Ferns beside a still pool

The Source of the Murray

History and logistics of finding the source

When you drink water, think of the source whence it comes.

Yu Xin, from the Yu Zishan Collection

Indi Springs is considered to be the source of the Murray River. It is located about 180 m along the Black-Allen line at 36° 47' 49.3" S, 148° 11' 48.3" E.

To reach the spring, start at Cowombat Flat and walk up the Murray River to the beginning of the Black-Allan line. From there, head ESE along the border until you find the spring. The RMIT survey group placed a steel pipe at the spring in December 1984. A visitor book is available for signing in a canister attached to the pole. Alternatively, you can find the Forest Hill Cairn #1, located on the edge of the saddle between the knolls of Forest Hill, and follow the line of rocks 22.5 chains (452.6 metres) northwest from the cairn until you reach the source.


Based on old reports, it was estimated that finding the source would take a day, but in reality, it is an easy walk from Cowombat Flat in fairly open terrain to the Black-Allen line, which took the me about an hour one way. However, if feral animal control is regularly done in the area, specifically targeting feral horses and deer, the bush will likely become thicker and make the trip more challenging.

The source of the Murray River was indirectly determined by the Act of Separation Bill, 1851, which legislated the separation of NSW and VIC, the border is defined as "a straight line drawn from Cape Howe to the nearest source of the Murray River." Townsend first surveyed this in 1846, and Black confirmed it as the most eastern of the sources in 1869. It was officially named Indi Spring in 2006, which is the Aboriginal name for the Murray River and means 'something far away or belonging to the past.'

Limestone Creek is a likely alternative for the true geographic source if all sources within the alpine areas of VIC/NSW are considered. It would be interesting to discover the history of both rivers and what made the smaller eastern tributary be named as the Murray. However, this is a bit of a moot point since the best current estimate for the true geographic source of the Murray-Darling Basin is the Condamine River in Queensland.

Swampy Plain River confluence (via Indi Backwater) is considered by some to be the start of the Murray which is just 2.5 km upstream of Bringenbrong Bridge. This is due to the false impression of this being the larger river. However it would have been considerable smaller than the upper Murray River before the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme diverted water from the Snowy and Murrumbigee rivers for the hydro power. This water is released into the Khancoban Pondage that feeds Swampy Plain River. This does mark the location where the river can be paddled for most of the year due to the fairly constant regulated release from the hydro scheme / pondage.