Brisbane River

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Brisbane River
Skylines of Brisbane in winter misty morning seen from Kangaroo Point, Queensland 04.jpg
Brisbane River from Kangaroo Point
Brisbane River is located in Queensland
Brisbane River
Location of river mouth in Queensland
EtymologyThomas Brisbane
Native nameMaiwar[citation needed]
RegionSouth-East Queensland
Physical characteristics
SourceMount Stanley
 • locationeast of Nanango
 • coordinates26°39′S 152°22′E / 26.650°S 152.367°E / -26.650; 152.367
 • elevation213 m (699 ft)
MouthMoreton Bay
 • location
east of Brisbane
 • coordinates
27°24′S 153°9′E / 27.400°S 153.150°E / -27.400; 153.150Coordinates: 27°24′S 153°9′E / 27.400°S 153.150°E / -27.400; 153.150
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length344 km (214 mi)
Basin size13,600 km2 (5,300 sq mi)approx.
Basin features
 • leftStanley River, Moggill Creek, Breakfast Creek
 • rightLockyer Creek, Bremer River, Oxley Creek, Norman Creek, Bulimba Creek

The Brisbane River is the longest river in South-East Queensland, Australia, and flows through the city of Brisbane, before emptying into Moreton Bay on the Coral Sea. John Oxley, the first European to explore the river, named it after the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane in 1823. The penal colony of Moreton Bay later adopted the same name, eventually becoming the present city of Brisbane. The river is a tidal estuary and the water is brackish from its mouth through the majority of the Brisbane metropolitan area westward to the Mount Crosby Weir. The river is wide and navigable throughout the Brisbane metropolitan area.

The river travels 344 km (214 mi) from Mount Stanley. The river is dammed by the Wivenhoe Dam, forming Lake Wivenhoe, the main water supply for Brisbane. The waterway is a habitat for the rare Queensland lungfish, Brisbane River cod (extinct), and bull sharks.

Early travellers along the waterway admired the natural beauty, abundant fish and rich vegetation along its banks. From 1862 the Brisbane River has been dredged for navigation purposes. The river served as an important carriageway between Brisbane and Ipswich before a railway linking the towns was built in 1875. By the late 1920s, water quality in the river had significantly deteriorated.

Multiple major floods occurred in 1893. In 1974, the most damaging flood on record occurred, causing the 66,000-tonne vessel Robert Miller (largest ship ever built on the river) to break free from its mooring. Another major flood occurred in January 2011.

Extensive port facilities have been constructed on the Fisherman Islands, now known as the Port of Brisbane, located at the mouth of the river on Moreton Bay. There are 16 major bridges that cross the river. The Clem Jones Tunnel, opened in 2010, is the river's first underground crossing for road transport. The CityCat ferry service collects and delivers passengers along the inner-city reaches of the river.


According to Archibald Meston and Tom Petrie in 1901, the Aboriginal people of the Brisbane area did not have a single name for the river, but rather they named individual reaches and bends.[1][2]

The use of the word ‘Maiwar’ for the river has now become widespread, to the extent that the Queensland Government used the name for a new electorate in 2017.[citation needed]

The river was named after Governor Thomas Brisbane.[3] The name is of Scottish origin, dating from at least 1643, from their family lands at Rothiebrisbane, Aberdeenshire.[citation needed]


Course of the lower reaches of the Brisbane River from Ipswich to Moreton Bay.

The Brisbane River East and West branches traditionally have their headwaters in the ranges east of Kingaroy.[4] The two branches merge into a single watercourse south of Mount Stanley. Using an alternative modern definition, the source is located at the top of Fig Tree Gully in the Bunya Mountains, which are the headwaters of the river's longest tributary Cooyar Creek. Water from the highest point in the catchment has fallen on the Bunya Mountains, 992m above sea level.

The junction of Cooyar Creek and Brisbane River is south of Avoca Vale, and the river then makes its way south past townships including Linville, Moore and Toogoolawah before being joined by the Stanley River, just south of Somerset Dam.

The river runs from there into Lake Wivenhoe, created by the Wivenhoe Dam. Beyond the dam, the river meanders eastward, meeting the Bremer River near Ipswich, then making its way through Brisbane's western suburbs, including Jindalee, Indooroopilly and Toowong.

The Brisbane River then flows past wharves including Pinkenba Wharf and Portside Wharf, past Bulwer Island and Luggage Point through the Port of Brisbane and into southern Bramble Bay an embayment of Moreton Bay.

Kangaroo Point Cliffs[edit]

On the southern side of the river, opposite Gardens Point, are the Kangaroo Point Cliffs; made from Triassic aged volcanic rock of rhyolite composition called Brisbane tuff. The Kangaroo Point Cliffs were created by a quarrying operation that, according to Allan Cunninghams' Field Book, was underway prior to 1829 when he observed a "stone wharf presumably used for landing the blocks of stone ferried across the river for the construction of buildings in the settlement". This was in the vicinity of Edward Street ferry terminal. It was quarrying this volcanic rock that formed part of the hard labour undertaken by the convicts of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, which not only provided the convicts with the punishment of hard labour but also provided the settlement with a useful building material. Many of the early buildings including the Commissariat Store, Brisbane were built by convicts using tuff from this quarry. After the penal settlement was closed, the Petrie family leased the cliffs and quarried the tuff for use in their construction projects, but ultimately quarrying this material became uneconomic without the free labour of the convicts.

