Hunter River

Hunter River (New South Wales)

The Hunter River is a major river in New South Wales, Australia. The Hunter River rises in the Liverpool Range and flows generally south and then east, reaching the Pacific Ocean at Newcastle, the second largest city in New South Wales and a major port.


The Hunter River was discovered by European explorers in the 1790s. In June 1796 fishermen sheltering from bad weather discovered coal there, and the river was initially called Coal River. In 1797 it was formally named the Hunter, after Captain John Hunter who was Governor of the British colony in New South Wales at that time.

Between 1826 and 1836 convicts built the long Great North Road that links Sydney to the Hunter Region.

Major floods have occurred on the Hunter including the flood of 1955 that caused devastation to townships along the river, especially Maitland. Severe flooding again occurred in June 2007.


The Hunter Valley is one of the best routes to the interior of the state with access relatively unimpeded by mountains and other obstacles. It is the largest area of relatively low-lying land near the coast of New South Wales, and owing to the shielding by rugged ranges to its north, is much drier than any other coastal region of the state. Annual rainfall ranges from at Newcastle to only at Merriwa and Scone in the upper reaches. In the driest years rainfall can be as low as at Newcastle and in the upper valley.

Around the Barrington Tops on the northern side of the valley, however, annual precipitation can be as high as , not all of which falls as rain since July temperatures are often below . In the lower areas, summer maxima are usually around and winter maxima around .

Except for the driest parts of Tasmania and a small area of the Monaro between Cooma and Nimmitabel, the Hunter Valley is the southern limit of rich "black earths" (actually black cracking clays). These are the only soils in all of Australia with reasonable levels of soluble phosphorus, with the result that upstream from Singleton very rich pasture land with many horse studs occurs. Around Merriwa and south of Singleton, the soils are very infertile sands more typical of Australia as a whole, and the dominant land use is extensive grazing.

Tributaries of the Hunter River include the Pages River, the Goulburn River, the Wollombi Brook, the Williams River and the Paterson River. The Hunter River is subject to substantial flooding, which Glenbawn Dam near Scone was constructed to ameliorate.

Towns along the Hunter River include Raymond Terrace, Morpeth, Maitland, Singleton, Jerry's Plains, Denman, Muswellbrook, Aberdeen, and Scone.

Parts of the Hunter Valley are important for grape growing and wine producing. The Hunter Valley is also one of Australia's most important coal mining areas. The Hunter River is threatened by drought, climate change and proposed loss of water due to coal mining.


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