Ashburton River (Western Australia)

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Ashburton River
Ashburton River, Western Australia.jpg
Ashburton River at Nanutarra
Ashburton River (Western Australia) is located in Australia
Ashburton River (Western Australia)
Location of river mouth in Australia
Physical characteristics
 • locationPilbara region
 • coordinates21°41′25″S 114°54′53″E / 21.69017°S 114.91470°E / -21.69017; 114.91470
 • elevation571 metres (1,873 ft)[1]
 • location
Indian Ocean 20 km (12 mi) SW of Onslow
 • coordinates
21°44′15″S 114°56′22″E / 21.73760°S 114.93941°E / -21.73760; 114.93941Coordinates: 21°44′15″S 114°56′22″E / 21.73760°S 114.93941°E / -21.73760; 114.93941
Length680 kilometres (423 mi)
Basin size66,850 square kilometres (25,811 sq mi)
Ashburton River near Nanutarra roadhouse

The Ashburton River is located within the Pilbara region of Western Australia.


The river rises approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) south of Newman and flows in a west-north-westerly direction until discharging into the Indian Ocean approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) south west of Onslow.[2][3] The North West Coastal Highway crosses the river at Nanutarra. The river has a length of approximately 680 kilometres (420 mi). The river basin covers an area of 66,850 square kilometres (25,810 sq mi) and includes the towns of Paraburdoo and Tom Price.[4]


Some of the larger tributaries of the Ashburton river include Beasley River, Henry River, Hardey River and Ethel river.[5] Some of the smaller tributaries include Duck Creek, Turee Creek, Tunnel Creek, Angelo River, Stockyard Creek, Gorge Creek, Goldfields Creek, Peepingee Creek and Jubricoo Creek.


The Ashburton River is believed to have first been named Willem's River during the voyage of the Dutch East India Company ship Mauritius in 1618, under command of Supercargo Willem Janszoon, and captained by Lenaert Jacobszoon. It was one of the few features named on a nautical chart made in 1627.[6] This area was first visited by Europeans in 1618, when the crew of the ship Mauritius encountered the Western Australian coastline, and mapped a river they named Willem's River.[7]

Janszoon was the captain of the Duyfken in 1605–1606, when part of the Gulf of Carpentaria was mapped, during the earliest documented visit to Australia by a vessel from Europe.[7]

Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht ("Chart of the Land of Eendracht") is a 1627 chart made by Hessel Gerritsz and is one of the earliest charts showing the coastline of Western Australia.[7] The Willem River is located to the extreme left (north) end of the coastline on the chart and a closer view is provided below.

Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht (detail showing Willem River) - Chart by Hessel Gerritsz, also written "Hessel Gerritszoon".
Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht, enlarged detail showing Willem River by Hessel Gerritsz, (reoriented with north to top).

The chart shows Willems revier, besocht by 't volck van 't Schip Mauritius in Iulius A° 1618 ("Willem's River, visited by the crew of the ship Mauritius in July 1618").

The detail of the river’s position on the chart backs up the claim that this is the Ashburton River, which, being at 21 degrees 40 minutes south and 114 degrees 56 east, is almost exactly the latitude as shown on the chart, and given by Hessel Gerritsz as 21 degrees 45 minutes south latitude.[7] The chart is oriented with north to the left, showing lines of latitude from 20th parallel south to the 35th parallel south at the base of the map. The lines of latitude appear to be very accurate, matching known features through the length of the chart.

Other factors to back up that this is the Ashburton River is that it takes almost a 90 degree turn north-east, once in the mouth, as shown on the chart, and the northern headland of the river mouth matches closely the shape of the headland as shown on the chart.

The township of Onslow was located at the mouth of the Ashburton River where a jetty was used as the town's and region's port, but once the new deep water port facility was completed at Beadon point 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north of the old townsite, the townsite was moved.[8]


The river supports a wide variety of fish including barramundi and mangrove jack.[9] The occasional salt water crocodile is also spotted in the river.[10] Bird species such as black swans, the striated heron,[11][unreliable source?] Australian bustard and bush stone-curlew can be found along the river's banks.


  1. ^ "Bonzle Digital Atlas - Map of Ashburton River, WA". 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2008.
  2. ^ "Wheatstone Project, Coastal Processes Monitoring and Management Plan" (PDF). Chevron Australia Pty Ltd. 29 September 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  3. ^ Water Resources Inventory 2014, Water Availability, Quality and Trends (PDF) (Report). Perth, Western Australia: Department of Water, Government of Western Australia. May 2014. ISBN 978-1-922124-19-7. ISSN 1834-2620. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Waters and Rivers commission - Ashburton River Basin". 2007. Archived from the original on 21 April 2005. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  5. ^ "History of river names – A". Western Australian Land Information Authority. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  6. ^ Tent, Jan (March 2006). "The importance of bygone placenames". Placenames Australia: Newsletter of the Australian National Placenames Survey: 10–11., cited in Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht
  7. ^ a b c d J. E. Heeres LL. D. Professor at the Dutch Colonial Institute Delft. The Part Borne by the Dutch in the Discovery of Australia 1606-1765 (txt) (A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook - Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit) (1 ed.). 46 Great Russell Street W. C.: The Royal Dutch Geographical Society in Commemoration of the XXVth Anniversary of its Foundation. 0501231.txt. Retrieved 28 January 2012.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  8. ^ "History of country town names – O". Western Australian Land Information Authority. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  9. ^ "EPA - Animals of Walkabout Creek" (PDF). 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 May 2006. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  10. ^ "ABC News - Croc sighted in Ashburton River". 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2007.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Bird Forum - Striated Heron". 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2007.