The volcanic rock Ignimbrite which formed the cliffs was deposited in the Triassic period about 220 million years ago.[5] They currently form the banks of the Brisbane River.


A number of the reaches of the Brisbane River are named, including the following listed below (from upstream to downstream), together with their location relative to tributaries of the river and river crossings:

Reach name Suburb(s) Coordinates Image Notes
Dalys Reach 27°33′14″S 152°50′56″E / 27.554°S 152.849°E / -27.554; 152.849 (11 December 2017) [6]
Bremer River
Moggill Reach 27°35′24″S 152°51′22″E / 27.590°S 152.856°E / -27.590; 152.856 (Moggill Reach) [7]
Six Mile Creek
Redbank Reach 27°35′24″S 152°51′54″E / 27.590°S 152.865°E / -27.590; 152.865 (Redbank Reach) [8]
Goodna Creek
Goodna Reach 27°35′38″S 152°53′28″E / 27.594°S 152.891°E / -27.594; 152.891 (Goodna Reach) [9]
Woogaroo Creek
Cockatoo Reach 27°35′17″S 152°53′53″E / 27.588°S 152.898°E / -27.588; 152.898 (Cockatoo Reach) [10]
Wolston Creek
Goggs Reach 27°33′54″S 152°53′53″E / 27.565°S 152.898°E / -27.565; 152.898 (Goggs Reach) [11]
Popes Reach 27°33′29″S 152°54′04″E / 27.558°S 152.901°E / -27.558; 152.901 (Popes Reach) [12]
Pullen Pullen Creek
Pullen Reach 27°33′00″S 152°54′14″E / 27.550°S 152.904°E / -27.550; 152.904 (Pullen Reach) [13]
Two Mile Reach 27°32′35″S 152°54′54″E / 27.543°S 152.915°E / -27.543; 152.915 (Two Mile Reach) [14]
Mount Ommaney Creek
Mount Ommaney Reach 27°32′06″S 152°55′37″E / 27.535°S 152.927°E / -27.535; 152.927 (Mount Ommaney Reach) [15]
Moggill Creek
Centenary Bridge
Mermaid Reach 27°31′37″S 152°56′53″E / 27.527°S 152.948°E / -27.527; 152.948 (Mermaid Reach) StateLibQld 1 166263 Quarry works on the Brisbane River at Darra, Brisbane, 1915.jpg [16]
Sherwood Reach 27°31′41″S 152°58′16″E / 27.528°S 152.971°E / -27.528; 152.971 (Sherwood Reach) [17]
Chelmer Reach
27°30′39″S 152°58′03″E / 27.5108°S 152.9675°E / -27.5108; 152.9675 (Chelmer Reach) Brisbane River at Chelmer, Queensland. 02.JPG [18]
Walter Taylor Bridge
Indooroopilly Railway Bridge
Albert Bridge
Jack Pesch Bridge
Indooroopilly Reach
  • Indooroopilly
  • Chelmer
27°30′58″S 152°59′13″E / 27.516°S 152.987°E / -27.516; 152.987 (Indooroopilly Reach) StateLibQld 1 44115 Brisbane River punt crossing from Chelmer to Indooroopilly in 1906.jpg [19]
Canoe Reach
27°31′16″S 153°00′32″E / 27.521°S 153.009°E / -27.521; 153.009 (Canoe Reach) Queensland State Archives 191 Brisbane River at Yeronga c 1934.png [20]
Long Pocket Reach
27°30′36″S 152°59′56″E / 27.510°S 152.999°E / -27.510; 152.999 (Long Pocket Reach) StateLibQld 1 213992 View of Yeronga from Dutton Park, 1929.jpg [21]
Cemetery Reach 27°29′53″S 153°01′12″E / 27.498°S 153.020°E / -27.498; 153.020 (Cemetery Reach) StateLibQld 2 161072 Rowboat on the river at Dutton Park, 1906.jpg [22]
Eleanor Schonell Bridge
St Lucia Reach 27°29′28″S 153°00′11″E / 27.491°S 153.003°E / -27.491; 153.003 (St Lucia Reach) Queensland State Archives 526 Looking from Highgate Hill towards Fairfield Annerley Yeronga and the University of Queensland St Lucia November 1948.png [23]
Toowong Reach 27°28′59″S 152°59′49″E / 27.483°S 152.997°E / -27.483; 152.997 (Toowong Reach) Regatta ferry wharf after 2011 flood.jpg [24]
Milton Reach
27°28′26″S 153°00′18″E / 27.474°S 153.005°E / -27.474; 153.005 (Milton Reach) StateLibQld 1 92932 Fishing from the northern bank of the Brisbane River at Toowong, along Milton Reach, Brisbane, 1948.jpg [25]
Go Between Bridge
Merivale Bridge
William Jolly Bridge
Kurilpa Bridge
Victoria Bridge
South Brisbane Reach 27°28′23″S 153°01′16″E / 27.473°S 153.021°E / -27.473; 153.021 (South Brisbane Reach) StateLibQld 1 169607 South Brisbane Reach of the Brisbane River.jpg [26]
Goodwill Bridge
Captain Cook Bridge
Town Reach
27°28′26″S 153°01′55″E / 27.474°S 153.032°E / -27.474; 153.032 (Town Reach) Queensland State Archives 141 Town Reach Brisbane River looking from Kangaroo Point c 1932.png [27]
Petrie Bight
27°27′58″S 153°01′55″E / 27.466°S 153.032°E / -27.466; 153.032 (Petrie Bight) Queensland State Archives 30 Circular Quay Petrie Bight Brisbane June 1927.png [28]
Story Bridge
Shafston Reach
27°28′12″S 153°02′20″E / 27.47°S 153.039°E / -27.47; 153.039 (Shafston Reach) Brisbane ST 03.jpg [29]
Norman Creek
Humbug Reach 27°28′23″S 153°03′04″E / 27.473°S 153.051°E / -27.473; 153.051 (Humbug Reach) StateLibQld 1 117580 View of East Brisbane from New Farm Park, ca. 1930.jpg [30]
Bulimba Reach 27°26′56″S 153°03′00″E / 27.449°S 153.05°E / -27.449; 153.05 (Bulimba Reach) CityCat and Bulimba 09.2013 02.jpg [31]
Breakfast Creek
Hamilton Reach 27°26′24″S 153°03′18″E / 27.440°S 153.055°E / -27.440; 153.055 (Hamilton Reach) StateLibQld 1 158373 Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River, ca. 1912.jpg [32]
Quarries Reach 27°26′46″S 153°05′38″E / 27.446°S 153.094°E / -27.446; 153.094 (Quarries Reach) Gateway Bridge aerial3.JPG [33]
Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges
Bulimba Creek
Lytton Reach 27°25′37″S 153°07′34″E / 27.427°S 153.126°E / -27.427; 153.126 (Lytton Reach) Cargo ship and RML 64 pounder guns Fort Lytton Flickr 5825977624.jpg [34]
Quarantine Flats Reach 27°24′29″S 153°08′53″E / 27.408°S 153.148°E / -27.408; 153.148 (Quarantine Flats Reach) [35]
Moreton Bay


