Mary River (Queensland)

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This article is about the Mary River, Queensland, Austrailia. For other uses, see Mary River.
Mary (Moocooboola)
Wide Bay
The upper Mary River at Conondale
Country Australia
State Queensland
Region Wide Bay–Burnett
 - left Yabba Creek, Kandanga Creek, Widgee Creek, Wide Bay Creek, Munna Creek
 - right Obi Obi Creek, Tinana Creek
Coordinates 26°35′06″S 152°44′01″E / 26.58500°S 152.73361°E / -26.58500; 152.73361Coordinates: 26°35′06″S 152°44′01″E / 26.58500°S 152.73361°E / -26.58500; 152.73361
 - location Conondale, South East Queensland
 - coordinates 26°47′39″S 152°44′41″E / 26.79417°S 152.74472°E / -26.79417; 152.74472
Mouth Great Sandy Strait
 - location River Heads
Basin 9,595 km2 (3,705 sq mi)
Location in Queensland, Australia

The Mary River is a large river system in the South East and Wide Bay–Burnett region of Queensland, Australia. The river rises at Booroobin in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, west of Landsborough. From its source, the Mary River flows north through the towns of Kenilworth, Gympie, Tiaro and Maryborough before emptying into the Great Sandy Strait, a passage of water between the mainland and Fraser Island, near the town of River Heads, 17 km (11 mi) south of Hervey Bay.

The river's catchment covers an area of 9,595 km2 (3,705 sq mi) and is bounded by the Conondale, Jimma and Burnett Ranges.[1] Major tributaries of the Mary River include Tinana Creek, Munna Creek, Obi Obi Creek, Yabba Creek, Wide Bay Creek and the Susan River.

Gold sluicing in the 1890s

The endangered Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus) lives in the river.[2] Other marine life native to the river include the Queensland lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) and the endangered Mary River cod (Maccullochella mariensis). Significant vulnerable and endangered species that live in the river also include endangered giant barred frog, Cascade tree frog and Coxen's fig parrot and the vulnerable tusked frog, honey blue-eye fish, the Richmond birdwing butterfly and the Illidge's ant blue butterfly. Saltwater crocodiles are occasionally seen in the lower reaches of the river, with one notable 3.5 m crocodile being known to live in the river since April 2012.[3] Although the official range for saltwater crocodiles stops near Gladstone, it is widely regarded that the Mary River is the most southerly range limit for crocodiles.

Mary River near Tiaro, 2012
View from Dickabram Bridge, 2010

The river was traditionally named Moocooboola by local Aborigines (the Kabi Kabi people). The river was named Wide Bay River on 10 May 1842 by early European explorers, Andrew Petrie[4] and Henry Stuart Russell.[5] The official name was changed on 8 September 1847 (prior to Queensland becoming a separate colony) by Charles Augustus FitzRoy, then Governor of New South Wales, to Mary River — after his wife Lady Mary Lennox (15 August 1790 to 7 December 1847).[6]

It is also a historical Australian river that contains gold as was first discovered in Gympie by James Nash.

Traveston Crossing Dam[edit]

In light of the region's longest drought in one hundred years, the Queensland Government announced on 27 April 2006 its intention to dam part of the Mary River at Traveston Crossing, south of Gympie. The project was cancelled in November 2009, after being refused approval by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

The action had been planned to create a reservoir "almost as big as the Wivenhoe Dam" by 2011.[7] The Traveston Dam was projected to inundate an area of fertile farmland, endangered regional ecosystems and small towns more than 1.3 times the area of Sydney Harbour.[8] There was considerable local opposition to the proposal, with all Mary Valley and Sunshine Coast Shire Councils opposed to the dam proposal [9] on a variety of grounds including: the dislocation of the local community from the inundated area; adverse effects on downstream communities; and environmental impacts such as the removal of one of the few remaining habitats for the vulnerable Queensland Lungfish.[10] More than 20,000 residents formally petitioned the Queensland State Parliament to halt the dam. There were further concerns that the geomechanics of the proposed site were not suitable for damming due to potentially significant leakage (due to the predominantly sandy substrate) and evaporation problems.[11]

