Werribee River

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Werribee River at Exford, downstream from Melton Reservoir
Werribee River is located in Victoria
Werribee River
Location of the Werribee River mouth in Victoria
EtymologyAboriginal (Boonwurrung/Wathawurrung): wirribi meaning "backbone".[1][2]
Native nameWirribi-yaluk[1]
RegionVictorian Midlands (IBRA), Western District, Port Phillip
Local government areasMoorabool, Melton, Wyndham
CitiesBallan, Bacchus Marsh, Werribee
Physical characteristics
SourceGreat Dividing Range
 - locationWombat State Forest near Korweinguboora
 - coordinates37°26′S 144°10′E / 37.433°S 144.167°E / -37.433; 144.167
 - elevation501 m (1,644 ft)
MouthPort Phillip
 - location
near Werribee South
 - coordinates
37°58′42″S 144°41′40″E / 37.97833°S 144.69444°E / -37.97833; 144.69444Coordinates: 37°58′42″S 144°41′40″E / 37.97833°S 144.69444°E / -37.97833; 144.69444
 - elevation
9 m (30 ft)
Length110 km (68 mi)
Basin features
River systemPort Phillip catchment
 - leftLerderderg River, Toolern Creek
National parkWerribee Gorge State Park

The Werribee River is a perennial river of the Port Phillip catchment that is located on the plain west of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The headwaters of a tributary, the Lerderderg River, are north of Ballan near Daylesford and it flows across the basalt plain, through the suburb of Werribee to enter Port Phillip. A linear park follows the Werribee River along much of its course. In total the Werribee River completes a journey of approximately 110 kilometres (68 mi).[5]

The river flows through the Werribee Gorge State Park before being utilised for irrigation of market gardens at Bacchus Marsh, then through Werribee where it is crossed by the Maltby By-pass. It then flows through the Werribee Open Range Zoo in Werribee Park, and finally the small coastal settlement of Werribee South before entering Port Phillip. The Western Treatment Plant, a sewage treatment site, is located near the mouth of the river, and supplies irrigation needs to the zoo.

The Werribee River Trail winds beside the Werribee River from Davis Creek in Tarneit to the Princes Highway in Werribee.


Before the arrival of white settlers, the Werribee River was the boundary of the Bunurong tribe whose six clans lived along the Victorian coast across the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port Bay to Wilsons Promontory.

In the late 1830s and 1840s, the Werribee River was the scene of conflicts between the Wautharong people and the European colonisers. The squatter Charles Franks and a shepherd were speared to death near Mount Cottrell in July 1836. This resulted in a punitive party led by John Batman which came upon a large party of aborigines and indiscriminately shot and killed at least ten. There are accounts of arsenic laced flour being given to local aborigines.

In 1851, a substantial timber bridge was built to cross the Werribee River to replace an earlier wooden bridge. In 1852, this bridge was washed away when the Werribee river flooded.

In August 2004, the Victorian Government pledged A$300,000 (equivalent to A$356,917 in 2010) towards restoring the Werribee River, removing willows choking the river around the township and replacing them with native plants in a habitat restoration project.


The Hume and Hovell expedition camped by the river on 15 December 1824 and named it the Arndell after Hovell's father-in-law. John Helder Wedge 're-discovered' the river in 1835 and initially called it the Peel, but then decided to call it the Ex or Exe. The name of the town of Exford, an early crossing place on the river, is derived from this name.[2] One of the local Wathaurong-speaking Kulin tribesman that accompanied Wedge said the name for the stream was 'Weariby Yallock' (yallock meaning 'stream'). The spelling changed to the present form of Werribee, the original Aboriginal root word meaning spine or backbone.[1]


Photograph as described in caption
Aerial perspective of the K Road cliffs along the Werribee River in January 2018.

Werribee River holds fish all along its course, most of which are at the mouth of the river into Port Phillip Bay in the estuary. This area is best fished for southern black bream.

Features and highlights[edit]

Behind the Werribee golf course, the K-Road cliffs are perhaps the most unusual feature of the river, being sometimes described as looking like a river in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.[according to whom?]

Things to do[edit]

Photograph of the Werribee River in Spring 2017
Werribee River in Spring 2017, where pasture meets suburban sprawl.

Exploring the river offers an array of outdoor opportunities and is pastime for many local residents. An extensive network of hard-surface bike and walking trails along the river allow visitors to view native flora and fauna that inhabit the river and its banks.

There are many fishing spots along the river, and canoe- and boat-launching facilities are located at the Werribee South Boat Ramp and Riverbend Historical Park.

Birdwatching is also a popular activity; however, care must be taken as there are known to be eastern brown snakes and other deadly fauna inhabiting the area.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Clark, Ian; Heydon, Toby (2011). "Historical Information: Werribee River". VICNAMES. Government of Victoria. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2018 – via Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.
  2. ^ a b Reed, A. W. (1973). Place names of Australia (1st ed.). Frenchs Forest: Reed Books. p. 224. ISBN 0-589-50128-3.
  3. ^ "Place Details: Werribee River". VICNAMES. Government of Victoria. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Map of Werribee River, VIC". Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Werribee River". City of Wyndham.

External links[edit]