The following major tributaries flow into the Brisbane River from the north; Breakfast Creek, Moggill Creek and the Stanley River. On the southside Bulimba Creek, Norman Creek, Oxley Creek, Bremer River and Lockyer Creek waterways enter the Brisbane River. The following smaller creeks also flow into the river; Cressbrook Creek, Cooyar Creek, Cubberla Creek, Black Snake Creek,[36] Wolston Creek, Woogaroo Creek, Goodna Creek, Six Mile Creek, Pullen Pullen Creek and Kholo Creek.


Aerial view of Brisbane and the Brisbane River.
The Brisbane River a short distance downstream of Wivenhoe Dam near Fernvale, while the spillway is open.
The Port of Brisbane at the mouth of the Brisbane River on Moreton Bay

Before European settlement, the Brisbane River was spiritually important and a vital food source for the Aboriginal people of the Turrbal people, primarily through fishing in the tidal sections downstream, with fishing and firestick farming in the upper reaches where there was freshwater, depending on the season.[37]

Four European navigators, namely James Cook, Matthew Flinders, John Bingle[38] and William Edwardson,[39] all visited Moreton Bay but failed to discover the river. The exploration by Flinders took place during his expedition from Port Jackson north to Hervey Bay in 1799. He spent a total of 15 days in the area, touching down at Woody Point and several other spots, but failed to discover the mouth of the river although there were suspicions of its existence. This is consistent with accounts of many other rivers along the east coast of Australia, which could not be found by seaward exploration but were discovered by inland travellers.[40]

On 21 March 1823, four ticket-of-leave convicts sailing south from Sydney on a timber getting mission to Illawarra, Thomas Pamphlett, John Finnegan, Richard Parsons and John Thompson were blown north by a storm. They went 21 days without water, continuing north in the belief they had been blown south, during which time Thompson died. They landed on Moreton Island on 16 April and made it to the mainland on the south of the Brisbane River. They immediately began trekking north in order to return to Sydney, still believing themselves to be somewhere south of Jervis Bay.[41] Subsequently, they became the first known Europeans to discover the river, stumbling across it somewhere near the entrance. They walked upstream along its banks for nearly a month before making their first crossing at 'Canoe Reach', the junction of Oxley Creek. It was here they stole a small canoe left by the Turrbal people of the region.

John Oxley was Surveyor General of New South Wales when, in the same year and under orders from Governor Brisbane, he sailed into Moreton Bay looking for a suitable new site for a convict settlement to be established. An entry in Oxley's diary on 19 November 1823 describes his surprise meeting with one of the shipwrecked men:

"We rounded the Point Skirmish about 5 o'clock and observed a number of natives running along the beach towards the vessel, the foremost much lighter in colour than the rest. We were to the last degree astonished when he came abreast the vessel to hear him hail us in good English."

By that time Pamphlett and Finnegan were living with natives near Bribie Island. Parsons, who had continued to travel north in search of Sydney, was picked up by Oxley on 11 September 1824.

