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The Yarra River

The Yarra River

‘Precious in the landscape’
The Yarra River is arguably Melbourne’s greatest natural asset. Its fresh, flowing water and well-vegetated corridor supported aborigines for thousands of years. After 1835, these attributes saw white man settle and build the great modern city that is today’s Melbourne.

The Yarra is still important to Melburnians. It is the main source of the city’s drinking water.

The Yarra’s meandering corridor is, no less, the centrepiece of the city’s largest Green Wedge and in turn, home to abundant wildlife. And this elongated natural environment is the verdant counterbalance to urban congestion.

As the Yarra River winds down from the mountains in the east, to the Bay in the west, it passes through different landscapes. Just upstream from our part of the river, the Yarra leaves the flat floodplains at Yarra Glen and heads across alluvial terrain once etched by hundreds of billabongs.  

When it flows through the Warrandyte Gorge country, the river falls many metres over a progressive set of rapids and rills that aerate the water and help clean it of pollution. It is healthy enough to provide habitat for native
fish including Murray Cod.

Because the steep, rocky landscape discouraged broad-scale agriculture and land clearing the river is at its most picturesque in an d around the Osborne Peninsula,

The rich layering of native plant and animal life on the Peninsula can be attributed directly to the river’s proximity. The lower banks are home to semi-aquatic plants that have evolved to thrive in conditions of regular flood inundation, making a dynamic and seasonally-changing water level essential to the survival of niche species.

The historically regular flood events also deposited sediments in low lying areas, resulting in rich, deep soil supporting a lushness of vegetation that reaches it’s zenith in huge Manna gums.

The Yarra defines so much about the neighbourhood of the Osborne Peninsula.

Less than half the river it once was

The quantity of flow in a river system is just as important as the quality of the water. With most of Melbourne’s drinking water deriving from the Yarra catchment through a series of major harvesting and holding dams upstream, the median daily flow at Warrandyte is now less than half of the natural, or historic
flow. This reduction is even greater in summer.

yarra river rapids

misty yarra river