the mouth of the Yarra River in Victoria
EtymologyBunwurrung (Native Australian): Yarro-yarro, "ever-flowing"[1][2]
Nickname(s)The Yarra
Native nameBerrern
Birr-arrung
Wongete[1]
Yarro-yarro
Location
CountryAustralia
StateVictoria
RegionSouth Eastern Highlands (IBRA), Central Victoria
LGACity of Hobsons Bay
City of Port Phillip
City of Melbourne
City of Yarra
City of Darebin
City of Boroondara
City of Banyule
City of Manningham
Shire of Nillumbik
Yarra Ranges Shire
CityMelbourne
Physical characteristics
SourceYarra Ranges, Great Dividing Range
 ⁃ locationwithin Yarra Ranges National Park
 ⁃ coordinates37°44′57″S 146°8′26″E / 37.74917°S 146.14056°E
 ⁃ elevation792 m (2,598 ft)
MouthHobsons Bay, Port Phillip
 ⁃ location
near the suburb of Port Melbourne
 ⁃ coordinates
37°51′7″S 144°54′30″E / 37.85194°S 144.90833°ECoordinates: 37°51′7″S 144°54′30″E / 37.85194°S 144.90833°E
 ⁃ elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length242 km (150 mi)
Basin size4,078 km2 (1,575 sq mi)50%
Discharge 
 ⁃ locationmouth
 ⁃ average37 m3/s (1,300 cu ft/s)
Basin features
River systemPort Phillip and Western Port catchment
Tributaries 
 ⁃ leftMaribyrnong River, Moonee Ponds Creek, Merri Creek, Darebin Creek, Plenty River, Diamond Creek, Steeles Creek, Watts River, Badger Creek, Don River, Cement Creek, O'Shannassy River
 ⁃ rightGardiners Creek, Glass Creek, Koonung Creek, Mullum Mullum Creek, Jumping Creek, Olinda Creek, Woori Yallock Creek, Hoddles Creek, Little Yarra River, Starvation Creek
National parkYarra Ranges NP, Royal Botanic Gardens
[3][4]
Yarra Night Panorama, Melbourne - Feb 2005
Yarra River Night Panorama.

Etymology

The river was called Birrarung by the Wurundjeri people who occupied the Yarra Valley and much of Central Victoria prior to European colonisation. It is thought that Birrarung is derived from Wurundjeri words meaning "ever flowing". Another common term was Birrarung Marr, thought to mean "river of mist" or "river bank".

Upon European arrival it was given the name 'Yarra Yarra' by John Helder Wedge of the Port Phillip Association in 1835,[7] in the mistaken belief that this was the Aboriginal name for the river in the Boonwurrung language. However it is believed that 'Yarra' means "waterfall", "flow", or refers to running or falling water,[1][2][7] descriptive of any river or creek in the area, not just the Yarra. The name Yarra Yarra is said to mean "ever flowing river",[2] but most likely refers to the Yarra Yarra falls which were later dynamited. Of their contact with local Wurunderi people in 1835, John Wedge wrote:[8]

On arriving in sight of the river, the two natives who were with me, pointing to the river, called out, 'Yarra Yarra', which at the time I imagined to be its name ; but I afterwards learnt that the words were what they used to designate a waterfall, as they afterwards gave the same designation to a small fall in the river Werribee, as we crossed it on our way back to Indented Head.

— John Helder Wedge, published in Bonwick (1868).

Geology and formation

Port Phillip 10,000
The course of the Yarra River around 10,000 years ago, after the end of the last Ice Age, prior to the creation of Port Phillip.

Sometime before 6000 BC, (after the end of the most recent Ice Age about 8000 BC) the Yarra river was probably joined with other tributaries such as rivers now called the Patterson, Kororoit, Werribee, Little, and drained directly into Bass Strait through what is now called the Rip. Between 8000 BC and 6000 BC, the basin flooded forming Port Phillip Bay and moving the "mouth" of the Yarra over 50 km inland.[9]

A dry period combined with sand bar formation may have dried the bay out as recently as between 800 BC and 1000 AD extending the Yarra to Bass Strait during this period.[10]

History

Before 1880
The confluence of the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers before 1880.
Wool washing on the Yarra. C. Nettleton
Photograph of wool washing sheds in and on banks of Yarra River

The area surrounding the Yarra River and modern day Melbourne was originally inhabited by Natives of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. It is believed that the area was occupied by indigenous Australians for at least 30,000 years. The river was an important resource for the Wurundjeri people and several sites along the river and its tributaries were important meeting places where corroborees were held between indigenous communities. The river's resources were utilised sustainably by the Wurundjeri until the advent of early European settlement in the early-mid-19th century.

European discovery and settlement

Landing at melbourne 1840
Melbourne Landing, 1840; watercolour by W. Liardet (1840)
Dights mill in 1863
Dights Mill Abbostford (built 1839) pictured in 1863

In 1803, the first Europeans sailed up the river, a surveying party led by Charles Grimes, Acting Surveyor General of New South Wales, sailed upstream to Dights Falls where they could no longer continue due to the nature of the terrain. European explorers would not enter the river for another 30 years until, in 1835, the area that is now central and northern Melbourne was explored by John Batman, a leading member of the Port Phillip Association, who negotiated a transaction for 600,000 acres (2,400 km²) of land from eight Wurundjeri elders. He selected a site on the northern bank of the Yarra River, declaring that "this will be the place for a village".