On 2 December 1823, Oxley and Stirling, with Finnegan as a somewhat reluctant guide, entered the river and sailed upstream as far as present-day Goodna.[42]: 191 [43] Oxley noted the abundant fish and tall pine trees. Early European explorers marvelled at the sheer natural beauty they witnessed while travelling up the lower reaches.[44]

Reports by early European explorers such as Allan Cunningham and Oxley indicate rainforest once fringed the Brisbane River and its major tributaries, especially on the broader floodplains such as St Lucia and Seventeen Mile Rocks. The coastal lowlands were extensively vegetated with Melaleuca woodlands in low lying, poorly drained coastal areas. When first described by Europeans, the lower reaches of the Brisbane River were fringed by a mosaic of open forest, closed forest and rainforest.[44]

A historic photo of the Brisbane River

In the same year of 1823, the river was named after Sir Thomas Brisbane, the then Governor of New South Wales. Upon the establishment of a local settlement in 1824, other explorers such as Allan Cunningham, Patrick Logan and Major Edmund Lockyer made expeditions and surveys further upstream, and, in May 1825, the Moreton Bay penal colony at Redcliffe under the command of Heny Miller relocated to North Quay.[42]: 192 

The entrance to the Brisbane River was surveyed and marked with buoys in May 1825 by Pilot John M Gray sent from Sydney for the purpose by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane. Gray also transferred the soldiers and convicts from the First Settlement at Redcliffe at this time.

The first small private wharves were built on the river in about 1848.[42]: 197  and the once popular, shark-proof river baths were first built in 1857 at Kangaroo Point.[45]: 7 

From 1862 the Brisbane River has been dredged for navigation purposes.[46] Throughout much of the 20th century large quantities of sand and gravel were extracted from the estuary of the river. Since the rate of materials being deposited is not as high as that which was removed, the river has acted as a subaqueous mine.

In 1865, water police were stationed on board Proserpine, a hulk moored at the mouth of the Brisbane River.[47]

In 1866, there was a breakwater built at the junction of the Bremer and Brisbane rivers that was designed to stop shingle from blocking the access to the Bremer's boat channel. The first pile light using kerosene was built in 1882.[42]: 198  The steel framed light also served as an early port signal station.

In February 1896, one of the river’s worst disasters occurred with the capsize of the ferry Pearl (which struck the anchor chain of the government yacht Lucinda) with the loss of around 40 lives.

20th century[edit]

Brisbane River, from Victoria Bridge, showing Goodwill Bridge and a CityCat ferry.

By 1928, due to the early settlement of Brisbane, the water quality had deteriorated to the point where several public baths had to cease sourcing water from the river.[45]: 3  Yet even up to the 1930s, the water was said to be very clear, with reports of people seeing the river bed 5 to 6 m (16 to 20 ft) below the surface. Swimming was once popular at Oxley Point under the Walter Taylor Bridge.[48] In the middle tidal reaches in more recent times, visibility has been about 0.2 m (8 in).[49] As Brisbane grew, the condition of the river worsened until at its worst it was no more than an open sewer and waste dump. The banks were cleared of timber and introduced animals and plants rapidly changed the river's ecology to its detriment.[45]: 6 

On 25 March 1941, a USA goodwill flotilla arrived in the city docking at wharves along the River.[45]: 25  The largest ship built on the river was the Robert Miller.[50] Construction was near complete when the 66,000 tonne vessel became un-moored in the 1974 Brisbane flood. In 1977, Queen Elizabeth II switched on the Jubilee Fountain positioned in front of the proposed Queensland Cultural Centre. The jets pushed the floodlit river water up to 75 m (246 ft) in the air.[51] The floating fountain sank late on the 31 December 1984.[52] 1987 was proclaimed the "Year of the River" by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane at the time, Sallyanne Atkinson.

Over the 20th century, enough obstacles, sand and gravel had been removed from the river that its channel depth increased the tidal flow and tidal range upstream.[53]

21st century[edit]

On 9 August 2020, it was discovered that Google Maps accidentally changed the Brisbane River name to Ithaca Creek after a complaint that Ithaca Creek was incorrectly named Brisbane River.[54]


A NASA image of the 2011 flood. The top of the photo is oriented approximately to the southwest. The light-coloured rooftops of residences and other structures contrast sharply with green vegetation and brown, sediment laden flood-waters. Most visible low-lying areas are inundated by flood-water, perhaps the most striking being Rocklea (upper left). Yeronga (lower left) also has evident regions of flooding, as does a park and golf course located along a bend in the Brisbane River to the south of St Lucia (centre). Flooding becomes less apparent near the higher elevations of Mount Coot-tha (right).

The Brisbane River floods frequently, although the occurrence and magnitude of flooding has diminished following the construction of the Wivenhoe Dam on the upper reaches of the River.

Past floods have resulted in both deepening and reduction in river depth, creation of new sand banks and shoals as well as increased transport of suspended sediment from upstream. Before the invention of modern dredging techniques the sediment deposited by flooding created hazards to ships navigating the river. Even medium-sized vessels no longer travel up the Brisbane River beyond the city reach, and dredging of the upper reaches has ceased, allowing the river to recover substantially from the fine silt dislodged by gravel and sand extraction.

