About The Australian Alps
The Australian Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range, the series of mountains, hills, and highlands that runs about 3,000 kilometres from northern Queensland, through New South Wales, and into the northern part of the State of Victoria. This chain of highlands divides the drainage of the rivers that flow to the east into the Pacific Ocean from those that flow west into the drainage of the Murray River (and thence to the Southern Ocean) or into inland waters, such as Lake Eyre, which lie below sea level, or else evaporate rapidly.
The Australian Alps encompass the highest points on mainland Australia, and stretch from Canberra through to New South Wales and straddle the Great Dividing Range through eastern Victoria. In this home to Australia’s high country, the mountains and national parks are the source of life-giving rivers, supporting an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on the continent.
The landscape is both demanding and beautiful. It has rich Aboriginal and European cultural heritage, and boasts magnificent outdoor recreation opportunities as well as spectacular wilderness scenery.
This is Man from Snowy River country, a place fixed in the national consciousness by poet Banjo Paterson, who wrote about the area’s wild bush horses and the men who gave them chase. The legacy of these early pastoralists and gold prospectors remains in the form of historic huts, built as shelters for stockmen and now used by four wheel drivers, trail riders, bushwalkers and skiers.
Aboriginal clans lived in this alpine environment for thousands of years, and knew its flora, fauna, geography and seasonal changes intimately. The mountains form an important part of the complex network of ceremonial song lines that run across the country.
Wilderness areas that retain their primeval character include the Bimberi Wilderness that links the Namadgi and Kosciuszko national parks.
The Australian Alps feature undulating plateaux and deep gorges, underpinned by marine sediments deposited millions of years ago when the sea covered south-east Australia. Ancient glaciers have left their mark on the alpine rocks.
Rivers carve their way through this mountain country, feeding the Murray River system.
The alpine rainfall encouraged the development of several hydro-electric power schemes including the tunnels and power stations under the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Victoria’s largest national park – the Alpine National Park – sits within this landscape. Its snowfields are the primary winter attraction, but the park also has over 1,100 native plant species, and it is no surprise that the warmer months bring stunning wildflower displays.
The Australian Alps Walking Track winds for 650 kilometres, through peppermint forests, tall stands of alpine ash and snow gum woodlands.
The region contains seven national parks, including the Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountain Ranges of New South Wales. It’s named after Australia’s highest mountain.
Namadgi National Park is special for its ancient and modern human history. There is evidence that Aboriginal people were living in the region during the last ice age 21,000 years ago. More recently, space-tracking stations operated here between the 1960s and the 1980s, and were instrumental in monitoring the Apollo space program. Honeysuckle Creek was the first place on Earth to receive images of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
The Murray River (River Murray in South Australia) is Australia's longest river.
At 2,375 kilometres (1,476 mi) in length, the Murray rises in the Australian Alps, draining the western side of Australia's highest mountains and, for most of its length, meanders across Australia's inland plains, forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria as it flows to the northwest, before turning south for its final 500 kilometres (310 mi) or so into South Australia, reaching the ocean at Lake Alexandrina.