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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Geography and Climate >> Rivers and lakes

As can be inferred from the elevation and relief map (map 1.4), the rivers of Australia may be divided into two major classes: those of the coastal margins with moderate rates of fall, and those of the central plains with very slight fall. Of the rivers of the east coast, the longest in Queensland are the Burdekin and the Fitzroy, while the Hunter is the longest coastal river of New South Wales. The longest river system in Australia is the Murray-Darling, which drains part of Queensland, the major part of New South Wales and a large part of Victoria, finally flowing into the arm of the sea known as Lake Alexandrina, on the eastern side of the South Australian coast. The length of the Murray is about 2,520 km, and the Darling and Upper Darling together are also just over 2,000 km long. The rivers of the north-west coast of Australia, for example, the Murchison, Gascoyne, Ashburton, Fortescue, De Grey, Fitzroy, Drysdale and Ord, are of considerable length. So also are those rivers in the Northern Territory, for example the Victoria and Daly, and those on the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, such as the Gregory, Leichhardt, Cloncurry, Gilbert and Mitchell. The rivers of Tasmania have short and rapid courses, as might be expected from the configuration of the land.

There are many types of lake in Australia, the largest being drainage sumps from the internal rivers. In dry seasons these lakes finally become beds of salt and dry mud. The largest are Lake Eyre 9,500 square kilometres, Lake Torrens 5,900 square kilometres and Lake Gairdner 4,300 square kilometres.

Other lake types are glacial, most common in Tasmania; volcanic crater lakes, predominantly in Victoria and Queensland; fault angle lakes, of which Lake George near Canberra is a good example; and coastal lakes formed by marine damming of valleys.

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