11 June, 2011

Which Barwon is Which?

I've spend quite a bit of time now researching the Barwon River and one thing I discovered rather quickly, is that our Barwon, isn't the only Barwon River in the country.
The other is a river in northern New South Wales which forms part of the Queensland-New South Wales border north of the township of Mungindi. It is an extension of the Macintryre River which flows south and west through the towns of Collarenebri, Walgett and Brewarrina before meeting the Culgoa River, at which point they together become the Darling River to the north east of Bourke.
Bunyip Pool at Buckley's Falls
Like its southern namesake, this Barwon River also takes its name from the local Aboriginal population, however in this case the name derives from a word meaning "wide stream". So too, it was of great significance to the lives of the indigenous population who lived along its banks. In Victoria, the Wathaurong people caught fish, trapped eels at Buckley's Falls, hunted the animals which lived by the river and harvested the plants which grew in and beside the water.
In New South Wales, the indigenous people of the Barwon belonged to the group of people who spoke the Ngiyampaa language. They constructed rock channels and weirs in the river at Brewarrina to trap fish, hunted animals, collected food along the riverbanks and told stories of how the river was formed. The Barwon at Brewarrina was a meeting place for many local clans.
Unlike the Barwon in the south, that in the north lies completely inland, having no outlet to the sea, except via the mouth of the Murray River, hundreds of miles away in South Australia. The northern Barwon runs through a wide, grassy flood plain with open forest and areas of rich soil. It is a slow-running river with a fall in elevation of only about 86m over its 890km length. The climate is considered arid to semi-arid. The annual rainfall along the river varies between 260mm in the west and 500mm per year in the east.
By contrast, the cool, temperate rainforest of the Otways where the headwaters of the Victorian Barwon rise before flowing down to the plains below, is very different. The altitude of the West Barwon Dam is about 260 metres above sea level, resulting in a significantly greater fall in elevation along the 160km length of the river to its estuary at Barwon Heads than that of the Barwon in the north. The average annual rainfall for parts of the Otways is around 1,400mm per year - the highest in the state and much wetter than further north. Even as far downstream as Geelong, the average annual rainfall still exceeds 500mm. This  is over a catchment area of 8,590 square km which is in contrast to the 139,000 square km catchment of the Barwon in New South Wales.
Also a contrast, is the tidal influence and the flow of sea water upstream from the mouth of the southern river, influencing both the flora and fauna of the lower parts of the river. This is not a consideration for the land-locked northern river.
Carp discarded at Breakwater
Another point common to both rivers is fish and a long history of fishing as mentioned above, however the species of fish in each river varies somewhat. In the north, Bony Herring, Golden Perch, and Yellowbelly are common whilst Murray Cod, Gudgeon, Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish are less common.
In the south, the Barwon in Victoria is fished for the following species along different parts of its length: Southern Pygmy Perch, Mountain Galaxia, Spotted Galaxia, Common Galaxia, Congoli, Australian Smelt, Black Bream, Mulloway, Silver Trevally, Australian Salmon, Elephant Fish, King George Whiting, Sand Mullet, Yellow-eye Mullet, Tench, Short-finned Eels, Goldfish, Blackfish and Estuary Perch. Introduced Carp and Red Fin are common. Flathead Gudgeon, Pinkie Snapper, Barracouta and Brown Trout are also found, but less commonly. The Australian Grayling is a protected species.
One of these days, I will have to take my camera to visit that "other" Barwon and make some comparisons for myself.


  1. Hi

    Have enjoyed reading your posts and also the bird photos you have accumulated on your site. They have helped me identify different birds that I have seen in the area and have become a great resource.

    I was wondering if you would be able to help me identify a bird call I inadvertently caught on my phone while filming some large carp in the Barwon River downstream of Buckley's Falls? Try as I might I have had no luck working out what it is.

    I've uploaded the video to YouTube if you are interested in having a listen and trying to identify the call.


  2. Hi Justin,
    I wish I had an answer for but I can honestly say I've never heard anything like it! My immediate thought before I read the text on your clip was that it sounded like a person whistling. I'll have a look around and let you know if I come up with anything, but I've never been good at identifying birds by their calls. I do it by sight then identify the call later, generally using the Birds in Backyards website which is great.
    If you're back at Buckley Falls keep an eye out for eels. Everyone (except me) saw one head under a rock below the paper mill a couple of months ago when we were down there to scatter my grandparents' ashes. Would love to get a photo!
    I'm glad you like the blog! Thanks for reading,