The river was instrumental in the establishment of Melbourne along its banks from 1835 onwards. The new settlement's main port was sited just downstream of Yarra Falls west of modern-day Queen's Bridge, the place where saltwater met freshwater. Ships would use one side of the falls while the other side provided fresh drinking water for the town and a convenient sewer. In the city's early days the Yarra was one of two major ports, the other being Sandridge or Port Melbourne, but the Yarra was preferred due to the direct access to the town's main streets and was the location of Customs House. Early industries grew along the banks of the river, rapidly degrading the water quality until Melbourne's fresh water had to be sourced from elsewhere. Industries then began using the river and tributaries such as Merri Creek as landfill and for harmful chemical dumps for substances like grease and oils.

The first permanent crossing over the river was Princes Bridge, which first opened as a wooden trestle bridge in 1844, the current bridge was constructed in 1888. In the early days, the river would frequently flood. While this was not considered a problem in the floodplains near Yarra Glen and Coldstream, however it caused much trouble further downstream in settlements such as Warrandyte, Templestowe, Bulleen, Heidelberg and Ivanhoe. The Upper Yarra Dam was later constructed to alleviate the flooding, protecting settlements along the river, yet depriving the river banks of soil and silt deposits and causing other problems such as erosion and salinity.

Victorian Gold Rush

Pound Bend tunnel
Pound Bend diversion tunnel
Pound bend tunnel map
Map of the Pound Bend diversion tunnel in Warrandyte.

Gold was first discovered in Victoria near the Yarra River in Warrandyte. The find was made by Louis Michel in 1851 at a tributary of the river, Anderson's Creek and marked the start of the Victorian gold rush. The approximate location of the site is marked by a cairn on Fourth Hill in the Warrandyte State Park. The river was drained and diverted in various areas throughout the gold rush to aid gold miners. An example of this is the tunnel at Pound Bend in Warrandyte. The river was partially dammed at Pound Bend near Normans Reserve at its eastern entrance and near Bob's wetlands at its western exit. Miners then blasted a 145m long tunnel through solid rock. The river was then fully dammed at the entrance and exit to the tunnel and water was diverted through 145m and out the other side leaving a 3.85 km of riverbed around Pound Bend exposed to the sun and the miners picks. Other diversions include The Island cutting in Warrandyte and the Little Peninsula Tunnel and Big Peninsula Tunnel near McMahons Creek.

The Gold Rush saw increased development in Melbourne and "tent cities" of new migrants lined the Yarra during the early years of the gold rush. In the 1840s a weir was built at Dights Falls to power a flour mill and to give some control over the river downstream from there. From the earliest years of settlement, the mid and upper reaches of the Yarra began to be used for recreation. The river was selected as the site for the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1846 and the course of the river was modified slightly for the creation of a feature lake. Further upstream, the Cremorne Gardens were established in 1853.

Industrialisation

Victoria docks melbourne in the 1920s
The Yarra and Victoria Docks in 1928
After 1892
The creation of Coode Island after the 1880–1892 construction works.

Sections of the river mouth and the area around the former West Melbourne Swamp were widened in the late 19th century, to make way for docks, harbours, bridges and other infrastructure. The increasing industrialisation of the river and the growth of the shipping industry saw the need for major infrastructure works which dramatically changed the course of the river in its lower reaches. The creation of new shipping channels to cope with the growing use of the Yarra by cargo ships was first tabled in the 1870s.

The first major change came with the cutting of the Coode Canal between 1880 and 1886. This major infrastructure project created an island which was known as Coode Island, named after the British consultant engineer engaged to design the works, Sir John Coode. This also included widening and deepening, and in some cases, vast areas of land were excavated, such as Victoria Dock, in order to give ease of access for cargo and later container ships. Abattoirs, smelters and even mortuaries were to use the river as a means of waste disposal in its lower reaches. This industrialisation also led to a steady deterioration in water quality during the 19th century and into the 20th. In 1891, the great flood caused the Yarra to swell to 305 metres (1,001 ft) in width.

Initially known as "West Melbourne Dock", over 3 million cubic yards (2.3×106 m3) of material was excavated and a new dock was eventually opened in 1892, the material that was removed was subsequently used to fill in part of the West Melbourne Swamp, it took 6 days for water from the Yarra River to fill the dock. The dock was later renamed Victoria Dock. In 1910, the main channel was widened and deepened (81 to 131 m or 266 to 430 ft). In 1916, the central pier at Victoria Dock was completed which provided 6 additional shipping berths and cargo sheds and creating a distinctive landmark for Melbourne ports. By 1942, 650m of the old course of the Yarra River at Coode Island had been filled in, by the 1950s it had been completely filled and land parcels were allocated including a site for the new Fish Markets.

In 1957, the Upper Yarra Reservoir was constructed, primarily to alleviate flooding downstream. This reduced the river's flow to around 50%, where it sits today. Swanson Dock was constructed between 1966 and 1972 equipped for modern container shipping. Shipping activity at Victoria Dock during this time had gone into steep decline and it was almost disused by the mid-1970s. In February 1972, the CBD was flooded as the natural watercourse of Elizabeth Street became a raging torrent.[11] This was due mostly to previous storm water drainage works which utilised Elizabeth street as a watercourse during times of intense rain creating flash floods. Prior to settlements, the area now occupied by Elizabeth street was a gully off the river.

