Nambucca River

Our water quality monitoring program has shown the Nambucca River estuary to have good water quality. Find out more about the estuary and its unique features.

Nambucca River is situated on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It is a large barrier river type estuary with an open, trained entrance.

Taylors Arm is a major tributary of the Nambucca River, converging just upstream of Macksville, and Warrell Creek flows into the main channel beside the entrance.

The estuary supports a range of mangrove, saltmarsh and seagrass communities and is a popular site for recreational fishing, boating and swimming. Commercial oyster farming and fishing also occur in the estuary.

Estuary health and features

Water quality

As part of our water quality monitoring program we assess the water quality and ecosystem health of an estuary using a range of relevant indicators. We sample a subset of the estuaries located between the Queensland border and Taree every 3 years. The most recent sampling in Nambucca River was completed over the 2018–19 summer when 2 sites were sampled on a monthly basis.

Nambucca River water quality report card for algae and water clarity showing colour-coded ratings (red, orange, yellow, light green and dark green, which represent very poor, poor, fair, good and excellent, respectively). Algae is rated 'good' and water clarity is rated 'good' giving an overall rating of 'good' or 'B'.

This report card represents 2 water quality indicators that we routinely measure: the amount of algae present and water clarity. Low levels of these 2 indicators equate with good water quality.

The report card shows the condition of the estuary was good with:

  • algae abundance graded good (B)
  • water clarity graded good (B)
  • overall estuary health graded good (B).

Find out more about our estuary report cards and what each grade means. Read our sampling, data analysis and reporting protocols and find out how we calculate these grades.

We have monitored water quality in the Nambucca River since 2009. This table shows the water quality grades for this estuary over that time.

Nambucca River historic water quality grades from 2009-10 for algae and water clarity. Colour-coded ratings (red, orange, yellow, light green and dark green represent very poor (E), poor (D), fair (C), good (B) and excellent (A), respectively).

Grades for algae, water clarity and overall are represented as:

  • A – excellent
  • B – good
  • C – fair
  • D – poor
  • E – very poor.

Physical characteristics

Estuary type: Barrier river

Latitude (ºS) –30.65
Longitude (ºE) 153.01
Catchment area (km2) 1298.9
Estuary area (km2) 12.6
Estuary volume (ML) 23,227.1
Average depth (m) 2

Tidal exchange volume

Tidal exchange volume or tidal prism data is available for this estuary. This tidal prism was measured in 1999.

Tide state Flow
(106 m3)
Local tidal
range (m)
Sydney Harbour
tidal range (m)
Ebb flow 5.24 0.64 1.18
Flood flow 3.96 0.68 1.12
Notes: km2 = square kilometres; m = metres; m3 = cubic metres; ML = megalitres.

Water depth and survey data

Bathymetric and coastal topography data for this estuary are available in our data portal.

Land use

Around one third of the Nambucca River catchment is disturbed by land-use changes. The western half of the Nambucca River catchment largely comprises forested ranges up to the Great Dividing Range. Much of the land in the lower valleys has been modified for grazing and rural residential development. Major towns in the Nambucca River catchment are Nambucca Heads, Macksville and Bowraville.

Web cam

The Nambucca Heads bar crossing web camera provides real-time video of conditions within the river entrance immediately offshore to help with bar crossings and boat safety.

National and marine parks

Community involvement

  • Nambucca Valley Landcare provides workshops and volunteer work opportunities to regenerate and better manage natural resources around the Nambucca Valley region.

Local government management

Local councils manage estuaries within their area unless the estuary is attached to a marine park. Nambucca River is managed by Nambucca Shire Council manage this estuary. More information about this estuary can be found on the council’s Coast and estuary webpage.