Our natural heritage

Our natural heritage

Wingecarribee Swamp

Wingecarribee Swamp is left over from the last ice age. It is listed as an endangered ecological community, contains a rich array of water and bog plants, some of which are endangered and vulnerable, and several indigenous and non-indigenous heritage sites.

The swamp is internationally recognised as one the best examples of a montane peatland on mainland Australia. (Montane peatland is a thick layer of organic matter, or peat, found at a high altitude.)

Wingecarribee Swamp forms the headwaters of the Wingecarribee River, a tributary of the Wollondilly River. The swamp lies immediately upstream of Wingecarribee Reservoir, part of the water supply system for the Southern Highlands, Illawarra, Goulburn and Sydney regions.

The 340-hectare swamp remains from what was probably a much larger late glacial swamp which formed over the Permian sandstone and Wianamatta shale of the Southern Highlands. Only Wingecarribee Swamp survived intact, because of an unusual combination of features.

The swamp sits in a bowl surrounded by basalt hills, creating a perched water table with little drainage. This allowed a deep peat swamp to develop during the late glacial age.

The peat is on average three metres deep (up to 10 metres). Peatlands of this kind are rare in Australia and have developed in isolation from each other and related ecosystems.

The swamp’s peat deposits provide a rare resource for scientific study, acting as information repositories about ecosystem history and environmental change. Fossil wood more than 35,000 years old has been recovered from the swamp.

The peat was also sought after as a mining resource. Peat mining stopped in 1998. That  same year a large storm contributed to a major collapse of the peat mass, detaching large blocks of peat which now float in the reservoir.

The swamp and immediately adjacent area contains two endangered ecological communities: montane peatland and swamps, and Southern Highlands shale woodlands.

Seven species listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 are also found in the swamp: giant dragonfly, Wingecarribee leek orchid, yellow loosestrife, Wingecarribee gentium, swamp gum, Austral toadflax and Australian bittern. The Wingecarribee leek orchid is found only in the swamp, and the Wingecarribee gentium is found in the swamp and at only one other location.

The swamp plays an important role in filtering runoff from the 40 square kilometre rural
catchment area feeding Wingecarribee Reservoir. The swamp and reservoir are located about 10 kilometres south-east of Bowral, 130 kilometres south of Sydney.

Public access to Wingecarribee Swamp is not permitted, as it is within a Special Area which protects drinking water quality by providing buffer zones to stop pollution from entering dams and reservoirs.

See more information on the Wingecarribee Swamp heritage register.

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