Recent history

Since 1972
The area around Port Melbourne since the construction of Swanson Dock in 1972.
Melbourne CBD and the Yarra river at dusk - Australia
Inner-city projects, including Federation Square and Crown Casino, have focused on the advantage of the location of the Yarra River as a tourist attraction.
Crown Casino complex at South Bank of the Yarra River
The development of Southbank's Promenade epitomises the recent revival of the Yarra as the capital's new Central Activities Districts

By the 1960s there was a growing awareness of the neglect of the Yarra amongst some residents of Melbourne, spawning various community groups and "friends of..." organisations to protect the remnants of the river's ecology. Through the 1970s and 1980s, many desirable developments alongside the river began, such as the Victorian Arts Centre, as its lower courses progressively became gentrified. Growing high density residential development in the lower reaches in the early 1990s coincided with minor government programs such as the installation of litter traps. The riverside apartment complex Como Centre at South Yarra and the larger urban renewal of the formerly industrial Southbank precinct were both built during the late 1990s. During this era it was also commonplace for the winner of the Australian Open to bathe in the Yarra River as a post victory celebration. On the southern side of the river near exists a number of university and private school rowing clubs who use the river for recreational sports.

Around 2000, the river through the Melbourne city centre became a focus of major government projects. Projects were proposed to connect Flinders Street Station with the river and early proposals for the Melbourne Museum were situated along the south side of the river, however the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex and Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre were built in its place. The Melbourne Docklands urban renewal project began in 2000, comprising mixed use residential and commercial land and recreational boating moors along the river at the disused Victoria Docks and also on the southside of the Yarra. Federation Square was proposed to connect the spine of Melbourne to the Yarra at Federation Wharf and a neighbouring park, Birrarung Marr was also built along the banks, creating renewed interest in connecting city workers to the banks. Some suggest this connection between the City and the river could have been made better and many feel that Federation Square was rushed and neglects the river that it sits next to. New ferry services and water taxis sprang up along the city reach, servicing as far up river as South Yarra and out to Hobsons Bay.

In 2008, dredging began to deepen the mouth of the Yarra to facilitate the latest 5th Generation Container Ships. It was subject to controversy and strict regulations among fears that it could disturb heavy metals and other toxic sediments mostly deposited during the industrial era of Melbourne. a[12][13]

Pollution and environmental issues

Litter trap
A Parks Victoria Litter trap on the river catches floating rubbish

The Yarra River was an important resource for the Wurundjeri people for around 40,000 years. The river's resources were utilised sustainably by the Wurundjeri until European settlement in the early-mid-19th century.[14] Early industry located along the river contributed great amounts of pollution such as dangerous chemicals, grease, oil and heavy metals. Through the mid-20th century, industry was slowly relocated away from the river and since then the major pollutants have come from storm water runoff, sewerage and lasting effects of previous pollution. Gold mining cleared small areas of land of vegetation and for periods of time, drained sections of the river, however when compared to land clearing and industrial pollutants, the effects of gold mining on the river were quite low.

Heavy metals deposited into the river throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries settled to the bottom of the river bed, particularly in the lower reaches through the city and Port Melbourne, and due to the increased artificial depth of the river through here, heavy metals have not been carried further, although some have been deposited out into Port Phillip. Oils and grease remain today in several tributaries in the lower reaches such as Merri Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek.[15]

Pollution

Levels of bacteria, particularly E. coli and substances like grease, oils and heavy metals in the Yarra River and its tributaries are a major problem.

High levels of E. coli, some up to 200 times the safe limit in its tributaries, are caused primarily by poorly maintained septic systems.[16]

Up to 350,000 cigarette butts enter the Yarra catchment storm water runoff every day,[17] these serve as just a small representation of the rubbish and litter that are disposed of in storm water runoff areas that eventually make their way into the river and from river makes its way to sea

Some industrial companies continue to use the Yarra as a dumping ground. For example, in recent years paper company Amcor has been fined several times by EPA Victoria for polluting the Yarra and environs. In 2007 it was fined A$5,000 for discharging paper pulp into the Yarra from its Alphington plant[18] and in 2008 the company was convicted for releasing oil into the Yarra from its Alphington plant and fined A$80,000.[19]

Several programs are being implemented to minimise beach and river pollution, mostly organised by community groups, EPA Victoria and local councils.[13][20]

In 2015, a facility for washing down cars and chemical containers illegally leaked toxic chemicals and herbicides into Yarra River, killing trees and endangering public safety. The facility was situated inside Warrandyte State PArk, from where the spillover until June 2015 flowed into the river and downstream towards Melbourne.[21]

Lack of flooding

Due to damming and the lack of natural flooding, much of the surrounding vegetation is lacking in the silt and soil deposits that would otherwise be provided by the floods. The construction of the Upper Yarra Reservoir in 1957 reduced the river's flow by around 50%. This has ultimately led to a lack of healthy understory and saplings, or a lack of saplings completely, which contributes to problems such as reduced habitat, erosion and salinity, issues that ironically affect surrounding agriculture.

Water colour

Melbourne Skyline
The distinctive colour of the river is easily recognisable.

The Yarra River has been derogatively called "the river that runs upside down", a jibe at its high turbidity.[22] The muddy brown colour is caused by the easily eroded clay soils of its catchment area. The water was clear at the time of the first European settlements, but intensive land clearing and development since the mid-19th century has resulted in the presence of microscopic clay particles. The particles are kept suspended by the turbulence in some parts of the middle and lower sections of the river. When the river water combines with marine salts as it enters Port Phillip, the suspended particles clump together and sink. The presence of clay particles is not a major factor in the pollution of the river.

Environmental advocacy

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association is the largest advocacy group dedicated to protecting the Yarra River and its environs for current and future generations.[23] They are part of the global Waterkeeper Alliance movement and have been involved in forums and discussions pushing for policies to ensue that "the voice" of the river is heard.[24][25] The Yarra Riverkeeper Association or YRKA for short view the Yarra River as Melbourne's greatest natural asset and educate that its preservation and restoration is vital in helping Melbourne become a sustainable city. Since its establishment in 2004, YRKA has delivered hundreds of presentations and lectures, been in over 200 media appearances and provide on-water inspection tours to over 200 community leaders, business leaders, and politicians.[26] It has had successful campaigns in pushing for great environmental flows and in 2010 the Riverkeeper Ian Penrose was awarded the 2010 Melbourne Award for contribution to the environment.[27]

Geography

Yarramap
Map of Yarra River and its tributaries.

