Coorong Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth

The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region is about 142 500 hectares in size and has a diverse range of freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats. The native plants and animals are unique, not just within the Murray-Darling Basin, but worldwide. Many internationally migratory birds can also be found.

The River Murray terminates in South Australia at the Southern Ocean, having passed through Lake Alexandrina, the Murray estuary and finally the Murray Mouth. Lake Albert is a terminal lake connected to Lake Alexandrina by a narrow channel. 

The Coorong is a long, shallow, brackish to hypersaline lagoon more than 100 kilometres long. It is separated from the ocean by a narrow sand dune peninsula. Saline waters of the Coorong lagoons and Murray Mouth estuary are prevented from entering the lakes and the River Murray by a series of barrages (link to locks, weirs and barrages page) built in the 1930s.

The region is the only point of entry and exit for fish that move between freshwater and marine habitats, and is the only pathway to export salt from the Murray-Darling Basin.

The nearly 28,000 people who live in the area mainly work in agriculture, viticulture, fishing, manufacturing and tourism. Aboriginal people, such as the Ngarrindjeri, have a strong spiritual and cultural connection to the land and are the Traditional Owners. There are many traditional and archaeological sites in the region.

This Ramsar Wetland of International Importance is used for several purposes, including conservation, recreation, water storage and extraction, grazing and cropping, and urban and residential development. It is also a popular tourist destination, and includes the beautiful Coorong National Park, where visitors can stay at scenic campgrounds and enjoy kayaking, birdwatching and four-wheel driving.

Impacts of the Millennium drought and water over-allocation across the Murray-Darling Basin left the region on the brink of environmental collapse.

Since late 2010, high flows of freshwater have returned and the region is showing signs of recovery. However, the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth still need help and a range of environmental projects  are underway to continue to improve the health of this precious Ramsar site so it can cope better in future droughts.

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