Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Wild rivers

Wild rivers are rivers that are in near-pristine condition in terms of animal and plant life and water flow, and are free of the unnatural rates of siltation or bank erosion that affect many of Australia's waterways.

Wild rivers in NSW are declared within national parks and other reserves, and they are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Declaring rivers as 'wild' ensures that their high conservation values are maintained and that Aboriginal objects and places associated with them are identified, conserved and protected.

Wild rivers may provide useful focal points for protection and rehabilitation works outside reserves. For example, wild rivers can benefit river restoration works that occur downstream by providing sources for recolonising plants and animals. Protecting neighbouring parts of the catchment, particularly upstream of a wild river, may increase the resilience of the river to disturbances.

Framework for Wild River Assessment (PDF 85KB).  

Declared wild rivers in NSW

  • Brogo River in Wadbilliga National Park, in the Bega catchment in south-east NSW. The highly fertile Bega Valley has undergone substantial land clearing, and the rugged and mountainous upper reaches of the catchment provide important examples of the catchment's original geomorphic features and freshwater biota. The Brogo River's subcatchment is immediately upstream of the Brogo Dam and provides water for the Bega district's town and irrigators. Brogo Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 699KB)
  • Forbes and Upper Hastings Rivers in Werrikimbe National Park, in the Hastings catchment on the mid-north coast of NSW. These rivers form part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Forbes and Upper Hastings Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 1.38MB).
  • Kowmung River in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment. This river contributes to the water supply for the Sydney metropolitan area. The river and catchment have attracted much interest from bushwalkers and nature lovers for over 100 years but have also been the location of natural resource use and of major mining and forestry proposals. The permanent protection of most of the river and catchment in the form of Kanangra-Boyd National Park is viewed as a historic example of the strength and success of the conservation movement. Kowmung River Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 343KB).
  • Washpool Creek in Washpool National Park, in the Washpool Creek subcatchment. The Washpool Creek subcatchment is of great importance to Aboriginal people. It contains significant Aboriginal sites and is used for cultural heritage education. The remote and rugged landscape has limited past disturbances, such as cedar cutting, and there are localised patches of logging and bush grazing; the entire subcatchment is now wilderness. The national park forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Washpool Creek Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 722KB).
  • Colo River in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment. The Colo River consists of four subcatchments: Colo, Wolgan, Capertee and Wollemi, which fall largely within the Wollemi and Blue Mountains National Parks. These subcatchments are important to Aboriginal people and contain significant Aboriginal sites. In the past, impacts from mining occurred in the headwaters of Wollangambie Creek (within the Colo subcatchment) but the biological condition of the river is likely to improve downstream from the colliery with distance and additional flow from numerous tributaries joining the river. Colo River Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 405KB).
  • Grose River in the Blue Mountains National Park in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment. The rugged nature of the heart of the Grose Valley and early interest in preserving the area for its natural and recreational values have substantially limited disturbances to this area. Historically, grazing and logging took place within the catchment but no major impacts remain. A mine at the headwaters of the Grose River had an impact in the past but the mine is no longer operational. Grose River Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 302KB).

Rivers assessed as unsuitable for declaration as wild rivers

  • The Macdonald River is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River. It lies north of the Hawkesbury and Colo Rivers and south of the Hunter Valley. A large portion of the Macdonald catchment is within Yengo National Park. The river has been assessed for its biological, geomorphic and hydrological conditions. It supports a rich amount of aquatic macroinvertebrate fauna. However, a loss of diversity was detected, which is probably due to a lack of habitat diversity in the substratum caused by sedimentation. Significant changes to the flow of the Macdonald River have been recorded since the 1940s and correlate with natural changes in rainfall and flooding. There is no indication that the hydrology of the river or catchment has been substantially disturbed by human activities.

    A geomorphic assessment of the river indicates it is in poor condition due to extensive sedimentation. It is likely that human activities in general, and land clearing together with high intensity fires in particular, may be the causes of sand slugs (large sediment deposits) in the river. For this reason the Macdonald River can not be considered 'substantially unmodified' since pre-European times and does not meet the criteria for declaration as a wild river as required under the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974. MacDonald River Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 330KB).

  • The Maria River, located near Kempsey on the NSW north coast, has been assessed for its wild river values. The river's headwaters are in Kumbatine National Park and it joins the Hastings River 54 kilometres downstream. The catchment of the river comprises about 42,536 hectares, about 17 per cent of which is in Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) reserves and 17 per cent in state forests. A detailed assessment was made of the upper third of the Maria River and its subcatchment, which flows through, or close to, land reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act).

    The upper Maria River and its tributaries within Kumbatine and Maria National Parks meet many of the Act's criteria for wild rivers. However, it has not been recommended for declaration as a wild river because this part of the river occurs on a number of different tenures. Five kilometres of the upper Maria River occurs in reserves but this is divided into four sections separated by other tenures (state forest and freehold). (Only those sections within OEH reserves may be declared wild under the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974). It is considered impractical to declare these sections of river at this stage, but declaration of the upper Maria River could be reconsidered should additional sections be reserved or be subject to conservation agreements in the future. Maria River Wild River Assessment Report (PDF 327KB)

Page last updated: 13 October 2017