The Yarra River has a detailed and complex geological history, see "Geology". It was utilised and managed sustainably by the Wurundjeri for around 40,000 years, however since the European settlement and use of the river in the mid-19th century, its geography has changed substantially reflecting the unsustainable use of the river and surrounding resources. The river is fed by a number of small unnamed creeks and streams in the Yarra Ranges as well as 49 named tributaries, most of which are creeks. The river's lower reaches travel through central Melbourne. It is approximately 242 kilometres (150 mi) in length, with a mean annual flow of 718 gigalitres (2.54×1010 cu ft), which is roughly 50% its original flow prior to damming. It is the most westerly snow fed river in Australia. The total catchment area is approximately 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq mi).

Tributaries and geographic features

Olinda creek lilydale
Olinda Creek at Lilydale, an upper tributary of the Yarra

The Yarra's major tributaries are the Maribyrnong River, Moonee Ponds Creek, Merri Creek, Darebin Creek, Plenty River, Mullum Mullum Creek and Olinda Creek. The river hosts many geographical features such as; bends, rapids, lakes, islands, floodplains, billabongs and wetlands. Most features have been named after translated Wurundjeri phrases or have European, particularly British, origins. Some of the river's more prominent features include; Coode Island and Fishermans Bend, Victoria Harbour, Herring Island, Yarra Bend, Dights Falls, Upper Yarra Dam and Reservoir and many river flats and billabongs.

Settlements

Melbourne yarra twilight
Melbourne is the largest settlement that the Yarra flows through. The Yarra at central Melbourne is shown here at night, with the central business district on the left and Southbank on the right
Melbourne City Centre – 20,500
South Yarra – 18,000
Richmond – 22,500
Hawthorn – 20,000
Fairfield – 5,000
Heidelberg – 5,300
Bulleen – 10,500
Templestowe – 16,500
Eltham – 17,600
Warrandyte – 10,000

Marine ecology

The river is home to several species of fish. In the lower reaches of the Yarra mainly Southern black bream[28] and jellyfish and in the upper reaches smaller quantities of European perch (redfin), Macquarie Perch, Brown Trout, Murray Cod and Freshwater Catfish. However almost all of the fish are contaminated with heavy metals including arsenic and not fit for human consumption.[29] Dolphins have been known to venture upstream as far as South Yarra,[30] and serve as an example of the increased salinity of the river's lower reaches. Platypus are rarely seen as far downstream as Fairfield.

Course

Upper reaches

The river's source is a series of swamps in the upper reaches of the Yarra Ranges National Park, directly to the west of the Mount Baw Baw plateau, a thickly forested subalpine park, which is entirely closed-off to all except the employees of Melbourne Water. The park features extensive stands of mountain ash, a very tall eucalypt, tree ferns, as well as patches of remnant rainforest.

The Upper Yarra Dam, one of a number of dams in the Yarra Catchment that supply a large part of Melbourne's water, is the furthest upstream point on the river visible to the general public (though the dam itself is closed off). The first settlement the still-young river passes through is the small town of Reefton, but most of the river is surrounded by hills covered temperate forest until the timber and resort town of Warburton. The Woods Point Rd follows the river through this section.

Brisbanebridge warburton
The Brisbane Bridge over the Yarra River, Warburton.

Downstream of Warburton, the Yarra Valley gradually opens out and farms begin to appear, including beef and dairy farms, and by the town of Woori Yallock and the river's turn north, increasingly large areas are covered by vineyards, forming the Yarra Valley wine region. At Healesville, the river turns west again and the stream bed becomes increasingly silty, reducing the clarity of the water, and by the commuter town of Yarra Glen it begins to take on the brownish colour that the lower reaches are known for.

Middle reaches

Yarra River Wonga Park
The river through Wonga Park.
Fairfield boathouse
The river at Fairfield boathouse.

The river enters Melbourne's suburbs proper at Chirnside Park, but virtually all the river's length is surrounded by parkland, much retaining (or having been replanted with) extensive native vegetation. A bicycle and walking trail known as the Main Yarra Trail begins at Warrandyte and becomes the Yarra River Trail, and in the lower reaches, the Capital City Trail. The river is used extensively for kayaking at Templestowe, and canoes can often be seen throughout the suburban section. Whilst the water is not particularly clear, its quality is sufficient for edible fish to swim within it. Some small hobby farms are located in the floodplain area of the river, surprisingly close to central Melbourne and almost completely surrounded by suburbs.

Heidelberg formed the home of the Heidelberg School, widely considered the first European painters to accurately capture the Australian landscape and its distinctive features. The walking trail features placards displaying some of their paintings at the settings they were actually painted; some features depicted remain clearly recognisable today.

Lower reaches

Melbourne yarra afternoon
The Yarra River as it flows north-west towards central Melbourne, passing underneath the Swan Street Bridge.
West Gate Bridge Melbourne
Yarra at the West Gate near the river mouth

Below Dights Falls at Yarra Bend Park in inner Melbourne, the river becomes increasingly estuarine as it passes along the southern side of the central business district. This area forms the venue for the annual "Moomba" festival, which notably features an annual water skiing competition which attracts a huge crowd. The lower stretch of the river from Docklands to the Melbourne Cricket Ground was part of the final path of the Queen's Baton Relay of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Many of Melbourne's private schools, located close to the river, train their rowing crews on it.

