Visiting South Australia’s wetlands

South Australia’s wetlands are perfect for walking, bird watching, camping and much more.

Held annually on 2 February, World Wetlands Day is a great time to explore these unique environments and learn about the work underway to keep them healthy.

But first, what is a wetland? There are many definitions but to put it simply, wetlands are areas of land covered by water either year-round or just at certain times, such as a swamp, lagoon or marsh. Wetlands can be natural or artificially created, or even underground.

There are particular wetlands known as Ramsar wetlands, which are considered to be of international importance because they are rare or unique, or important for conserving biological diversity. Australia has 65 of these including the Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert wetland which supports the greatest wealth of waterbird species in the Murray-Darling Basin.

There are some stunning wetlands along the River Murray with plenty to see, do and discover.

Here’s our top picks for a River Murray wetlands expedition

If you’re in the Murray Bridge area, it’s well worth a visit to the Riverglades and Swanport reserves. There’s plenty to see for wildlife lovers, and the trails and boardwalks make it easy to get around. Or check out Paiwalla, a former dairy farm that is now a vital site for the protection of many species of birds and other animals.

Camping fans can head to Hogwash Bend at Cadell, or Overland Corner near Barmera, where there’s lots to see if you’re into birdwatching. Environmental watering has been taking place in both areas to provide habitat for native animals and prevent degradation.

Keen on canoeing? Katarapko Floodplain in Murray River National Park near Berri is the place to go. It covers more than 9000 hectares, where you can also camp, check out the lagoons and swamps on a walk, and discover the varied wildlife in the area.

More about Ramsar sites

  • The Ramsar Convention aims to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve, through wise use and management, those that remain.
  • Australia's 65 Ramsar sites cover more than 8.3 million hectares, forming an impressive estate of diverse wetland types, including freshwater, marine, permanent and short-term, in every climatic zone.
  • There are 2227 Ramsar Sites worldwide.
  • The total surface of designated Ramsar sites is 214,875,598 hectares.
  • Australia was one of the first countries to become a Contracting Party to the Convention and designated the world's first Ramsar site, Cobourg Peninsula, in 1974.
  • The Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert wetland was listed under the Ramsar Convention in 1985.
  • The Convention encourages member countries to nominate sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or those important for conserving biological diversity, to the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites).
  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention) was signed in Ramsar, Iran on 2 February 1971.
  • There are 169 Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention.

Photo credit: Bill Doyle

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