Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

23 September 1987

The cliffs at Murtho seen from the Headings Lookout Tower (2003), Photo: Linda Selg

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


South Australia


30,640 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • M - Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls
  • 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
  • R - Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flats
  • Tp - Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Riverland Ramsar site is located in South Australia, in the Murray-Darling Basin. The site runs along the Murray River, from the town of Renmark to the Victorian and New South Wales border.

Covering two systems on the lower floodplain along 80 kilometres of the river, the site incorporates a series of creeks, channels, lagoons, billabongs, swamps and lakes. Extensive areas between these features are flooded during high river levels, with some areas retaining water temporarily.

The area contains a wide range of ecological features and species, including the nationally threatened Regent Parrot, Murray Cod, Murray Tortoise and Southern Bell Frog. There are extensive stands of River Red Gums bordering the creeks and backwaters. The site also contains 11 of the 12 vegetation communities found within the Riverina biogeographical region, such as Black Box woodland.

The Ramsar wetland is an important habitat for a large number of migratory and waterbirds. Significant numbers of waterbird species, such as Red-necked Avocet, Freckled Duck, and Red-kneed Dotterel, have also been recorded at the site.

The Riverland area has a rich cultural history. The Maraura, Ngintait and Erawirung peoples occupied the area for some 12,000 years. The area was first inhabited by European pastoralists in 1846, with irrigation commencing in the area towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Riverland is currently used for grazing, tourism and recreational activities including bush camping, fishing, boating and house boating.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Riverland Ramsar site meets eight of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Riverland Ramsar site is a representative example of a major floodplain system within the Murray Scroll Belt Subregion of the Riverina Biogeographical Region of the Murray Darling Basin.

Criterion 2: The site supports nationally threatened species such as the Regent Parrot, Southern Bell Frog, Murray Cod, and the Murray Hardyhead.

Criterion 3: The Riverland Ramsar site contains a diverse range of habitat types and supports elements of biological diversity that are rare and particularly characteristic of the biogeographical region. In addition, eight species of plants threatened in the state occur in the Ramsar site.

Criterion 4: Riverland provides critical summer or stopover habitat for migratory birds listed under international agreements for the protection of migratory birds in danger of extinction and their environment.

In addition, the site also provides important habitat for nationally significant waterbirds and bush-birds during times of dry climate conditions.

Criterion 5: The site regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds involving fifty-nine species.

Criterion 6: The Riverland Ramsar site provides habitat that regularly supports large populations of Freckled Duck, Red-necked Avocet and Red-kneed Dotterel. Numbers of these species recorded at the site (at times) represent greater than 1% of the estimated global population.

Criterion 7: Riverland supports 14 of the 26 species of freshwater native fish species represented within the Murray-Darling Basin.

Criterion 8: The Chowilla Anabranch within the Riverland wetland is an important pathway for the migration of Golden Perch and Silver Perch around Lock 6 on the River Murray. The site also provides fish breeding and nursery habitats for these and other fish species.

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.