The lower reaches feature a number of boat cruises, using especially low-roof boats to go under the many bridges across this section of the Yarra. Herring Island is a small island at South Yarra which has a punt which takes people on to the park. The area in front of old Customs House is a former turning basin for ships. It is the point which was once known as "Freshwater Place" and once had a set of cascades which prevented both salt water and larger ships from going further upstream. This series of rocks, originally used to cross the river, and referred to as the "Yarra Falls" was removed using explosives and divers in 1883.

The final section passes through the Port of Melbourne and under the Bolte Bridge and the West Gate Bridge. The current course dates back to 1886 when a canal devised by British engineer Sir John Coode was cut from west of Flinders Street to below its junction with the Maribyrnong.[31] The resulting island between the new and old courses of the river was named Coode Island, and is now part of the mainland with the former course to the north filled in. The river flows into Port Phillip, the site being extensively altered as part of the Port of Melbourne, Australia's busiest seaport.

Crossings

Punt crossing of yarra
Yarra crossing punt road, Melbourne, 1838. by W. Liardet

Since the first permanent crossing was built over the river in 1844, there are now over 60 places where pedestrians, cars and other vehicles can cross the river. As the river is never wider than around 350m and is on average only around 50m wide, most of the crossings are located in the suburbs of Greater Melbourne. While there are fewer crossings towards the mouth of the river, most notably the West Gate, Bolte and Princes Bridges, and the Burnley and Domain Tunnels. Small historical bridges can be found further downstream including the Banksia Street, Fitzsimons Lane and Warrandyte Bridges. Beyond Warburton there are very few crossings available. Some of the more prominent and historical crossings include;[32]

Parklands

Yarra River from Kanes Bridge
The Yarra River, as seen from Kanes Bridge, near the Studley Park boathouse.

Several reserves have been set aside adjoining the Yarra, mostly to preserve the natural environment or for recreation, many of these are managed and operated by Parks Victoria, the state government agency responsible for the management of Victoria's national parks and other reserves. The largest and most notable of these parklands include: the Royal Botanic Gardens, Birrarung Marr, Yarra Bend Park, Westerfolds Park, Warrandyte State Park and the Yarra Ranges National Park.[32]

Major parks

Some of the larger parklands adjoining the river include, from downstream to upstream:

Golf courses

There are 14 golf courses adjoining the river, these include, from downstream to upstream:

  • Henly Course (18)
  • St. John Course (18)
  • Warburton Golf Club (18)

Popular culture

Yarra River and Fish Boats
Artificial fish on the Yarra during 2006 Commonwealth Games
Clarice Beckett - The Yarra, Sunset, 1930
Clarice Beckett, The Yarra, Sunset (1930).

The Yarra is considered an important part of Melbourne's culture and a symbol of the city, and as a result, it has been the source of artistic and cultural expression.

  • The Yarra has been captured in many famous paintings including some by the Heidelberg School.
  • The annual Moomba festival celebrates the Yarra River's increasing cultural significance to Melbourne.
  • The river has featured in songs by the Whirling Furphies, titled "My Brown Yarra", and the Coodabeen Champions, titled "By the Banks of the Yarra".
  • A poem entitled "Yara Yara" was written by Greek poet Nikos Kavvadias in 1951.
  • A song entitled The Yarra Song was written by Billy Bragg and included on the Australian edition of his 2002 album, England, Half English.

Recreational use

Moomba on the yarra 2008
Moomba waterskiing
Cruise boats on the Yarra
Cruise boats on the river
Yarra River paths
Yarra River walk paths

Throughout its length, the waters of the Yarra River and its banks are used for; boating, rowing, water skiing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing, cycling, running and walking, amongst other things. In the rivers upper reaches, fishing is most popular. Upstream of Launching Place the river becomes quite narrow and recreational use is limited. In the middle reaches, canoeing and kayaking is popular, there are a few rapids of easy to medium difficulty depending on the water level.

Swimming is also popular in the middle reaches throughout winter, particularly around Warrandyte. Around this area there are submerged mining shafts which can cause undertows that suck swimmers under the surface and into these shafts. In the period 2004–08, 3 people died in this manner in Warrandyte alone. Swimming is safer downstream, but not advisable below Dights Falls due to the high levels of pollution and high boating traffic. The Yarra River once held the world's largest swimming event, the Race to Prince's Bridge. The 3 Mile course ran in the lower reaches, from Twickenham Ferry (now MacRobertson Bridge) to Princes Bridge. The race often attracted greater than 500 competitors and large numbers of onlookers seeking to experience the spectacle.

In the lower reaches, the river is mostly used for rowing, there are several rowing sheds along the city stretch east of the Princes Bridge and many private schools have rowing clubs with sheds and berths on the river. At certain times of the year, particularly during the Moomba Festival, this stretch of the river is occupied by water skiing courses and jumps. The banks of the Yarra River are popular for cycling, running and walking where most paths are sealed and in good condition. Two major off-road, sealed trails, the Yarra River Trail and Capital City Trail follow the river on its course through the city, while part of the Bayside Trail also connects with the river.

The river is also popular for boating, in the residential suburb of Toorak some of the larger mansions have private boat moorings, whilst newer developments in Melbourne Docklands have larger marinas as does Pier 31 at Fisherman's Bend and Newport and Williamstown at the river's mouth. Boating is difficult beyond Hawthorn and impossible past Dights Falls. It is mostly concentrated in central Melbourne where cruises go up and down the river and ferries operate.

