Snowy Mountains

Snowy Mountains

Snowy Mountains, range of the Australian Alps, SE Australia. It is the site of the Snowy Mts. Hydroelectric Scheme, Australia's most extensive hydroelectricity and irrigation complex. The scheme was begun in 1949 and completed in 1972. A series of dams and tunnels control the Tumut and Snowy-Murray river systems and divert water from eastward-flowing streams back across the Great Dividing Range. Seven power stations have a combined capacity of 3,740,000 kW.
For the Snowy Mountains of Wyoming, USA, see Medicine Bow Mountains.

The Snowy Mountains, known informally as "The Snowies", are the highest Australian mountain range and contain the Australian mainland's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, which reaches 2,228 metres AHD.

The range contains Australia's five highest peaks, all above 2100 metres. They are located in southern New South Wales and are part of the larger Australian Alps and the Great Dividing Range. This is mainland Australia's only true Alpine region with large natural snowfalls every winter. Snow normally falls the most during June, July and Early August. Most of the snow has melted by Late Spring. The Tasmanian highlands are the other Alpine region in Australia.

It is host to the confusingly-named Mountain Plum-pine, a low-lying type of conifer suspected of being the world's oldest living organism. It is one of the centres of the Australian snow industry during the winter months.

The Alpine Way and the Snowy Mountains Highway are the major roads through and around the Snowy Mountains.


The mountain range is thought to have had Aboriginal occupation for twenty thousand years. It was first explored by Europeans in 1835.

In 1840, Edmund Strzelecki ascended Mount Kosciuszko and named it after a Polish patriot.

Glacial lakes

Part of the mountains known as Main Range contains mainland Australia's five glacial lakes. The largest of these lakes is Blue Lake, one of the headwaters of the Snowy River. The other four glacial lakes are Lake Albina, Lake Cootapatamba, Club Lake and Headley Tarn.

Water supply

The Snowy Mountains also feed the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers from the Tooma River, Whites River and Yarrangobilly River. The range is perhaps best known for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a project to dam the Snowy River, providing both water for irrigation and hydroelectricity.

The project began in 1949 employing a hundred thousand men, two-thirds of whom came from thirty other countries during the post-World War II years. Socially this project symbolises a period during which Australia became an ethnic "melting pot" of the twentieth century but which also changed Australia's character and increased its appreciation for a wide range of cultural diversity.

By 1974, of underground tunnels and of aqueducts connected the 16 dams, seven power stations (two underground), and one pumping station. The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated the Snowy Scheme as "a world-class civil engineering project".


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