Significant floods have occurred several times since the European settlement of Brisbane.[55] There have been 12 Major flood peaks (over 3.5m)[56] recorded at the Brisbane gauge since records began in 1841, including:

  • 14 January 1841, with a maximum river level of 8.43m at the gauge, the highest flood level recorded to date
  • 10 January 1844, 7.1m flood peak at Brisbane.
  • Feb 1863, 3.8m flood peak
  • Jan 1887, 3.8m flood peak
  • July 1889, 3.8m flood peak
  • Mar 1890, 5.3m flood peak
  • February 1893, a sequence of flood peaks (8.35 metres and 8.09 metres) over two weeks saw the highest recorded flood level in the Brisbane central business district. Seven lives were lost in the Eclipse Colliery at North Ipswich as a direct result of the flooding. Several other lives were lost to drownings.
  • Jun 1897, 5.0m flood peak
  • Feb 1907, 3.6m flood peak
  • 27 January 1974, the largest flood to affect Brisbane City in the 20th Century, with a level of 5.45 metres

Post construction of Wivenhoe Dam

Flooding along the Brisbane River has the potential to be devastating, as documented in 1974, 2011 and 2022.[58] For much of the river's length its banks are relatively high, but topped by a broad plain. The river's meandering course means that flood waters from upstream cannot be quickly discharged into Moreton Bay. Thus higher than normal flows cause river levels to rise rapidly and once the top of the banks are breached the floodwaters can spread over wide areas of the city.


Brisbane River, taken from the grounds of Newstead House

There has been much dredging and widening work done over the years to allow ships to transport cargo to and from Brisbane the river is no longer dredged. The river served as an important carriageway between Brisbane and Ipswich before a railway linking the towns was built in 1875.[42]: 192  By early 1825 buoys were being laid along the South Passage and shortly after that the first pilots were commissioned to guide ships entering from Moreton Bay and another service for those travelling upstream.[42]: 196  Flying boats used the waters of the river in Pinkenba, to take-off for domestic and international destinations in the 1930s.[45]: 20 

The river depth was progressively increased and narrow points widened to allow larger vessels into the river and further upstream. For navigation and safety reasons the Seventeen Mile Rocks were completely removed in 1965 after numerous partially successful attempts in the past. The northern river bank at the mouth of the river has undergone reclamation projects over the years, especially in the suburbs of Hamilton and Pinkenba. More recently, extensive facilities for the Port of Brisbane have been constructed on Fisherman's Island which has also seen significant land reclamation into the bay.

Early rivers crossings were made using small oared boat ferries, beginning in 1843,[45]: 5  followed by steam ferries. In 1865 the first Victoria Bridge, later destroyed in a flood, was built across the river. Professor Hawken of the University of Queensland undertook a study in 1914 to identify the future crossing points for the river.

Historically, the Brisbane River contained upstream bars and shallows and had a natural tidal limit of only 16 km (10 mi). The current tidal limit now extends 85 km (53 mi) upstream due to continual channel dredging.[59]


The first bridge built across the Brisbane River was the original timber Victoria Bridge, opened in 1865 between Brisbane and South Brisbane. The current concrete Victoria Bridge is the 4th to be built on the site, the original bridge collapsed after marine borers weakened its timber piles, and the second was destroyed in the 1893 flood.

As of 2012 the Brisbane River is crossed by 16 major bridges (counting the new second Gateway, now Sir Leo Hielscher Bridge), including the historic 1940 Story Bridge and the tolled Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges. There are two other major bridges upstream (west) of Brisbane, on the D'Aguilar Highway and the Brisbane Valley Highway. The Clem Jones Tunnel, opened in 2010, is the river's first underground crossing for road transport.

The Moggill Ferry continues to provide a crossing for vehicles northeast of Ipswich.

The Albert Bridge was the first railway crossing of the Brisbane River, opened in 1876. It was destroyed in the 1893 flood and replaced by a 2 span design that is flood tolerant. A second bridge was built adjacent to it, opened in 1957 in conjunction with the quadruplication of the railway between Roma Street and Corinda. The Merivale Bridge, opened in 1978, connects the South Brisbane railway system to the City.

Four bridges have been built that cater for pedestrians and bicycles, being the Goodwill Bridge and Kurilpa Bridge in the City area, the Eleanor Schonell Bridge between Dutton Park and St Lucia (which also caters for public buses to the University of Queensland St Lucia campus), and the Jack Pesch Bridge between Indooroopilly and Chelmer. The Brisbane City Council has announced plans for a pedestrian and cycle only bridge between Kangaroo Point and the city.

Brisbane Riverwalk[edit]

The former Brisbane Riverwalk
New Brisbane Riverwalk in 2021

The Brisbane City Council has developed a network of riverwalk pavements along the banks of the Brisbane River.[60] The Riverwalk runs along much of the Brisbane River foreshore throughout the inner-city area, with the longest span running between Newstead and Toowong. Another popular stretch runs beneath the Kangaroo Point Cliffs between South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point. Several spans of the Riverwalk are built out over the Brisbane River.

An interesting section is the floating walkway between the Story Bridge and Merthyr Road New Farm. Brisbane City planners require many developers of formerly private riverfront blocks to create new sections of the Brisbane Riverwalk that are accessible to the public.