Navigation

The river can be used by any member of the public provided they abide by the rules of Parks Victoria who administer the river upstream of Bolte Bridge and the Port of Melbourne Corporation who administer the area downstream of Bolte Bridge. There is a maximum speed limit of 9 kilometres per hour (4.9 kn) for all boats operating on the river. Sections of the river are occasionally closed for public events such as Moomba, New Year's Eve and Rowing events.[32]

The river is navigable by most boats from its entrance in Hobsons Bay to Dights Falls, a stretch of 22 km (14 mi), and is subject to tidal variations and submerged objects. There are four bridges on the Yarra River with limited height clearances at high tide:[32]

  • Charles Grimes Bridge – 3.2 m (10 ft)
  • Spencer Street Bridge – 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) (can be less than 2 m or 6 ft 7 in at extreme high tides – once a month)
  • Kings Bridge – 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)
  • Queens Bridge – 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "Yarra River: 30146: Historical Information". Vicnames. Government of Victoria. 2 May 1966. Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Reed, A. W. (1967). Aboriginal Place Names. Reed New Holland. pp. 87–88. ISBN 1-876334-00-2.
  3. ^ a b c "Yarra River: 30146". Vicnames. Government of Victoria. 2 May 1966. Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Map of Yarra River, VIC". Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  5. ^ "BYGONE DAYS". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 15 July 1939. p. 13. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  6. ^ Eidelson, Meyer (1997). The Melbourne Dreaming. A Guide to the Aboriginal Places of Melbourne (Reprint 2000 ed.). Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. pp. 14–17. ISBN 0-85575-306-4.
  7. ^ a b Eidelson, Meyer. The Melbourne Dreaming. p. 6.
  8. ^ Bonwick, James (1868). "John Batman the Founder of Victoria" (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Fergusson and Moore: 48.
  9. ^ Bowler, J.M. "Port Phillip Survey 1957-1963: The Geology & Geomorphology" (PDF). MEMOIRS of the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF VICTORIA MELBOURNE, No. 27 Issued, 1966. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF VICTORIA. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  10. ^ Gary, Stuart. "Port Phillip Bay once high and dry". news in Science. Australian Broadcasting Commission. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  11. ^ "Melbourne flood — Elizabeth Street, February 1972, Neville Bowler". www.bom.gov.au. Archived from the original on 3 November 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  12. ^ "Garrett approves Port Phillip Bay dredging". ABC News. Australia. 5 February 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  13. ^ a b "Beach Report 2007–08" (PDF). Environmental Protection Authority. Government of Victoria. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  14. ^ History of the Yarra Archived 18 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, City River Cruises
  15. ^ "Port Phillip and Westernport Regional River Health Strategy - Yarra catchment" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  16. ^ Gardiner, Ashley (31 May 2008). "E coli running riot in Yarra River". Herald Sun. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  17. ^ "AIUS Indicators". Environmental indicators for Metropolitan Melbourne. Australian Institute of Urban Studies and City of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 13 November 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  18. ^ Victorian Government (Victoria Online) Archived 8 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Victorian Government (Victoria Online) Archived 13 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Victoria's Litter reduction Strategy" (PDF). litter.vic.gov.au. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  21. ^ AAP. "Chemicals in Melbourne's Yarra River created a health risk, says report", The Guardian, London, 10 January 2016. Retrieved on 16 February 2019.
  22. ^ Rivers, wetlands, bays Port Phillip and Westernport Archived 5 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Melbourne Water. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  23. ^ Yarra Riverkeepers Association. Environment Victoria. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  24. ^ Mr Ian Penrose, Yarra Riverkeepers Association, Sustainable Cities Round Table/ Future Melbourne forum Archived 3 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine. Sustainable Melbourne (2008-10-21). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  25. ^ Waterkeeper Alliance. Waterkeeper.org. Retrieved on 2013-07-12. Archived 21 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine Archived
  26. ^ Yarra Riverkeeper Association Inc. goodcompany. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  27. ^ Congratulations Yarra Riverkeeper: Ian Penrose!. Environment Victoria. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  28. ^ Victorian Government (Victoria Online) Archived 31 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ News.com.au
  30. ^ Dolphins in the Yarra, By Mex Cooper, June 29 2009, The Age, Melbourne, Australia]
  31. ^ "History of the port". Port of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
  32. ^ a b c d Melway Edition 36, 2009

Further reading

Media related to Yarra River at Wikimedia Commons

  • Otto, Kristin (2005). Yarra. Melbourne: Text Publishing. ISBN 1-920885-78-1.
Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne

The Alexandra Gardens are located on the south bank of the Yarra River, opposite Federation Square and the Melbourne Central Business District, in Victoria, Australia. The Gardens are bounded by the Yarra River to the north, Princes and Swan street bridges, with Queen Victoria Gardens and Kings Domain across Alexandra Avenue to the south. The gardens are part of the Domain parklands which stretch to the Royal Botanic Gardens and were first laid out in 1901, under the direction of Carlo Catani, Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department. The Alexandra Gardens were named in honor of Alexandra of Denmark, in the year her reign as Queen Consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress consort of India began. The Alexandra Gardens are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register due to their historical and archaeological significance.

Australian Rowing Championships

The Australian Rowing Championships is an annual rowing event that determines Australia's national rowing champions and facilitates selection of Australian representative crews for World Championships and the Olympic Games. It is Australia's premier regatta, with states, clubs and schools sending their best crews. The Championships commence with the National Regatta - men's, women's and lightweight events in open, under 23, under 19, under 17 and school age categories. Rowers at the National Regatta race in their local club colours with composite crews permitted. The Championships conclude with the Interstate Regatta - currently eight events competed by state representative crews or scullers selected by the state rowing associations. The states compete for an overall points tally which decides the Zurich Cup.