There was strong opposition to the dam from the wider and international community, based on environmental concerns related to the endangered Mary River cod, Mary River turtle, giant barred frog, Cascade tree frog, Coxen's fig parrot, the vulnerable Queensland lungfish, tusked frog, honey blue-eye fish, the Richmond birdwing butterfly and the Illidge's ant blue butterfly.[12] There were also fears for the dugong, a globally vulnerable species. It was alleged that reduced fresh water flowing to the Great Sandy Strait would have affected the growth of seagrass, the dugong's primary food source.

The Mary River Turtle and the Queensland Lungfish attracted particular attention regarding their conservation. The Mary River Turtle, whose only known home is the Mary River, is a cloacal ventilator ('bum breather' – it uses oxygen from water taken in through its tail), and is listed in the top 25 most endangered turtle species in the world. The Lungfish also has great significance to evolutionary biologists. It requires the rapids in order to breed, and much of its breeding habitat had already been interrupted by other dams in Queensland. Professor Jean Joss of Macquarie University stated, in a submission to the Senate Inquiry 2007: "The Mary River dam would almost certainly push the lungfish to 'Critically Endangered,' and in the long term will lead to its extinction in the wild." The Mary River Cod, which only lives naturally in the Mary River system, is already Critically Endangered. It is completely protected, and it is illegal to fish them.

The barque Maria Ysasi, 1874

The Mary River flows into the Great Sandy Strait, near wetlands of international significance recognised by the International agreement of the Ramsar convention and Fraser Island World Heritage Area, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Port of Maryborough[edit]

Main article: Port of Maryborough

The Port of Maryborough was opened in 1847 and in 1859 it was declared a port of entry. In 1856, after the river became unnavigable to larger vessels a new township and port were established. From the 1850s to the end of the century the port was one of Australia's busiest immigration ports.[13] Some called port "Wide Bay" well into the 1860s.

2011 floods[edit]

The Mary River experienced major flooding during the 2010–2011 Queensland floods. In some places the river rose 20 m (66 ft).[14] In Maryborough the river peaked at 8.2 m (27 ft) while at Gympie the peak was 19.3 m (63 ft). The Bruce Highway was closed to the north and south of Gympie[15] and more than 50 homes and businesses were inundated.[16] The high turbidity levels interfered with the natural breeding cycle for some of the river species.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Water resources – Overview – Queensland – Basin & Surface Water Management Area: Mary River (Qld)". Australian Natural Resources Atlas. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  2. ^ "Mary River turtle". Queensland's Vanishing Wildlife. Retrieved 2006-04-18. 
  3. ^ "'Extreme caution' urged over elusive Mary River croc". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 10 May 2013. Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  4. ^ Petrie, Constance Campbell (1904). "Part II Chapter VI". Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland. Brisbane: Watson, Ferguson & Co. p. 261. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Russell, Henry Stuart (1888). The Genesis of Queensland. Sydney: Turner & Henderson. p. 272. 
  6. ^ "Mary River (entry 21155)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "Qld Govt proposes Mary River dam". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 27 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  8. ^ "Bishop to visit mega dam site". Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  9. ^ "Mayors unite to block dam, find own solution". Gympie Times. 12 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-31. 
  10. ^ "Cooloola Shire Council Meeting Minutes" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-10-31. 
  11. ^ "Expert raises Mary River dam leakage fears". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 14 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  12. ^ "Report to Garrett says dam species will die". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Digital. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  13. ^ "Harbour facilities". Fraser Coast Regional Council. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Aimee Volkofsky (26 January 2011). "Mary River battered by flood waters". ABC Wide Bay (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Mary River floodwaters fill Gympie streets". ABC News Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 11 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  16. ^ Ben Cubby (12 January 2011). "Peak leaves city severed and submerged". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 31 January 2011. 

External links[edit]