During the 2011 floods, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman authorised the destruction of the Brisbane Riverwalk to prevent it floating away and becoming a hazard downstream.[61] The proposed demolition of the Riverwalk was later cancelled.[62]

Early in the morning of 13 January 2011 a several hundred metre long section of the Riverwalk broke away from the main structure and floated downstream. Queensland Police temporarily closed the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges (commonly known as the Gateway Bridge) several times as there were fears that sections of Riverwalk could collide with and damage the bridge. The largest part of the floating boardwalk was safely guided under the bridge by a tugboat and past other infrastructure before being safely secured. Other tugs and Water Police guided other Riverwalk sections under the bridge.[62] The damaged Riverwalk was rebuilt as a fixed structure by the Brisbane City Council.[63] The 18-month construction commenced in early 2013 and was completed in September 2014.[64][65]

Cross river tunnel[edit]

The Clem Jones Tunnel is currently the only cross river tunnel built in Brisbane. It opened on 16 March 2010. The Cross River Rail tunnel is currently under construction and is expected to be complete in 2024.

Environmental concerns[edit]

During the 19th century and early 20th century, the river's surface was periodically choked by large swathes of the noxious weed known as water hyacinth. The plant was originally imported from South America.[66]

Brisbane River from Howard Smith Wharves

Environmentally, the river is in a poor condition and has been so for many years. In 2000, the Brisbane River estuary did not meet the national guidelines for environmental standards.[67] The lower reaches received a very poor rating in the 2008 Healthy Waterways report, an annual assessment of river water quality.[48] The major causes of pollution are excess nutrients, hydrocarbons, pesticides and bacteria which become concentrated in the river and its sediment after flowing off surrounding lands.[68] The river is also considered too murky and it is not recommended to swim in its waters.[69]

Mangroves on the Brisbane River at the CityCat wharf near the QUT

Beginning in the 1950s, the river was dredged for the purpose of extracting sand and gravel. The considerable impacts of that activity include increased turbidity and bank erosion. The effect of the artificial sediment load in Moreton Bay grew to concern environmentalists worried that sediment was choking sea grass paddocks which were grazing territory for dugong. Public outcry led to all commercial dredging being stopped by 1998. [70] Non-extractive dredging continues in the Brisbane River in order to maintain its navigability.[71]

In 2018, the water quality in the Brisbane River failed to meet many Queensland Government standards. Nitrogen and phosphorus exceeded the maximum levels in all tests conducted in the mid-Brisbane River catchment. Results in the lower- and upper- catchments found maximum levels exceeded for the majority of tests for nitrogen and nearly all tests for phosphorus. Nitrogen and phosphorus primarily enter the river as they are washed in from agriculture areas on the banks upstream.[72]

In 2019, research at the University of Queensland indicated that the river’s turbidity cycle (and murky brown colour) is principally driven by exchanges of mud between the channel and mudbanks. However, by planting Crinum pedunculatum in a line parallel to the channel and below the mean water level, the turbidity would reduce to such a degree that the river would appear clear and blue.[73] To date, this has not been attempted by Brisbane City Council.


The river has several important ecological areas where remnant populations of mangroves exist; these include areas around drainage culverts, in Breakfast Creek, New Farm, a small preserve at the city bend, near the Queensland University of Technology and around the shipping terminals at the river's terminus into Moreton Bay. These mangroves have recently become classified as protected nature reserves. The noxious water hyacinth weed is still growing in stretches between Fernvale and the Mount Crosby Weir but only poses a minimal risk to drinking water supplies.[74]


Queensland lungfish[edit]

The Brisbane River at Linville, upstream from Lake Wivenhoe

In 1895–1896, the Queensland lungfish was only found in the Mary and Burnett river systems. Concerned about the species survival, it was introduced into other Queensland waterways with varying success. Self-sustaining populations of lungfish were successfully established in the Brisbane River, the Enoggera Reservoir and the North Pine River.[75]

Brisbane River cod[edit]

The freshwater reaches of the Brisbane River once supported a unique species of cod, the Brisbane River cod, which was similar to Murray cod and closely related to eastern freshwater cod and Mary River cod. Unfortunately this unique native fish became extinct somewhere between the 1930s and 1950s due to habitat degradation and overfishing. The river has been restocked with cod from the Mary River.[76][77]

Bull sharks[edit]

The Brisbane River is home to a very large population of bull sharks, thus swimming is not advised due to the dangers imposed by this predator. Ipswich City Council warns against swimming as far up as Colleges Crossing.[48] There have been four recorded shark attack deaths in the river (1862, 1880, 1901 and 1921), and numerous other fatal attacks in surrounding rivers and estuaries.[78] There have also been numerous attacks on family pets, such as dogs.[79] Bull sharks can be aggressive, grow up to between 7–11.5 feet (2.1–3.5 m) in length and are unusual for a shark species because they can inhabit brackish water (containing less than 50% seawater).[80]

Water Transport[edit]

The river is traversed by CityCats and other ferries in Brisbane, as it winds its way through the city centre.


The Brisbane River hosts numerous events including the Brisbane Festival, Riverfire,[81] and the Brisbane River Classic fishing competition. Many schools and clubs use the river to conduct rowing regattas on Milton Reach. Sailing regattas are also held on this reach as well as the Hamilton reach.