Bolte Bridge

The Bolte Bridge is a large twin cantilever bridge in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The Bolte Bridge carries a total of 8 lanes of traffic - 4 lanes northbound and 4 lanes southbound. While officially only 490 metres in length, the actual structure appears much longer as it forms part of a 5 kilometre elevated roadway between Flemington Road and the West Gate Freeway. It spans the Yarra River and Victoria Harbour in the Docklands precinct to the west of the Melbourne CBD. It forms part of the CityLink system of toll roads that connects the Tullamarine Freeway from the northern suburbs with the West Gate Freeway and the Domain and Burnley tunnels to the Monash Freeway and the south eastern suburbs. It is named after Victoria’s 38th and longest-serving Premier, Sir Henry Bolte.

Electoral district of Melbourne South

Melbourne South was an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian state of Victoria from 1889 to 1904.

Melbourne South was defined by the Electoral Act Amendment Act 1888 as:"Commencing on the Yarra River at Prince's Bridge; thence southerly by the St. Kilda-road to Park-street, South Melbourne; westerly by Park-street to Palmerston-crescent; south-westerly and westerly by Palmerston-crescent and Raglan-street to Cecil-street; north by Cecil-street to the St. Kilda Railway ; further north crossing the St. Kilda and Sandridge Railways and by Cecil-street extension to the Normanby-road; easterly crossing that road to White-street; north-westerly by White-street to the Yarra River; and easterly by the Yarra River to the commencing point."

# = by-election

Electoral district of South Melbourne

Electoral district of South Melbourne was an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the British colony of Victoria (Australia).

Its area was defined by the Victoria Constitution Act as: "Bounded on the North by the Yarra Yarra River, from its Junction with the Saltwater River to Princes’ Bridge, on the East by the Road bearing Southeast to the Northern Angle of Section No. 46, St. Kilda, thence by Fitz Roy Street to the Sea Coast, thence by the Sea Coast to the Yarra Yarra River, and by the said River to its Junction with the Saltwater River, being the commencing Point."South Melbourne was abolished by the Victorian Electoral Act, 1858. New districts of Emerald Hill and Sandridge were created.

Gardiners Creek

Gardiners Creek, originally known as Kooyongkoot Creek, is a waterway in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and part of the Yarra River catchment.

In a few sparse locations remnant riparian bushland survives, however the majority of its length has been heavily urbanised, and the creek has been degraded in much the same way as other Melbourne eastern suburban waterways such as the Mullum Mullum Creek and Koonung Creek. The Gardiners Creek Trail follows the creek for most of its length.

Herring Island (Victoria)

Herring Island is a small 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres) artificial island located in Melbourne's Yarra River at South Yarra, approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the city centre. It is the only island in the Yarra River.

Herring Island was formed in 1928 by cutting a channel through an old basalt quarry. The island was leased for many years by the scout movement, who named it after their patron, Sir Edmund Herring, the Lieutenant Governor of Victoria and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The Island contains indigenous vegetation, and provides important habitat for native fauna, particularly birds. It is currently managed by Parks Victoria and used as a sculpture park. Sculptures include works by Jill Peck, Ellen Jose, and Andy Goldsworthy.

Launching Place, Victoria

Launching Place is a town in Victoria, Australia, 54 km east of Melbourne's central business district. Its local government area is the Shire of Yarra Ranges. At the 2016 census, Launching Place had a population of 2,394.Launching Place is located along the Warburton Highway between Woori Yallock and Yarra Junction.

The Post Office opened on 12 July 1865, replaced by Hoddle's Creek in 1869, reopened on 1 September 1880, finally closing in 1994.The township was from 1901 until 1965 served by a railway station on the Warburton line.

Launching Place has many camping grounds where families go camping, hiking and boating in the Yarra River.

It is believed that Launching Place is named after the spot on the Yarra River where the logs (freshly cut down in the valley) were floated down the river to be milled in Melbourne. That is, the logs were "launched" at this place along the Yarra River. This was prior to the construction of the Upper Yarra Reservoir.

The Derelict Aircraft Museum was located in Launching Place. As of 2017, it had been closed and dismantled.A new car park has recently been made, making access to the Warburton Rail Trail and Launching Place General Store easier. It is located behind the Launching Place General Store.

Little Yarra River

The Little Yarra River is a perennial river of the Port Phillip catchment, located in the Greater Metropolitan Melbourne region of the Australian state of Victoria.

Main Yarra Trail

The Yarra Trail is a shared use path for cyclists and pedestrians, which follows the Yarra River through the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.The trail follows the river from near its mouth, through the city and suburbs to Westerfolds Park and Eltham. The Capital City Trail uses the same path up to Dights Falls, where it continues up the Merri Creek Trail as part of its loop around the city.

Bicycle Victoria has an ongoing campaign to have the path in Yarra Bend Park improved and the stairs at the east end of Gipps Street effectively removed from the trail by continuing the path on the west side of the river. Other alternatives include installing a ramp or installing a new footbridge near the Abbotsford Convent.

Maribyrnong River

The Maribyrnong River is a perennial river of the Port Phillip catchment, located in the north–western suburbs of Melbourne, in the Australian state of Victoria.

Merri Creek

The Merri Creek is a waterway in southern parts of Victoria, Australia, which flows through the northern suburbs of Melbourne. It begins near Wallan north of Melbourne and flows south for 70 km until it joins the Yarra River at Dights Falls. The area where the creek meets the river was traditionally the location for large gatherings of the Wurundjeri people and is suspected to have been the location for one of the earliest land treaties in Australia between Indigenous Australians and European settlers.

