Cliffs at the border into SA

Locks and Weirs

Water is a very good servant, but it is a cruel master.

C.G.D. Roberts
Two large boats and kayak in lock

There has been a series of weirs and dams built on the Murray River to ensure boat navigation and secure water supplies within the basin. Barrages were also built across the entrance of Lake Alexandrina to keep the water fresh in the lower reaches and lakes. All of the weirs on the lower sections and two of the barrages (Goolwa and Tauwitchere) have locks that allow boats to travel up and down the river. Hume Dam and Yarrawonga Weir do not have locks and portages are required.

I have compiled key information about each lock along with some other useful information in the table at the bottom on this page. Lock opening hours and operator numbers can be found on signage located near the locks with the exception of the Tauwitchere Barrage Lock that is self-operated.

Updated information for SA maintained locks and the barrages can be found on the SA Water website or by calling the SA Water Berri office on 08 8595 2222. These include all locks from Lock 9 downstream.

General enquiries for the others can be done by calling the respective Lock Masters or NSW Water on 1300 662 077 for Hume, Euston & Wentworth, or Goulburn-Murray Water on 03 5826 3500 for Yarrawonga, Torrumbarry & Mildura.

Hume Dam

Large dam

Portage for the dam is up the public boat ramp prior to both the caravan park and the dam. It is a long portage, nearly 2 km up and over the hill at Lake Hume Village and down Trout Farm Road to the park at the bottom of the hill where you can launch from the river bank.

Expect to take up to an hour for the portage depending on your setup. Trolleys are recommended if you can't organise anyone to give you a lift!

Use the Spillway Reserve Boat Ramp for put-in if someone is giving you a lift. Continue driving along Trout Farm Road to find this just below the dam wall on the Victorian side of the river.

Portage Directions (Google Maps)

Yarrawonga Weir

Wide weir across the river

This is the second of the two portages on the Murray River, 700 m. From here you will have locks on all weirs.

The portage is on the left, on the Yarrawonga (VIC) side. Follow the road around and across the train tracks / channel and keep going straight into the Yarrawonga Caravan Park. A public boat ramp can be found just past the camp office. Considering the length of this portage, a trolley or a pre-organised lift are recommended!

Use the Bank Street Boat Ramp for takeout if someone is giving you a lift.

Portage Directions (Google Maps)

Other Weirs

Lock on a river

All of the lower weirs have locks, and you can access these during operating hours for 364 days a year, closing only for Christmas. There is no charge for accessing the locks during operating hours.

At Mildura, they use a formal schedule of down on the hour and up on the half hour. Other weirs are much less busy and you can call though on your mobile once you get close and you usually will be let down without any significant delay. Three prolonged blasts (4 seconds each) on a whistle or horn can be used if you can not ring the Lock Master.

The general procedure for all locks are to:

  1. Call or signal the Lock Master.
  2. Locate the lock on the weir, the buoys will direct you to the lock as will the triangular green and square red signs. When heading downstream, these mark the left and right sides of the lock respectively. Many locks have gate cranes that make finding the lock from a distance easy.
  3. Flashing red light will indicate that the lock master is preparing the lock.
  4. Do not approach until you get a flashing green light or when the red traffic light goes green, but watch the Lock Master as they may signal kayakers in as the gates are opening and the lights are still red.
  5. Enter and either go to a position where directed or stop near the Lock Master for a chat.
  6. You may request a rope to hold onto if you feel unstable within the lock.
  7. Once the lock has fallen or risen and the gate has been opened, a green light signals it is safe to exit. Again kayakers can pop out early. Wait until the gate is opened at least a couple of metres as the water can still be fairly turbulent as excess water floods out / into the lock.

On the Telstra network in 2020, the only lock where I couldn't call on my mobile was lock 8 but the Lock Master saw me coming and let me through.

Lock Operating Hours

As previously noted, the locks are usually open 364 days a year, closing only for Christmas. They may be closed for extended periods due to maintenance or flooding.

Most locks operate on demand, but Mildura follows a formal schedule of opening on the hour and closing on the half hour. I've experienced slight delays with the first lockage of the day at Wentworth on a couple of occasions now, with the lock master performing maintenance tasks (20-30 minutes).

Operating hours are based on local time zones. Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) for Torrumbarry (lock 26) through to Rufus River (lock 7), otherwise Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) for the remaining locks and barrages that are all in South Australia.

Torrumbarry to Wentworth

Open 8:00-12:00 and 13:00-16:00

Wentworth lock sign
Kulnine to Blanchetown

Open 8:00-11:30 and 13:00-16:30

Blanchetown lock sign

Open 8:00-12:30 and 13:30-16:30

Goolwa lock sign


Torrumbarry Weir features undershot regulators, where the river flows beneath the large mechanical radial gates. These gates are lifted to allow more outflow through the weir.

Mildura Weir is the only weir on the river where the lock and weir are separated. The lock is situated in a constructed channel, which forms Lock Island today. The weir is a Dethridge Weir, which features steel-wheeled trestles housed on rails that enable them to be retracted from the river during times of flood. Removing and reinstalling these trestles can take days to complete, with the lock being closed during this process. Stopper boards are lowered between these trestles to control the river's height, allowing the water to flow over the top.

All the other weirs on the lower Murray are adjustable overshot weirs with fixed piles capped for access across the weir. Large concrete stoplogs, also known as "logs", are used to adjust the height of the upstream section, with excess water flowing over the top.

