A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.

Laura Gilpin

The following pages cover many of the longer river systems in Australia. These trips take weeks if not months to complete, so worthy of having an Expedition badge!

I've completed a couple of these rivers, the Murray, Darling as well as parts of the Murrumbidgee and others. The logistics of some, namely the Coopers (very remote) and Finders (crocs) would mean that these are very unlikely to be ever done by myself. In fact, some rivers may have never been done in a kayak before, or at least there is no published information about some of these trips that I know of.

Ensure you do your due diligence and double check all information provided here and by others before considering to do any of these trips.

Always have a float plan, an escape plan and a PLB if you do decide to tackle any of these rivers!

Australia's Longest Rivers

The longest river is the Murray River by a clear margin. It is the crown for Australian long distance river paddlers and it is a trip many hundreds have completed before me. The other rivers get considerably less attention and many are very dependent on favourable flows. Some rivers like the Culgoa and Lachlan Rivers will rarely be paddled, some may have never been paddled.

So what are the longest rivers you may ask? The answer isn't too hard to find which rivers make it into the top ten, but the lengths found online are often badly off. GeoAustralia was the only reliable source that I found and it wasn't comprehensive and was based on the TOPO-250K geodata. I had to assess many of the other rivers to determine both their true lengths and to find the true top ten.

I've posted my findings in the table rightbelow with a special mention to Paroo River (828.6 km) that got bumped out of the top 10 by the Macquarie River.

Other guides include:

River States Length*
QGIS GeoAustralia
Murray RiverNSW, VIC, SA2,531 km2,508 km
Murrumbidgee RiverACT, NSW1,598 km1,485 km
Lachlan RiverNSW1,549 km1,339 km
Darling RiverNSW1,547 km1,545 km
Cooper CreekQLD, SA1,168 km1,113 km
Flinders RiverQLD1,037 km1,004 km
Diamantina RiverQLD, SA1,019 km941 km
Warrego RiverQLD, SA940 km
Macquarie RiverNSW882 km
Gascoyne RiverWA849 km834 km

* QGIS refers to my own personal measurements using QGIS software tracing river paths from satellite images. GeoAustralia traced the river lengths from the GEODATA TOPO-250K database.

Wide smooth river
Alluvial rivers are the dominant form of the longest rivers as they track across the wide brown land.
Small river passing through rocks
Bedrock sections are only seen in a few of the longest rivers, such as the upper Murray River.
Sandy river channel
Many rivers like the Finke and Paroo are ephemeral rivers that rarely flow.

Australia's Longest River Systems

The longest continuous river systems track the path from the ocean to the most remote source. This is not always clear cut as often the longest path is ephemeral, sometimes requiring a flood event to flow like Coopers Creek.

The longest continuous river system in the country is the Murray-Darling.

Starting at the source of the Condamine River and down through the Balonne and Culgoa rivers on the way to the Darling River before heading down the Murray River to the sea. The combined length is an impressive 3,917 km.

While this is the major path taken by the river, the flow diverges on the Culgoa floodplains, and in the right conditions, it is possible to paddle the Balonne Minor and the Bokhara Rivers. This adds an extra 135.7 km to the length, making for a total distance of 4,053 km.

Even if you started from Macintyre, Warrego or the Paroo river, you would still be paddling for a far greater distance than you could find in any other river basin in the country!

Murray-Darling System
730 km
Condamine River, QLD
365 km
Balonne River, QLD
443 km
Culgoa River, QLD/NSW
1,547 km
Darling River, NSW
832 km
Murray River, NSW/VIC/SA
3,917 km

Outside of the Murray-Darling Basin, the next longest continuous river systems are those that feed into Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre. These are even more dependent on rainfall and some very rarely flow. The Coopers-Thomson-Cornish-Torrens system is the likely longest of these at about 1,900 km followed by Warburton-Eyre-Georgina-Ranken (1,400 km) and the Macumba-Finke system that is difficult to estimate a length since it effectively never flows!

Coopers-Thomson-Cornish-Torrens System
306 km
Torrens Creek, QLD
50 km
Cornish Creek, QLD
381 km
Thomson River, QLD
1,171 km
Coopers Creek, QLD/SA
1,908 km

There are likely a number of other systems around of note, like the Fitroy-Dawson System (960 km) in Queensland.

World's Longest River Systems

To compare this with rivers worldwide, the continuous system of the Murray-Darling is the firth longest in terms of the longest river per continent, but the 16th in the longest individual rivers after the following rivers:

6,750 km
6,695 km
6,380 km
6,270 km
Mississippi - Missouri
5,550 km
Yenisei - Angara - Selenga
5,410 km
Ob' - Irtysh
4,667 km
Huang He (Yellow)
4,368 km
Amur (Heilong)
4,371 km
Congo (Zaire)
4,260 km
4,241 km
Mackenzie - Peace - Finlay
4,167 km
4,023 km
4,023 km
3,998 km
Río de la Plata
3,917 km
Murray - Darling

As noted above, it is the 13th longest river if you take the Bokhara at 4,053 km.

Longest rivers per continent

River Continent Length
Amazon River (Laguna McIntyre)South America6,750 km
Nile River (Burundi)Africa6,695 km
Mississippi/Missouri RiverNorth America5,970 km
Yangtze RiverAsia3,964 km
Murray/Darling RiverAustralia3,917 km
Volga RiverEurope3,531 km
Waikato RiverZealandia425 km
Onyx RiverAntarctica32 km

River Guides and Notes


General planning tips for any river trip in Australia or around the world.


A brief look at some safety aspects that you could confront.

More Info