Australian Wetlands Database

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Narran Lake Nature Reserve


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

14 June 1999

This area is among the highest ranked sites for species richness, number of breeding species and total number of birds (2008),  Photo: Dragi Markovic

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 4, 6


New South Wales


5,531 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • P - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes floodplain lakes
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • W - Shrub-dominated wetlands; shrub swamps, shrub-dominated freshwater marshes, shrub carr, alder thicket on inorganic soils
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Narran Lake Nature Reserve is situated in the north-west of New South Wales (NSW), approximately 75 kilometres north-west of Walgett and 50 kilometres north-east of Brewarrina. Narran Lake Nature Reserve covers part of a large terminal wetland of the Narran River in NSW at the end of the Condamine River system which flows from Queensland. The Narran River lies within the Murray-Darling Basin.

The Ramsar site contains two open water areas, Clear Lake and Back Lake. Annual inflows to the Narran wetlands are highly variable and Back and Clear Lakes will usually retain water for approximately 4-6 months following inundation.

The lakes are surrounded by extensive channelised wetlands vegetated with Lignum, River Cooba, and River Red Gum. The eastern half of the Reserve is low, gently undulating, sandy and rocky ridge country. Other vegetation communities within the Ramsar site include sedges and ephemeral herbs, Common Reed, Coolibah and Black Box woodland. Lignum, River Red Gum, River Cooba and Coolibah all require flooding to grow and regenerate.

Narran Lake Nature Reserve provides habitat for numerous waterbird species listed under international migratory bird conservation agreements. These include Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Latham's Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The extensive area of Lignum is a particularly important habitat for bird breeding events, supporting large nesting colonies of spoonbills, cormorants, and other waterbird species.

The Narran Lakes area also has a very high traditional, as well as contemporary, social and spiritual significance Indigenous people. Traditionally, the area was a common meeting place for a number of Indigenous peoples. In present times, the lake area is used by local Indigenous communities for educational purposes. A number of archaeological sites have been found within the Reserve, such as shell middens, hearth sites with clay ovens, quarries, and artefact scatters. Current use of the site is focused on nature conservation, education and recreational activities.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Narran Lake Nature Reserve Ramsar site meets three of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Narran Lake Nature Reserve is a particularly good representative example of a natural or near-natural wetland that is characteristic of the Darling Riverine Plains biogeographical region. The reserve contains a considerable diversity of habitats, including some of the largest expanses of Lignum in NSW, which are significant as an excellent example of a relatively undisturbed terminal lake system in NSW.

Criterion 4: The Reserve's wetlands flood more frequently, and also hold their water for longer periods, than most other wetlands in north-western NSW. This allows these wetlands to be among the highest ranked sites in NSW for species richness, number of breeding species and total number of birds. Birds recorded breeding within the Ramsar site includes Australian Pelican, Rufous Night Heron, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill and Australian White (Sacred) Ibis. Narran Lake Nature Reserve also supports a significant number of internationally important migratory bird species.

Criterion 6: The large numbers of Black-winged Stilts, Red-necked Avocets, Marsh Sandpiper, Straw-necked Ibis and Red-kneed Dotterel recorded in the Narran Lake wetlands suggests that it is nationally and internationally important for these waterbird 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.