Riverfire, which began in 1998, was a festival held in September each year at South Bank Parklands and surrounding areas (including the Victoria Bridge), to celebrate the Brisbane River. In 2009, the festival merged with Brisbane Festival.[82] Riverfire, which is held at the end of the Brisbane Festival, includes a fireworks display. The final dump-and-burn of Riverfire 2010 was able to be seen as far as the Gold Coast and Toowoomba as the F-111 climbed from 300 ft (91 m) to a higher altitude of about 10,000 ft (3,000 m).[83] The 20th Riverfire attracted nearly 500,000 people to the river.[84]

In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, Riverfire was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as an "Events and festivals".[85]

Named in its honour[edit]

The electoral district of Maiwar created in the 2017 Queensland state electoral redistribution was named after the river's indigenous name.[86]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "NATIVE NAME OF THE BRISBANE RIVER". The Queenslander. Vol. LXI, no. 1343. Queensland, Australia. 17 August 1901. p. 328. Retrieved 14 July 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "ETHNOLOGY". The Queenslander. Vol. LXI, no. 1345. Queensland, Australia. 31 August 1901. p. 436 (Unknown). Retrieved 14 July 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "Brisbane River – river in the City of Brisbane (entry 4560)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  4. ^ Brisbane Sunshine Coast (Map) (Fourteenth ed.). Royal Automobile Club of Queensland. July 2002.
  5. ^ "Geology – South East Brisbane". Archived from the original on 9 April 2011.
  6. ^ "Dalys Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48211)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Moggill Reach – reach in City of Ipswich (entry 48208)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Redbank Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48207)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Goodna Reach – reach in City of Ipswich (entry 48204)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Cockatoo Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48203)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  11. ^ "Goggs Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48202)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Popes Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48201)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  13. ^ "Pullen Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48200)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Two Mile Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48199)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Mount Ommaney Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48198)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  16. ^ "Mermaid Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 21660)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Sherwood Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 48206)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Chelmer Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 6977)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Indooroopilly Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 16669)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Canoe Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 6090)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  21. ^ "Long Pocket Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 20015)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  22. ^ "Cemetery Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 6769)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  23. ^ "St Lucia Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 32110)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  24. ^ "Toowong Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 34969)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  25. ^ "Milton Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 22137)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  26. ^ "South Brisbane Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 31435)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  27. ^ "Town Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 35068)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  28. ^ "Petrie Bight – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 26538)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  29. ^ "Shafston Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 30553)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  30. ^ "Humbug Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 16437)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  31. ^ "Bulimba Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 4985)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  32. ^ "Hamilton Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 15283)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  33. ^ "Quarries Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 27755)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  34. ^ "Lytton Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 20323)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  35. ^ "Quarantine Flats Reach – reach in the City of Brisbane (entry 43393)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  36. ^ "Upper Black Snake Creek Improvement Summary" (PDF). Ipswich City Council. 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  37. ^ Gregory, Helen (1996). The Brisbane River story : meanders through time. Australian Marine Conservation Society. ISBN 0-646-30132-2.
  38. ^ Gray, Nancy (1966). "Bingle, John (1796–1882)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  39. ^ Fisher, Rod (June 2007). "Linking Heritage – Up, Down and Around the Brisbane River" (PDF). Brisbane's Living Heritage Network. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  40. ^ The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, R.N.
  41. ^ Field's New South Wales, p.89 (published 1825)
  42. ^ a b c d e f McLeod, G. Roderick (1990). Davie, Peter; Stock, Errol; Low Choy, Darryl (eds.). Some aspects of the History of the Brisbane River. The Brisbane River: a source-book for the future. Australian Littoral Society in association with the Queensland Museum.
  43. ^ "Brief History of Brisbane City in the 19th Century". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  44. ^ a b Young (1996). 1990 Task M2 State of the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay and Waterways. Gutteridge, Haskins & Davey Pty Ltd. pp. 6–8.
  45. ^ a b c d e f Longhurst, Robert; Douglas, William (1997). The Brisbane River: A pictorial history. Brisbane: W. D. Incorporated Pty. Ltd.
  46. ^ Erskine, Wayne (1990). Davie, Peter; Stock, Errol; Low Choy, Darryl (eds.). Environmental Impacts of sand and gravel extraction on river systems. The Brisbane river: a source-book for the future. Australian Littoral Society in association with the Queensland Museum. pp. 295–302.