Looking upstream at Torrumbarry Weir
Satellite image
Lock Island, with the lock on the left and weir on the right
Water flowing through weir
Water flowing through Wentworth weir


River in flood and mostly submerged weir

In a minor to moderate flood, the locks are typically closed, and the weir gates are fully opened, or the logs are removed.

In flood, a portage at Torrumbarry Weir is likely, but navigation of the other weirs downstream is possible by fully or partially removing the weir itself.

Mildura Weir is completely removed, allowing navigation along the natural river course around Lock Island.

Euston and all the other weirs from Wentworth to Blanchetown will have a navigation channel through part of the weir itself, usually beside the lock. Buoy lines will guide you through this passageway. While all the stoplogs are removed, most of the piles will remain in place, and only the capping/gantry from the navigation channel is removed.

In a major flood, navigation near the weirs may be restricted altogether, even if the river itself is still open. Check the NSW or SA notifications.

Lake Alexandrina Barrages

Barrage wall and lagoon

Barrages at the river mouth prevent an influx of salt water into Lake Alexandrina. There are a number of barrages, but only two locks are present and operational.

Goolwa Barrage is similar to all of the other weirs on the river, with a Lock Master letting you down. Open 8:00-12:30 and 13:30-16:30.

Tauwitchere Barrage has a lock that is self-operated, thus open 24 hours.

Num Name Lock River Leg§
Pool* Drop Number Portage Distance Drop Slope
Hume Dam 182.9 m 42 m Required, see notes above 213 km 82.1 m 0.39‰
Yarrawonga 124.9 m 8.0 m Required, see notes above 218 km 16.0 m 0.07‰
26 Torrumbarry 86.0 m 6.2 m 03 5487 2900 Left. Around the lock information centre and down past the Holiday Park to a boatramp. 550 m
Alternatively, it may be possible to take out on the poontoon just right of the lock with a scramble across the rocky weir wall. 120 m
348 km 30.9 m 0.09‰
15 Euston 47.6 m 5.0 m 03 5026 4005 Right. Long cross-country portage around the maintenance yard. Steep bank downstream. 600 m 484 km 32.2 m 0.07‰
11 Mildura 34.4 m 3.6 m 03 5023 1396 Left across the lawn beside the lock (not the weir itself). Short, steep rocky bank to re-enter. 220 m. 214 km 8.2 m 0.04‰
10 Wentworth 30.8 m 3.4 m 03 5027 3190 Get out beside the lock onto Cadell Street for 600 m, before taking the dirt down to the free camping area that has a boatramp. 900 m 52 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
9 Kulnine 27.4 m 2.8 m 03 5028 2235 Left. Private boatramp around the lock and rough track / scramble back to the river. 400 m 60 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
8 Wangumma 24.6 m 2.5 m 03 5027 8231 Right. Private driveways behind the lockmasters house loop around back to the river. 39 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
7 Rufus River 22.1 m 2.8 m 03 5027 8225 Unknown. 29 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
6 Murtho 19.2 m 2.9 m 08 8595 8025 Right. Pull out near the lock and walk along the path to an old boatramp. 180 m 77 km 0.1 m 0.00‰
5 Renmark 16.3 m 3.1 m 08 8595 5114 Left. There is a boat ramp just past the moored houseboats, 250 m upstream from the lock. Take Lock 5 Road where you may be lucky to access the river via a steep bank if the gate just downstream of the lock isn't padlocked (500 m), otherwise stay on Lock 5 Road to the beach at the very end of the road (900 m). 57 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
4 Bookpurnong 13.2 m 3.4 m 08 8582 1388 Unknown. Likely requires scrambling up the right bank and around the fenced maintenance yard opposite the lock. This would involve carrying your boat 100 m before another 400 m along dirt tracks. 46 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
3 Overland Corner 9.8 m 3.7 m 08 8588 7005 Right. Pull out onto the grass and along the path in front of the buildings. Steep rocky bank down to the river can be avoided by respectively traversing further downstream on the crown reserve land beside the river. The house and most of the ground in front has private title. 320 m 84 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
2 Waikerie 6.1 m 2.8 m 08 8543 2246 Right. Pull out onto the grass and along the path in front of the buildings. Steep rocky bank down to the river. 300 m 69 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
1 Blanchetown 3.3 m 2.5 m 08 8540 5001 Right. Boatramp and up around the fenced lock complex. Recommended to try and pull out closer. 750 m 88 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
Lock Goolwa 0408 813 729 Right: Jet ski boat ramp, taking the narrow Barrage Rd around the fenced lock complex. 820 m
It maybe better to portage on Hindmarsh Island? Cross the bouylines and around the small fenced area by the edge. 75 m
268.4 km 0.0 m 0.00‰
Mundoo Either. Rock leeve with road. 20 m
Boundary Creek Either. Rock leeve with road. 15 m
Ewe Island Left. Kayak ramp before crossing road to another kayak ramp. 10 m
Lock Tauwitchere n/a

Middle-Right. The self-operated lock is slow; the ramps provide a faster portage option (45 m). The lock is approximately 1 km from the western edge and can be hard to see from a distance.
Left. A short rock wall. 15 m

Take care around any seals sleeping on the ramp or banks. Scare them into the water from a safe distance before getting out of your boat.

* Pool
The pool elevation at full supply level (m).
Typical drop in height (m), can change in high or low water levels. Lake Alexandrina is typically about 0.75 m above sea level and the drop varies with the tides.
§ River Leg
Distances (km), elevation change (m) and slope (m per km percentage) from the previous dam or weir. For the Hume Dam, these are calculated from Bringenbrong Bridge.
  • Dam or Reservoir
  • Weir or Low Head Dams