Situated between Echuca and Barham, the Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest is Australia’s second largest River Red Gum forest. It is home to many threatened animals and native plants. The forest wetlands are important breeding sites for waterbirds and native fish. The wetlands are destinations for migrating waterbirds from Japan and China. The forests attract campers, walkers, birdwatchers, families and holiday makers in one of the Murray River’s remarkable riverine forests.
The Gunbower Forest, now a national park, is situated in Victoria between Echuca and Koondrook. The Koondrook-Perricoota Forest is in NSW and situated between Moama and Barham.
At the moment, the Koondrook-Perricoota Forest in NSW is not suitable for school excursions due to major works, no facilities and limited signage.
Why is the Gunbower Forest special and worth visiting?
The Gunbower National Park is a unique and diverse wonderland of water birds, wildlife and aquatic plants with a backdrop of the Murray River, majestic River Red gums and sandy beaches.
The Gunbower National Park protects the River Red gum forests that have natural, cultural and economic significance. These riverine forests are under increasing pressure from climate change, drought and reduced water flows.
Traditionally, Gunbower Island was frequented by the Barapa Barapa and the Yorta Yorta clans. They have long connections with the area, once known as Kanbowro – twisting and tortuous like the necks of the black swans. When exploring you may discover shell middens, kitchen hearths, burial sites and scar trees.
The forest wetlands are important breeding sites for waterbirds and native fish. The forests are visited annually by migrating waterbirds from Japan and China. The area has over 200 species of birds and is one of the largest breeding grounds for waterbirds in Victoria including White-Bellied Sea-Eagles.
One hundred and ninety-five species of native fauna have been recorded in the Gunbower National Park, including 30 threatened species such as the Inland Carpet Python, Silver perch, Giant Bullfrog, Broad-shelled turtle and Squirrel gliders. Kangaroos and emus are common.
The Park has about 200 plant species, the two main trees are River Red gums in the wetter areas and box trees in the drier sections. The forests were originally flooded more frequently than today.
How to get there
The Gunbower National Park in Victoria is about 250km north of Melbourne and situated between Echuca and Koondrook. Access to the entrances is via the Murray Valley Highway at Koondrook or Cohuna.
The Koondrook-Perricoota Forest in NSW has limited access until the current works are completed. There are also no facilities and few sign posts.
The Gunbower National Park has basic bush camping alongside the Murray River and Gunbower Creek. There are also picnic facilities. The nearby towns of Koondrook, Cohuna, Gunbower, Torrumbarry and Echuca have caravan parks and motel accommodation.
There are no facilities in the Koondrook-Perricoota Forest.
For assistance and resource people who can help arrange excursions and provide information when visiting the Gunbower National Park and looking at The Living Murray program, please contact:
- Parks Victoria – phone 131 963
- North Central Catchment Management Authority – phone 03 5448 7124
For information on the Koondrook Perricoota Forest and The Living Murray program, please contact:
- Murray Catchment Management Authority – phone 03 5880 1416 or 03 5453 3682
- Also see www.gpfforest.com.au
The Living Murray
The Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest icon site has received environmental water to enable native plants and animals to flourish by helping to restore the health of the floodplain.
What to do when you are in the Gunbower National Park?
There are many short and long walks throughout the area.
A new 14km walking track near Koondrook will take you past the Eagle Tree and a number of cultural sites.
A half-day drive, starting at Cohuna, links historical, cultural and ecological sites.
The Murray River is a breeding ground for native fish species such as Murray cod and Golden perch.
A five-kilometre canoe trail starts at Safes Lagoon near Koondrook and takes about two hours return to complete. Bring your own canoe, and check water levels and access before you go.
Excursion organisers must take full OH&S responsibility for all acticities. MDBA will not be held responsible for any visits to icon sites as they are National Parks.
Help look after this area by following these guidelines:
- Take your rubbish with you for recycling and disposal.
- All plants, animals, historical and archaeological sites, and geographic features are protected by law.
- Dogs and other pets are not permitted in national parks.
- Firearms are prohibited.
- Gas fires and barbecues are recommended.
- Bring your own firewood where possible.
- Avoid picnics or camping under or close to River Red gum trees – they may drop branches at any time without warning.
- Swimming in the Murray River can be hazardous because of currents, hidden snags, cold water and shifting sands.
- Do not dive or jump into any waterway or use any kind of swing attached to trees or other structures.
- Be self-sufficient with drinking water – carry your own supplies at all times.
- Gunbower National Park has a high level of bushfire risk and is closed for public safety on days of Code Red Fire Danger Rating. No fires, including barbecues, may be lit on a day of Total Fire Ban. Gunbower National Park is in the North West Fire Ban District.
- For more information, see The Living Murray material on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s website – www.mdba.gov.au/programs/tlm/icon_sites/gkp_forest
- See Gunbower–Koondrook–Perricoota Storylines at www.environmentvictoria.org.au/content/gkp-storylines
- The Living Murray program can also be contacted at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority on 02 6279 0100 or via the enquiries form at www.mdba.gov.au/contact