Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Lake Warden System


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

07 June 1990

Mullet Lake is located in a large samphire marsh, Photo: Jennifer Higbid DEC

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 5, 6


Western Australia


1999 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

South-West Coast

Wetland type: 

  • J - Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
  • Q - Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes
  • R - Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flats

Key features of the site:

The Lake Warden System Ramsar site is located adjacent to Esperance on the south coast of Western Australia. The site is a system of saline lakes and marsh areas behind beach-front dunes. It includes Lake Warden, Woody Lake, Wheatfield Lake, Station Lake, Mullet Lake, Ewans Lake, part of Windabout Lake and the reserved land surrounding the lakes.

The water entering the lakes comes from the surrounding catchment through groundwater and surface runoff. Coramup Creek drains into Wheatfield Lake, which becomes interconnected to the lakes during winter. Station and Mullet Lakes are occasionally connected to the sea via Bandy Creek. The lakes are a mix of almost permanent to ephemeral wetlands. The site also has a number of small, shallow, brackish wetlands that arise from springs at the eastern end of the site.

Mullet Lake and the wetlands to the east of it are located in a large Samphire marsh. Wheatfield Lake and wetlands to the west occur in stabilised sand-dunes which support low woodland on the higher ground between the lakes. Although there is no emergent vegetation in the lakes, Melaleuca trees, rushes and sedges grow on the shorelines. Acacia, Banksia, mallee and scrub are present on higher ground.

The lakes provides important habitat for waterbirds, including a significant proportion of the rare Hooded Plover population, which breed regularly at Station Lake and Lake Warden. Other species that use the sites include Australian Shelducks, Black Swans, Grey Teals, Banded Stilts and Chestnut Teal. Twenty-three species listed under international migratory bird conservation agreements have also been recorded at the site.

One of the primary purposes of the sites reserves is for conservation. The close location of the site to Esperance has made it a desirable location for human recreation such as sightseeing, bushwalking, picnicking, nature appreciation, horse-riding, waterskiing and bird-watching.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Lake Warden System Ramsar site meets three of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Lake Warden System Ramsar site is in the South Western Coastal Drainage Division. It is a good representative example of saline coastal lakes on the south coast of Western Australia.

Criterion 5: More than 30,000 waterbirds have been recorded using the Lake Warden System. The number of individual waterbirds that use the lake probably exceeds 20,000 regularly, and the annual data on water depth suggest that conditions are suitable for use by 20,000 waterbirds at least several times within a 25 year period.

Criterion 6: The Lake Warden System Ramsar site support well over 1% of the population of Hooded Plovers in south-western Australia. This species, which is restricted to southern Australia, breeds regularly at Station Lake and Lake Warden.

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.