Pioneer River

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Pioneer River
View of Mackay from helecopter - 2.jpg
The Pioneer River weaves through Mackay
Origin Pinnacle Ranges near Epsom
Mouth Pacific Ocean at East Mackay
Basin countries  Australia
Length 120 km
Basin area 1550 km²

The Pioneer River is a river system in Queensland, Australia that flows through the city of Mackay. 120 km in length, the river rises in the Pinnacle Ranges near Epsom, 63 km south-west of Mackay. The river flows in a northerly direction into the Pioneer Valley, one of Australia's richest sugar cane areas. At Mirani, the river swings around to the east before flowing into the Pacific Ocean at Mackay.

The catchment covers an area of 1500 km².[1] Upper parts of the catchment are too steep for agriculture and remain covered by rainforests and open woodlands.[2] In 2002, a Queensland Government report found that the local sugar industry had allowed five pesticides to enter the river, exceeding acceptable standards.[3]

The longest tributary of the Pioneer River is Cattle Creek with the other major tributary being Blacks Creek.[2] The river is too shallow for navigation, drying sandbanks encountered only a few kilometres upstream of the river mouth. During king tides the Pioneer River may experience a tidal range of up to 6.4 metres.

The river has a number of water storage facilities built along its course including Teemburra Dam, Dumbleton Weir, Mirani Weir and Marian Weir. It is crossed by the Bruce Highway and the North Coast railway line in Mackay.


The river is prone to flooding, most recently in February 2008 when a height of just over 7.0 metres (classed as moderate flooding according to the Bureau of Meteorology) was recorded at a gauge in the centre of Mackay.[1] This height was reached after extremely heavy rain fell over Mackay (600 mm in 6  hours). After the devastating Mackay cyclone of 21 January 1918, the river was flooded for weeks. The Pioneer has reached major flood levels on 20 occasions since records first began in 1884, with the highest reaching 9.14 metres in 1958.[1]

Dumbleton Weir located upstream of Mackay on the Pioneer River

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Coordinates: 21°09′S 149°12′E / 21.150°S 149.200°E / -21.150; 149.200