Australian Wetlands Database

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Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

15 December 1982

Reflections on Lake Mournpall in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (2002), Photo: Nicky Marshall

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 8




955 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes
  • P - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes floodplain lakes

Key features of the site:

The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes Ramsar site is located in northern Victoria and lies within the Murray-Darling Basin. The site contains 12 floodplain lakes, representing wetlands classified as permanent freshwater lakes and seasonal intermittent freshwater lakes, which are subject to flooding from the Murray River with flows entering the site predominantly via Chalka Creek. This series of interconnected lakes is the most extensive lake system along the Murray River. The Ramsar site is part of the Hattah Lakes Icon Site under The Living Murray program.

The Ramsar site supports a number of vegetation groups, the most dominant of which is Lake Bed Herbland. Other vegetation types include Riverine Grassy Woodland, Intermittent Swampy Woodland and Loamy Sands Mallee. Species such as river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and black box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) provide sheltering and nesting habitat for a range of fauna species, particularly bats, parrots, possums, snakes and waterbirds. The lake beds support submerged and aquatic plant communities when flooded and terrestrial species during dry phases. More than 200 native flora species and 183 native fauna species (excluding invertebrates) have been recorded at the site, including some that are nationally and/or internationally threatened such as the regent parrot (eastern) (Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides), Australian painted snipe (Rostratula australis) and winged peppercress (Lepidium monoplocoides). Twelve species of migratory birds listed under international agreements have been recorded, including white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia).

Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes is an important cultural heritage site. The lakes have been a focus for traditional Aboriginal society for thousands of years, as evidenced by over 1000 registered Aboriginal archaeological sites within the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. The local Indigenous community maintains a strong connection to the area. The Ramsar site is part of a national park which has been reserved for nature conservation and recreational activities including bushwalking, driving, fishing, canoeing, swimming and nature study.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes Ramsar site meets five of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes are the largest series of floodplain lakes along the Murray River and the site is considered representative of a good example of a series of large, hydrologically connected, permanent and intermittent floodplain lakes. The lakes are approximately 15 kilometres from the Murray River with most being fed by Chalka Creek and lie within a National Park. The lakes are the central feature of the floodplain and National Park and are representative of a large relatively intact section of Murray River floodplain.

Criterion 2: Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes is considered to be an important site for three wetland dependent threatened species that are listed at the national and/or international level: the Australian painted snipe, regent parrot (eastern) and winged peppercress. There is a low degree of certainty that the site is important for other listed threatened species that are known to occur at the site, including the Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) and flat-headed galaxias (Galaxias rostratus).

Criterion 3: The Ramsar site and the surrounding National Park support considerable biodiversity, with flora and fauna representative of Murray River floodplain and mallee country. Species richness is high across several groups of biota including plants and waterbirds, being comparable to several other Ramsar sites in the Murray-Darling Basin. The soil seed bank from within the lakes has high species richness and is comparable to that recorded from entire floodplain systems such as Narran Lakes. Native fauna diversity is higher than some nearby floodplain forest systems, which is noteworthy given that the Ramsar boundary does not include significant areas of floodplain, just the lakes up to the high water mark.

Criterion 4: The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes Ramsar site provides habitat for 70 species of wetland birds, of which 34 have been recorded breeding within the site. In addition, the site supports a number of migratory species, notably waterbirds and fish, with 12 waterbirds listed as migratory under the EPBC Act as well as under international migratory species treaties. The site is also considered important for fish breeding.

Criteria 8: This site is considered to be an important nursery area for native fish. Recruitment of juveniles back into the adult population is dependent on the water levels of the lakes being maintained, and for large bodied river specialists there needs to be reconnection to the Murray River for species to return to the riverine habitat. Small bodied wetland specialists breed in the site, with young of the year from fly-specked hardyhead (Craterocephalus stercusmuscarum), carp gudgeon (Hypseleotris spp.), flat-headed gudgeon (Philpnodon grandiceps) and Australian smelt (Retropinna semoni) recorded from the site.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.