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Yarra River, Melbourne, Australia

Yarra River, Melbourne, Australia (Buildings & City)

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The Yarra River, originally Birrarung, is a river in central Victoria, Australia. The lower stretches of the river is where the city of Melbourne was established in 1835 (183 years ago) and today Greater Melbourne dominates and influences the landscape of its lower reaches. From its source in the Yarra Ranges, it flows 242 km west through the Yarra Valley which opens out into plains as it winds its way through Greater Melbourne before emptying into Hobsons Bay in northernmost Port Phillip.

The river was a major food source and meeting place for indigenous Australians from prehistoric times. Shortly after the arrival of European settlers land clearing forced the remaining Wurundjeri to neighbouring territories and away from the river. Originally called Birrarung by the Wurundjeri, the current name was mistranslated from another Wurundjeri term; Yarra Yarra.

The river was utilised primarily for agriculture by early European settlers. The landscape of the river has changed dramatically since 1835 (183 years ago). The course has been progressively disrupted and the river widened in places. The first of many Crossings of the Yarra River to facilitate transport was built in Princess Bridge. Beginning with the Victorian gold rush it was extensively mined, creating the Pound Bend Tunnel in Warrandyte. Widening and dams, like the Upper Yarra Reservoir have helped protect Melbourne from major flooding, The catchment's upper reaches are also affected by logging. Industrialisation ultimately led to the destruction of the marshlands at the confluence of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers in the area around Coode Island in West Melbourne.

Today, the mouth and including Swanston and Appleton Docks are used for container shipping by the Port of Melbourne, the busiest on the continent. The city reach which is inaccessible to larger watercraft, has seen increased use for both transport and recreational boating (including kayaking, canoeing, rowing and swimming). In recent years however recreational use of the river is threatened by high levels of pollution in its lower stretches. The upper reaches remain relatively healthy.

The annual Moomba festival celebrates the Yarra River's increasing cultural significance to Melbourne.


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