The creek was the site of heavy industrial use throughout much of the 20th century, being home to quarries, landfills and accepting waste runoff from neighbouring factories. This has degraded the riparian ecology of the creek leaving behind pollutants such as heavy metals and various greases. Recent decades have seen some regenerative planting and the foundation of several community groups dedicated to protecting and regenerating the creek's ecology.

Moonee Ponds Creek

The Moonee Ponds Creek is a creek and major tributary of the Yarra River running through urban Melbourne, Victoria, Australia from northern to inner suburbs. In 2004 a reporter for the Age newspaper described it as "arguably the most abused tributary of the Yarra River, and part of the true underside of Melbourne".It is rural in its upper sections near Greenvale, passing across basalt plains around Woodlands Historic Park, just north of Melbourne Airport. Towards its mouth it is hemmed in by the Cenozoic caps of Essendon and Royal Park before joining the Yarra River.

Through the heavily urbanised areas it flows through it is best characterised as a concrete stormwater drain.

It winds its way through the suburbs of Westmeadows, Meadow Heights, Tullamarine, Broadmeadows, Gowanbrae, Glenroy, Strathmore Heights, Oak Park, Strathmore, Pascoe Vale, Pascoe Vale South, Essendon, Brunswick West, Moonee Ponds, Ascot Vale, Flemington, Parkville, North Melbourne (where its artificially widened section is named Railway Canal) before joining the Yarra River at Melbourne Docklands.

O'Shannassy River

The O'Shannassy River is a perennial river of the Port Phillip catchment, located in the north-eastern Greater Metropolitan Melbourne region of the Australian state of Victoria.

Plenty River (Victoria)

The Plenty River is a perennial river of the Port Phillip catchment, located in the south-eastern Greater Melbourne region of the Australian state of Victoria.

The Island, Thompson Bend, Warrandyte

The Island is located at Thompson Bend on the Yarra River at Warrandyte, Victoria, Australia, approximately 24 kilometres (15 mi) north-east of Melbourne. It was created by gold miners in 1859-60, during the Victorian gold rush. They dug a diversion channel to alter the course of the Yarra River, providing access to the alluvial gold in the exposed river bed.

The canal was widened by subsequent flooding becoming the main river course, with the previous river bed becoming a willow-choked backwater.

Mining Registrars and Surveyors Reports for the St. Andrews Division date the diversion of the river into a canal as May–July 1859. The work cost £7,000. There was more work in November 1859 and February 1860.

The nearby Pound Bend Tunnel was cut for a similar purpose in 1870. Two other tunnels,

the Big Peninsula Tunnel and the Little Peninsula Tunnel, were dug further upstream in the 1860s.

The site is listed in the Victorian Heritage Inventory.

Watts River

The Watts River is a perennial river of the Port Phillip and Western Port catchment, located near Healesville, in the Central Victoria region of the Australian state of Victoria.

Yarra Park

Yarra Park (35.469 hectares) is part of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct, the premier sporting precinct of Victoria, Australia. Located in Yarra Park is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and numerous sporting fields and ovals, including the associated sporting complexes of Melbourne & Olympic Parks. The park and sporting facilities are located in the inner-suburb of East Melbourne. In the late 1850s, many of the earliest games of Australian rules football were played at Yarra Park, which was known at the time as the Richmond Paddock.

Tree-lined paths run parallel to Punt Road and Swan Street, and criss-cross the park. Some of the lawns are used for parking for sporting events. Three footbridges allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the railway lines to the different sporting venues and easy access to the Yarra River Trail.

Around the MCG are sculptures of Australian sporting heroes including: Australian rules footballers Ron Barassi and Dick Reynolds; cricketers Sir Donald Bradman and Keith Miller; athletics "golden girl" Betty Cuthbert. Nearby is an old eucalyptus scar tree which shows a big scar caused by harvesting of bark for a canoe by the original inhabitants of the Yarra River Valley, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.

The adjacent Punt Road Oval, home of the Richmond Football Club features a statue of Tiger legend Jack Dyer.

Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley is the name given to the region surrounding the Yarra River in Victoria, Australia. The river originates approximately 90 kilometres east of the Melbourne central business district and flows towards it and out into Port Phillip Bay. The name Yarra Valley is used in reference to the upper regions surrounding the Yarra River and generally does not encompass the lower regions including the city and suburban areas, where the topography flattens out, or the upper reaches which are in inaccessible bushland. Included in the Yarra Valley is the sub-region of Upper Yarra (or the Upper Yarra Valley) which encompasses the towns of the former Shire of Upper Yarra in the catchment area upstream of and including Woori Yallock. The Yarra Valley is a popular day-trip and tourist area, featuring a range of natural features and agricultural produce, as well as the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail.

The Yarra Valley is host to a thriving wine growing industry. The area's relatively cool climate makes it particularly suited to the production of high-quality chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling wine.Yarra Valley towns fall under the Nillumbik and Yarra Ranges Shire Councils. Major towns include Coldstream, Yarra Glen, Healesville and Warburton.

It is also the filming location for the first two seasons of The Saddle Club.

Waterways of the Greater Melbourne catchment, Victoria, Australia
Ocean inlets, harbours and bays
Rivers
Creeks
Lagoons and lakes
Adjoining rivers and bays
Rivers of the Port Phillip and Western Port catchment, Victoria, Australia
Port Phillip sub-catchment
Western Port sub-catchment
Rivers of Victoria
Landmarks in the Melbourne City Centre
Precincts
Entertainment
Shopping centres
Public museums
Institutions
Notable structures
Sports venues
Parks and gardens
Transport

Languages

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.