About the Yarra River (Birrarung)

The Yarra River is a unique ecosystem that brings nature, culture, and people together. It meanders 242 km from near Mt Baw Baw, through the Yarra Valley and finishes in the Port Phillip Bay.

If you live in or have visited Victoria, you’ve likely seen the magic and natural beauty of the Yarra River first-hand. Whether it’s exercise, recreation, relaxation, social events or simply to soak up nature, this riverscape is a community and environmental cornerstone.

In addition to those who live near the riverbank, its environs home hundreds of different plants and animals, including koalas, lyrebirds, native fish and platypus.


Ready to join the Yarra Riverkeeper Association?

Love the Yarra? Together, we can protect it. Join the Yarra Riverkeeper Association today or support us!


Your Yarra

The Yarra River is Melbourne’s most important natural asset, and all Melburnians depend on it. It provides 70% of our piped water and its valley is world-renowned for its vineyards and natural beauty. The Yarra is the centrepiece of many cultural city events, and plays host to sports, recreational and nature-based activities.

But the Yarra is in trouble. It is polluted with litter and a cocktail of urban wastes. In many areas, this results in water quality well below legal standards. Its wondrous wetlands, floodplains and banks are damaged by weeds and native plants are culled for metropolitan development.

Most of river’s water is taken to supply our homes and industry, which puts many river flows at a dangerous low. What’s more, many wildlife species are now also endangered.

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association speaks for the river – and works tirelessly to fight against these dangers. By getting involved and supporting our cause, you can help us save the Yarra and continue to enjoy it for years to come.

Yarra Facts


242 kilometres


40 kilometres east of Warburton, on the flanks of Mt Baw Baw


Port Phillip Bay at Newport


Brown in the lower reaches, due to the suspended silt (cray) carried downstream


Covers 4,078 square kilometres, includes 24 tributaries and is home to about two million people.

  • Length
  • Source
  • Mouth
  • Colour
  • Catchment

Yarra History

The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation called the river, Birrarrung – “Place of Mists and Shadows”. Aboriginal peoples have always had a strong spiritual connection with the Yarra’s land and waterways. It was a dreaming path they followed and camped beside through the calendar of countless seasons. The first documented European sighting of “the great river” was in 1803, when New South Wales’ Surveyor-General, Charles Grimes was sent to map the Port Phillip district.

He named it “Freshwater River” and proclaimed the valley as “the most eligible place for a settlement” that he had seen. In 1835, John Wedge called the river “Yarra Yarra”, which means ever-flowing in the Wunundjeri language.