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Shoalhaven River
Shoalhaven River - near the Great Dividing Range, west of Batemans Bay.jpg
Shoalhaven River, near the Great Dividing Range, west of Batemans Bay.
Shoalhaven River is located in New South Wales
Shoalhaven River
Location of the Shoalhaven River mouth in New South Wales
Country Australia
State New South Wales
Region Sydney Basin (IBRA), Southern Tablelands, South Coast
LGAs Palerang, Shoalhaven
Cities Nowra, Bomaderry
Physical characteristics
Main source Euranbene Mountain, Great Dividing Range
west of Bendethera
864 m (2,835 ft)
35°58′15″S 149°38′3″E / 35.97083°S 149.63417°E / -35.97083; 149.63417
River mouth Tasman Sea, South Pacific Ocean
Shoalhaven Heads
0 m (0 ft)
34°51′S 150°44′E / 34.850°S 150.733°E / -34.850; 150.733
Length 327 km (203 mi)
Basin features
Basin size 7,086 km2 (2,736 sq mi)
Islands Pig (Burraga), Comerong

The Shoalhaven River is a perennial river that rises from the Southern Tablelands and flows into an open mature wave dominated barrier estuary near Nowra on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Location and features

The Shoalhaven River rises on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range, below Euranbene Mountain, about 350 kilometres (220 mi) southwest of Sydney. The upper reaches of the river flow northwards through an upland pastoral district near the town of Braidwood. The river works its way down into a remote canyon east of Goulburn and emerges into the coastal lowlands at Nowra in the Shoalhaven district, where it is spanned by the historic Nowra Bridge. The river is joined by thirty-four tributaries, including the Mongarlowe, Corang, Endrick, and Kangaroo rivers, and descends 864 metres (2,835 ft) over its 327-kilometre (203 mi) course.

Berrys Canal

The estuary has two entrances, approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) apart, that flow into the Shoalhaven Bight within the Tasman Sea of the South Pacific Ocean. The southern entrance is located at Crookhaven Heads and is permanently open. The Shoalhaven River flows south via Berrys Canal to Greenwell Point, where it is joined by the Crookhaven River and then flows east past Orient Point into the bight, north of Culburra. The Berrys Canal between the Shoalhaven and the Crookhaven was constructed in June 1822 by convicts overseen by Hamilton Hume under the direction of Alexander Berry to facilitate ship transport to the original European settlement located in the region. The construction of the canal formed Comerong Island. The canal was dug using own hand tools, and was the first land navigable canal in Australia. Berrys Canal remains one of two navigable canals in New South Wales, the other being the Alexandra Canal.

The northern entrance is located south of Shoalhaven Heads, and is open intermittently, at times of peak flow and during flood events.

Use for water supply

Tallowa Dam is the only major dam on the Shoalhaven, and is a part of the Shoalhaven Scheme. It impounds the river's lower reaches to form Lake Yarrunga and part of Sydney's water supply. Some water is pumped out of the lake and over the Southern Highlands into Lake Burragorang. Proposals for a much larger water storage at Welcome Reef on the upper Shoalhaven have been shelved.


The Shoalhaven River and its main tributary the Kangaroo River were once renowned as an Australian bass fishery. Unfortunately, Tallowa Dam has been a potent barrier to migratory native fish with estuarine/marine juvenile stages, blocking species including Australian bass from more than 80% of their former range in the Shoalhaven system. Recent stockings of hatchery-bred Bass in Lake Yarrunga are an attempt to remediate the situation. A fishway for Tallowa Dam was completed in August 2009. This fishway is designed to allow for the movement of bass and other native fish over the dam. Lake Yarrunga has also suffered the illegal introduction of highly damaging European carp, which are now present in high densities.


Indigenous history

The traditional custodians of the land are Jerrinja tribal peoples the surrounding Shoalhaven River, in its lower reaches, are the Aboriginal peoples of the lower catchment are Jerrinja tribal peoples which are the traditional custodians of the Shoalhaven . Some of the culturally important Aboriginal places in the Shoalhaven include Coolangatta Mountain, Bundarwa (Beecroft Headland), Cambewarra Mountain, Didthul or Pigeon House Mountain, Kangaroo Valley, Burrill Lake, and Murramarang Aboriginal Area and its environs.

The upper part of the Shoalhaven river, in the district around modern-day Braidwood, is the traditional land of the Walbanga people.

European history

The explorer and navigator George Bass found the entrance to the Shoalhaven River during his whaleboat voyage down the south coast of New South Wales in 1797. He gave the name Shoals Haven to the river (now known as the Crookhaven River) because of the shoals of mud and sand he found at the river mouth.

Approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Nowra are a series of properties along the banks of the Shoalhaven River that were a gift to the people of Australia from Arthur Boyd, his wife, Yvonne, and the Boyd family. Entrusted to the Bundanon Trust, along with further gifts by Boyd, including copyright of all of his artwork, these properties provide an environment that promotes visual arts, writing, music and other performing arts, and the promotion of education and research in the arts.


Ballalaba bridge over the over the Shoalhaven River
Ballalaba bridge on the Braidwood–Cooma road
Farringdon Crossing, Farringdon, New South Wales
Farringdon Crossing
Bombay Bridge over the Shoalhaven, Bombay, New South Wales
Bombay Bridge
Warri Bridge on the Kings Highway over the Shoalhaven
Warri Bridge on the Kings Highway
New and piers of old bridge at Oallen Ford, Shoalhaven River
New Bridge and remains of old bridge at Oallen Ford

The river crossings, from its headwaters to its river mouth, include:

  • Ballalaba bridge
  • Farringdon crossing between Farringdon and Bendoura
  • Bombay bridge
  • Warri Bridge carries the Kings Highway, near Braidwood. A bridge at this location was first opened on 23 September 1874, and later replaced by the current structure.
  • Stewart's Crossing is a ford on Stewart's Crossing Road.
  • Oallen Crossing was formerly a flood-prone single-lane timber bridge with a low-level concrete floodway for the Oallen Ford Road at Oallen Ford, near Nerriga, constructed in 1936. The timber bridge and floodway has been replaced by a longer higher concrete bridge crossing slightly downstream, around mid-2015 (date needs checking). . The new crossing is designed to permit higher speed travel and eliminates some sharp bends on the western side of the river and only to be overtopped by much deeper 1:20-year flood events.
  • Nowra Bridge carries the Princes Highway between Bomaderry and Nowra.
  • Comerong Island Ferry carries vehicles and pedestrians to Comerong Island near the river mouth.

Historically, there was once a ford crossing at the former village of Larbert.


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