Maribyrnong River

From Academic Kids

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Maribyrnong river at West Essendon

The Maribyrnong River rises about 50 km north of Melbourne Victoria (Australia), near Mount Macedon. It flows generally southward and combines with the Yarra River to flow into Port Phillip. The northwestern suburbs of Melbourne are located in the vicinity of the Maribyrnong River and the river has given its name to the local government area of the City of Maribyrnong.

Maribyrnong is an anglicised version of the Aboriginal term ‘Mirring-gnay-bir-nong’, which translates as 'I can hear a ringtail possum'. The river was initially called the Saltwater River due to its tidal nature for much of its lower reaches.



The Maribyrnong River Valley has been home for the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation for up to 40,000 years. Human remains dated at least 15,000 years old have been found along the river, with much older signs of human habitation also present.

The first Europeans to explore along the river were the party led by Charles Grimes, Deputy Surveyor-General of New South Wales, in February 1803. John Batman is likely to have explored up the river in early 1835. With the establishment of the colony of Melbourne later that year, sheep runs were soon established by Edmund Davis Fergusson and Michael Solomon in the Avondale Sunshine area. On Solomon's sheep station the ford now near the west end of Canning Street in Avondale Heights soon became known as Solomon's Ford. This was the lowest crossing point on the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River, and was for many years the only way from Melbourne to Geelong and further west.

During the second half of the nineteenth century much of Melbourne's industry was located along the river, and the water became very degraded. With the closure of many industries since the 1960s and 1970s, much river front land has openned up to parkland and highly sought after residential estates.


Jacksons Creek starts its jouney around near Mount Macedon, 50 km north of Melbourne. To the west of Melbourne Airport the tributaries of Jacksons Creek and Deep Creek conjoin to form the Maribyrnong River. The Organ Pipes National Park can be found on Jacksons Creek, near the Calder Freeway: a pleasant picnic site, and a unique display of basaltic columns geological formation so named because they look like organ pipes.

Middle Reaches

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Maribyrnong River at Brimbank Park

The river flows south and west. At Keilor the river winds back on itself in a giant horsehoe bend, before winding south again at Brimbank Park. Here the river flows fifty five metres below the western plains. Horseshoe Bend Farm is a small scale farm open to schools, kindergartens, playgroups and the general public.

Brimbank Park forms a huge amphitheatre in the bend in the river with picnic areas, cycle and walking trails, and a cafe, which reverberate with activity on weekends and public holidays. The area is rich in birdlife and native fauna.

The Maribyrnong River Trail for cyclists starts at Brimbank Park, following mostly beside the river to near its conjunction with the Yarra River in Footscray. At Avondale Heights and Essendon West residents have a spectacular view over the river valley to the skyscrapers of the Melbourne CBD.

Lower Reaches

The river flows past Pipemakers Park at Maidstone and the Living Museum of the West which presents information on the history of the river and the early industrial history of the site. Dolphins are sometimes sighted in the lower reaches of the river, along with seagulls, pelicans, cormorants and other water birds.

Through the industrial landscapes of Footscray and past the Flemington Racecourse, famous for the Melbourne Cup, the river meanders across the floodplain to its juncture with the Yarra River.


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