  47. ^ "Policing Queensland Timeline 1864 – 2014". Queensland Police Museum. 7 July 2017. Archived from the original on 4 November 2018. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  48. ^ a b c "Anglers still hooked on Brisbane River". Courier Mail. Queensland Newspapers. 22 January 2009. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  49. ^ Young, 1990 in Task M2 State of the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay and Waterways – Gutteridge, Haskins & Davey Pty Ltd, p. 6 – 2 1996
  50. ^ McBride, Frank; et al. (2009). Brisbane 150 Stories. Brisbane City Council Publication. pp. 250–251. ISBN 978-1-876091-60-6.
  51. ^ Hogan, Janet (1982). Living History of Brisbane. Spring Hill, Queensland: Boolarang Publications. p. 128. ISBN 0-908175-41-8.
  52. ^ "Sunken fountain pumped up for return to public duty". The Age. Fairfax Media. 4 January 1985. Archived from the original on 30 April 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  53. ^ Graham, Bruce (2004). The Green Coast: The Natural Environment of the Tweed-Moreton Bioregion. Tweed Heads, New South Wales. pp. 150, 152. ISBN 0-9751817-0-X. Archived from the original on 15 November 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  54. ^ "Brisbane River renamed Ithaca Creek in Google Maps glitch". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2020. Archived from the original on 26 August 2020. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  55. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 August 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  56. ^ "Know Floods in the Brisbane & Bremer River Basin". Archived from the original on 31 August 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  57. ^ "Brisbane River peaking below 1974 level". yahoo!news. Yahoo. 13 January 2011. Archived from the original on 27 November 2021. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  58. ^ Hubert Chanson (2011). "The 2010–2011 Floods in Queensland (Australia): Observations, First Comments and Personal Experience". La Houille Blanche. Paris: Societe Hydrotechnique de France (1): 5–11. ISSN 0018-6368.
  59. ^ Holland, I.; Maxwell, O.; Grice, A. (2002). "Chapter 12". Tidal Brisbane River. State of South-east Queensland Waterways Report 2001. Brisbane, Australia: Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchments Partnership. pp. 75–82.
  60. ^ "Brisbane Riverwalk". Must do Brisbane. Archived from the original on 2 April 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  61. ^ Atfield, Cameron (12 January 2011). "Brisbane Riverwalk 'a dangerous missile'". Brisbane Times. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  62. ^ a b Vogler, Sarah; O'Brien, Jodie Munro; Caldwell, Anna (13 January 2011). "Skipper tells how tug boats saved Gateway bridges from collision with runaway Riverwalk debris". Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  63. ^ "Council announces new Brisbane Riverwalk plan". ABC News. 10 November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  64. ^ "Brisbane's RiverWalk reconstruction gets advance funding". Urban analyst. 12 November 2011. Archived from the original on 5 May 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  65. ^ "Riverwalk replacement project". Brisbane City Council. Archived from the original on 14 March 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  66. ^ Meadows, Jane (1994). Brisbane's Western Suburbs: our heritage in focus. State Library of Queensland Foundation. p. 87. ISBN 0-7242-6077-3.
  67. ^ South East Queensland Regional Strategic Group (2000). Strategic Guide to Natural Resource Management in South East Queensland. p. 56. ISBN 0-7345-1740-8.
  68. ^ "Western Catchments". Healthy Land & Water. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  69. ^ Johnstone, Craig (22 July 1995). "How we're slowly killing our river". The Courier-Mail – Weekend. p. 1.
  70. ^ Jakku, Emma; Burch, David; Rickson, Roy (1 March 2009). "Constructing an environmental problem: Claims-making in the Brisbane River dredging dispute". Australasian Journal of Environmental Management. 16: 25–35. doi:10.1080/14486563.2009.9725214. S2CID 154458960. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  71. ^ Richardson, Darren; Devlin, Toby; Ettema, Steve (October 2017). Port of Brisbane Monitoring Program – Assessment of Sediment from 2017 Maintenance Dredging Activities (PDF) (Report). Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 March 2019. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  72. ^ Moore, Tony (13 November 2018). "Brisbane River at an ecological 'tipping point'". Brisbane Times. Brisbane. Archived from the original on 26 August 2019. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  73. ^ "UQ eSpace". Archived from the original on 19 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  74. ^ Moore, Tony (8 February 2008). "Choking weed threatens Brisbane's water supply". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Digital. Archived from the original on 25 October 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  75. ^ "The unique Australian Lungfish". Queensland Museum. Archived from the original on 6 September 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  76. ^ Anon. (2004). New South Wales Eastern (Freshwater) Cod (Maccullochella ikei) Recovery Plan. New South Wales Department of Fisheries, Port Nelson, New South Wales, Australia.
  77. ^ Rowland, S.J. (1993) Maccullochella ikei, an endangered species of freshwater cod (Pisces: Percichthyidae) from the Clarence River System, NSW, and M. peelii mariensis, a new subspecies from the Mary River System, QLD. Records of the Australian Museum 45: 121–145.
  78. ^ Dawson, Christopher. 'Shovelnose: Tales of the Brisbane River Sharks', Inside History, Brisbane, 2009. '
  79. ^ 'Sharks vs Dogs in the Brisbane River' Archived June 14, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  80. ^ "Brisbane River sharks net international interest". UQ News. University of Queensland. 20 February 2002. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  81. ^ "Sunsuper Riverfire". Brisbane Festival. Archived from the original on 15 March 2022. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  82. ^ Sorensen, Rosemary (14 September 2009). "Festival kicks off with a bang". The Australian. p. 19.
  83. ^ Shorten, Kristin (28 July 2010). "Final hurrah for dinosaurs of the sky at Riverfire". The Courier Mail. p. 17.
  84. ^ "Brisbane Festival program responds to city's thirst for contemporary music, circus and spectacle". ABC News. 3 July 2018. Archived from the original on 23 October 2021. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  85. ^ Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  86. ^ Queensland Redistribution Commission (26 May 2017). "Determination of Queensland's Legislative Assembly Electoral Districts" (PDF). Queensland Government Gazette. p. 187. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.


  • Department of Harbours and Marine (1986). "Harbours and Marine" Port and Harbour Development in Queensland from 1824 to 1985, p. 25. Queensland Government Department of Harbours and Marine.
  • Steele, J. G. (1975). Brisbane Town in Convict Days 1824–42. Brisbane, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. pp. 1–118.

External links[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML