Great Dividing Range

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Great Dividing Range
  • Eastern Highlands
  • Great Divide
The great dividing range.jpg
Highest point
Peak Mount Kosciuszko (Snowy Mountains)
Elevation 2,228 m (7,310 ft)
Coordinates 36°27′S148°16′E / 36.450°S 148.267°E / -36.450; 148.267
Dimensions
Length3,500 km (2,200 mi)North–South
Geography
CountryAustralia [1]
States New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria
District Australian Capital Territory
Range coordinates 25°S147°E / 25°S 147°E / -25; 147 Coordinates: 25°S147°E / 25°S 147°E / -25; 147
Geology
Age of rock Carboniferous

The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria. The width of the range varies from about 160 km (100 mi) to over 300 km (190 mi). [2] The Greater Blue Mountains Area, Gondwana Rainforests, and Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Areas are located in the range.

Queensland North-east state of Australia

Queensland is the second-largest and third-most populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, it is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. To its north is the Torres Strait, with Papua New Guinea located less than 200 km across it from the mainland. The state is the world's sixth-largest sub-national entity, with an area of 1,852,642 square kilometres (715,309 sq mi).

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.

Victoria (Australia) State in Australia

Victoria is a state in south-eastern Australia. Victoria is Australia's smallest mainland state and its second-most populous state overall, making it the most densely populated state overall. Most of its population lives concentrated in the area surrounding Port Phillip Bay, which includes the metropolitan area of its state capital and largest city, Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. Victoria is bordered by Bass Strait and Tasmania to the south, New South Wales to the north, the Tasman Sea to the east, and South Australia to the west.

Contents

The sharp rise between the coastal lowlands and the eastern uplands has affected Australia's climate, mainly due to orographic precipitation, and these areas of highest relief have revealed an impressive gorge country. [3]

Climate of Australia

Australia's climate is governed most y by its size and by the hot, sinking air of the subtropical high pressure belt. This moves north and south with the seasons. The climate is variable, with frequent droughts lasting several seasons, thought to be caused in part by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Australia has a wide variety of climates due to its large geographical size. The largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid. Only the south-east and south-west corners have a temperate climate and moderately fertile soil. The northern part of the country has a tropical climate, varying between tropical rainforests, grasslands and desert.

Terminology

The Great Dividing Range consists of a complex of mountain ranges, plateaus, upland areas and escarpments. Topography of australia great dividing range.jpg
The Great Dividing Range consists of a complex of mountain ranges, plateaus, upland areas and escarpments.
Great Dividing Range sign on the Kings Highway between Braidwood and Bungendore, New South Wales GreatDividingRangeSign.jpg
Great Dividing Range sign on the Kings Highway between Braidwood and Bungendore, New South Wales

The Dividing Range does not consist of a single mountain range. It consists of a complex of mountain ranges, plateaus, upland areas and escarpments with an ancient and complex geological history. The physiographic division name for the landmass is called the East Australian Cordillera . In some places the terrain is relatively flat, consisting of very low hills. [4] Typically the highlands range from 300 to 1,600 metres (980 to 5,250 ft) in height. [4]

A cordillera is an extensive chain of mountains or mountain ranges. The term is a borrowing from Spanish, in which it has the same meaning. The Spanish word originates from cordilla, a diminutive of "cuerda" or "rope". It is most commonly used in the field of physical geography.

The mountains and plateaus, which consist of limestones, sandstone, quartzite, schists and dolomite, have been created by faulting and folding processes. [5]

Limestone Sedimentary rocks made of calcium carbonate

Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolomite, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In fact, in old USGS publications, dolomite was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolomites or magnesium-rich limestones.

Sandstone A clastic sedimentary rock composed mostly of sand-sized particles

Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized mineral particles or rock fragments.

Quartzite hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally pure quartz sandstone

Quartzite is a hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally pure quartz sandstone. Sandstone is converted into quartzite through heating and pressure usually related to tectonic compression within orogenic belts. Pure quartzite is usually white to grey, though quartzites often occur in various shades of pink and red due to varying amounts of iron oxide (Fe2O3). Other colors, such as yellow, green, blue and orange, are due to other minerals.

The crest of the range is defined by the watershed or boundary between the drainage basins of rivers which drain directly eastward into the Pacific Ocean, or southward into Bass Strait, and those rivers which drain into the Murray–Darling river system towards the west and south. [4] In central Queensland, the rivers on the west side drain into Lake Eyre basin. In north Queensland, the rivers on the west side of the range drain towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Drainage divide Elevated terrain that separates neighbouring drainage basins

A drainage divide, water divide, divide, ridgeline, watershed, water parting or height of land is elevated terrain that separates neighbouring drainage basins. On rugged land, the divide lies along topographical ridges, and may be in the form of a single range of hills or mountains, known as a dividing range. On flat terrain, especially where the ground is marshy, the divide may be harder to discern.

Drainage basin Area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet

A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from rain runoff, snowmelt, and nearby streams that run downslope towards the shared outlet, as well as the groundwater underneath the earth's surface. Drainage basins connect into other drainage basins at lower elevations in a hierarchical pattern, with smaller sub-drainage basins, which in turn drain into another common outlet.

Bass Strait Sea strait between the Australian mainland and Tasmania

Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria.

The higher and more rugged parts of the "range" do not necessarily form part of the crest of the range, but may be branches and offshoots from it. The term "Great Dividing Range" may refer specifically to the watershed crest of the range, or to the entire upland complex including all of the hills and mountains between the east coast of Australia and the central plains and lowlands. At some places it can be up to 400 km wide. [4] Notable ranges and other features which form part of the range complex have their own distinctive names.

History

The Great Dividing Range was formed during the Carboniferous period—over 300 million years ago—when Australia collided with what are now parts of South America and New Zealand. The range has experienced significant erosion since. (See Geology of Australia.)

For tens of thousands of years prior to British colonisation the ranges were home to various Aboriginal Australian nations and clans. Evidence remains in some places of their traditional way of life including decorated caves, campsites and trails used to travel between the coastal and inland regions. Many descendants of these nations still exist today and remain the traditional owners and custodians of their lands.

After British colonisation in 1788, the ranges were an obstacle to exploration and settlement by the British settlers. Although not high, parts of the highlands were very rugged. Crossing the Blue Mountains was particularly challenging due to the mistaken idea that the creeks should be followed rather than the ridges, and almost impenetrable, labyrinthine, sandstone mountains. [6]

Knowing that local Aboriginal people had already established routes crossing the range and by making use of Aboriginal walking trails, a usable ridge-top route was finally discovered by Europeans directly westward from Sydney across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst by an expedition jointly led by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth. [7] [6] Towns in the Blue Mountains were later named after each of these men. This was the start of the development of the agricultural districts of inland New South Wales. A road was built to Blaxland by convicts within six months. Easier routes to inland New South Wales were discovered towards Goulburn to the southwest, and westwards from Newcastle.

Subsequent explorations were made across and around the ranges by Allan Cunningham, John Oxley, Hamilton Hume, Paul Edmund Strzelecki, Ludwig Leichhardt and Thomas Mitchell. These explorers were mainly concerned with finding and appropriating good agricultural land.

By the late 1830s the most fertile rangelands adjacent to the mountain ranges had been explored, appropriated from the traditional inhabitants and some settled. These included the Gippsland and Riverina regions in the south, up to the Liverpool Plains and the Darling Downs in the north.

Various road and railway routes were subsequently established through many parts of the ranges, although many areas remain remote to this day. For example, in eastern Victoria there is only one major road crossing the highlands from north to south, the Great Alpine Road.

Natural components

The Snowy Mountains alpine region Worldwind-SnowyMountains.jpg
The Snowy Mountains alpine region
Omeo Plains from Mount Blowhard Benambra&OmeoPlains-from-MtBlowhard.jpg
Omeo Plains from Mount Blowhard

Parts of the highlands consisting of relatively flat and, by Australian standards, well-watered land were developed for agricultural and pastoral uses. Such areas include the Atherton Tableland and Darling Downs in Queensland, and the Northern Tablelands, Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands in New South Wales. Other parts of the highlands are too rugged for agriculture and have been used for forestry.[ citation needed ] Many parts of the highlands which were not developed are now included in National Parks.

All of mainland Australia's alpine areas, including its highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres or 7,310 feet AHD), are part of this range, called the Main Range. [4] The highest areas in southern New South Wales and eastern Victoria are known as the Australian Alps.

The central core of the Great Dividing Range is dotted with hundreds of peaks and is surrounded by many smaller mountain ranges or spurs, canyons, valleys and plains of regional significance. Some of the major plains include the High Plains of South-Eastern Australia, the Southern Highlands, the Central Highlands and Bogong High Plains of Victoria. Other tablelands considered part of the Great Dividing Range are the Atherton Tableland, Canberra wine region and the Southern Tablelands.

The Dandenong Ranges, Barrington Tops, Bunya Mountains, Blue Mountains, Liverpool Range, McPherson Ranges and the Moonbi Range are some of the smaller spurs and ranges that make up the greater dividing range. Other notable ranges and tablelands which form part of the Great Dividing Range include the Liverpool Range, Mount Royal Range and the Monaro District. Whilst some of the peaks of the highlands reach respectable heights of a little over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), the age of the range and its erosion mean that most of the mountains are not very steep, and virtually all peaks can be reached without mountaineering equipment.

In some areas, such as the Snowy Mountains, Victorian Alps, the Scenic Rim and the eastern escarpments of the New England region, the highlands form a significant barrier. The eastern escarpment is the site of many spectacular waterfalls which were formed by rivers plunging off the tablelands. In other areas the slopes are gentle and in places the range is barely perceptible. [2]

Well known passes on the range include Coxs Gap, Cunninghams Gap, Dead Horse Gap, Nowlands Gap, and Spicers Gap.

Major cities located on the upland areas of the range include Canberra, Toowoomba and the outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns in north Queensland. Many towns and cities are located on the range, and also in lowland areas and foothills adjacent to the highlands. There is a strong natural history and cultural attachment to the Dividing Range region in towns and on many, sometimes remote, landholdings. Some of the towns/cities located on the range include:

Water catchments

Some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Australia, such as Dangar Falls at Dorrigo, New South Wales, are located along the Great Dividing Range. Dangar Falls Dorrigo (1).JPG
Some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Australia, such as Dangar Falls at Dorrigo, New South Wales, are located along the Great Dividing Range.

The lower reaches are used for forestry, an activity that causes friction with conservationists. The range is also the source of virtually all of eastern Australia's water supply, both through runoff caught in dams, and throughout much of Queensland, through the Great Artesian Basin.

Valleys along the chain of mountains have yielded a water source for important reservoirs and water supply projects such as the Upper Nepean Scheme, Snowy Mountains Scheme and Warragamba Dam. The Bradfield Scheme has been mooted as a way to transport water from the tropics in coastal Queensland south to dryer regions.

The Great Dividing Range creates the drainage basins of the Australian south-east coast drainage division and the Australian north-east coast drainage division, whose water flows to the east coast and into the Pacific Ocean, Tasman Sea, and Bass Strait with the westerly Murray–Darling basin which flow inland, away from the coast into the interior plains.

Some of the rivers which flow west of the ranges includes the Condamine River, Flinders River, Herbert River, Lachlan River, Macdonald River, Macintyre River and Namoi River. [1] Rivers that flow north into the Murray–Darling Basin from Victoria include the Goulburn, Mitta Mitta, Kiewa, Ovens, King, Loddon and Campaspe rivers. Rivers that flow east into the Pacific Ocean include the Brisbane River, Burdekin River, Clarence River, Hastings River, Hawkesbury River, Hunter River, Macleay River, Mary River, Richmond River and the Shoalhaven River. Those that flow south, primarily through Victoria, include the Snowy, Cann, Tambo, Mitchell, Latrobe, Thomson, Yarra, Werribee, Hopkins and Glenelg rivers. [2]

Features

At some high hill passes the range provides cool sites appropriate for vineyards. [8]

Railways

A number of scenic railways, such as this one at Katoomba, climb various shorter routes along the range Katoomba scenic railway track 1.jpg
A number of scenic railways, such as this one at Katoomba, climb various shorter routes along the range

The engineers of early rail passages across the Great Dividing Range needed to find low sections of the range to cross, as well as suitable, low gradient paths up the mountains on either side. Rail passages include:

Road transport

Many of Australia's highways such as the Alpine Way, Great Alpine Road, Hume Highway, Northern Highway, Melba Highway, Maroondah Highway, Sunraysia Highway, Federal Highway, Great Western Highway, Capricorn Highway, Cunningham Highway, New England Highway, Bruxner Highway, Oxley Highway, Warrego Highway, Waterfall Way, Thunderbolts Way, the Calder Highway, the Western Highway, and the Murray Valley Highway traverse parts of the range.

Protected areas

Much of the range lies within a succession of national parks and other reserves. Most of the national parks are listed below, and there are almost double that amount of state forests. [10] [11]

The Great Dividing Range, as seen from near Mount Hotham, Victoria Mt hotham alpine range scenery.jpg
The Great Dividing Range, as seen from near Mount Hotham, Victoria
The view from the peak of Mount Feathertop, facing north-east, showing the Fainters and other mountains Mt. Feathertop444 edit.jpg
The view from the peak of Mount Feathertop, facing north-east, showing the Fainters and other mountains

Awards

In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, the Great Dividing Range was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as a "location". [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Northern Tablelands Region in New South Wales, Australia

The Northern Tablelands, also known as the New England Tableland, is a plateau and a region of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. It includes the New England Range, the narrow highlands area of the New England region, stretching from the Moonbi Range in the south to the Queensland border in the north. The region corresponds generally to the Bureau of Meteorology forecast area for the Northern Tablelands which in this case includes Inverell although it is significantly lower in elevation.

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This page discusses the rivers and hydrography of the state of Queensland, Australia.

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Weir River (Queensland) river in Australia

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References

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  2. 1 2 3 Shaw, John H., Collins Australian Encyclopedia, William Collins Pty Ltd., Sydney, 1984, ISBN   0-00-217315-8
  3. Löffler, Ernst; A.J. Rose; Anneliese Löffler; Denis Warner (1983). Australia:Portrait of a Continent. Richmond, Victoria: Hutchinson Group. ISBN   0-09-130460-1.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Johnson, David (2009). The Geology of Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 202. ISBN   0-521-76741-5.
  5. Haggett, Peter (2001). Encyclopedia of World Geography. Marshall Cavendish. p. 3211. ISBN   0-7614-7289-4 . Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  6. 1 2 "Crossing the Great Dividing Range—surveying an ancient land". About Australia. Australian Government. 10 December 2008. Archived from the original on 20 December 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  7. "Gregory Blaxland". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Archived from the original on 1 June 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  8. Clarke, Oz (2002). New Wine Atlas: Wines and Wine Regions of the World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 300. ISBN   0-15-100913-9 . Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  9. "NSW Railway Altitude Highs and Lows". www.nswrail.net. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  10. Melway, Edition 35 2008, Touring Maps
  11. Brisway, Edition 1, 2005
  12. Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.