Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon by David Ong

This page is about the Kanyapella Basin.

Located north of Tongala (Victoria), the Kanyapella Basin is a natural depression, much of which was purchased several years ago by the (then) State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (SRWSC) as a flood retarding basin. Some of the crown land is swampy and some is grassy-box woodland.

Kanyapella Basin Wildlife Area can be accessed from the Murray Valley Highway via Tehan Road, Fraser Road and Watson Road. The basin can be accessed from Echuca via Mitchell Road.

A brochure about Kanyella is usually available from the DPI office in Echuca, from the Echuca-Moama Visitor Information Centre and from the Facon Hotel.

Over the years, much habitat degradation has occurred and much of the shrub layer has vanished.

Following the demise of the SRWSC, ownership of much of the basin was assumed by Murray Goulburn Water, with other parts belonging to the freehold land-holders, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), Parks Victoria and the Shire of Campaspe. In order to co-ordinate the management and restoration of the Basin, a committee of stakeholders has been established. On the committee are representatives of Goulburn-Broken CMA, Murray Goulburn Water, The Department of Primary Industries (DPI), DSE, Parks Victoria, the Shire of Campaspe, adjoining land-holders, Field and Game Victoria, Yorta Yorta Nations, Koyuga-Kanyapella Landcare Group and BirdLife Echuca District.

This advisory group is chaired by a representative of DPI and meets quarterly. The group has overseen the preparation of a management plan and has organised fox drives and other management works. Boundary fences have been repaired or rebuilt to help manage cattle, horses and sheep from adjoining farms which had been wandering over the reserve.

Internal fences have also been repaired or removed as appropriate. Fallen trees have been removed from tracks, signage erected, fox eradication measures undertaken and some rubbish removed.

A VEAC enquiry recommended that crown land within the Basin be a national park. Some groups represented on the management advisory committee argued that the present committee should be retained. A ministerial panel reviewed the VEAC decision and the government has announced that most of Kanyapella Basin will be a Wildlife Reserve in which duck shooting and feral animal culling may be permitted from time to time. Wildlife Reserves were formerly known as Game Reserves. Reserves in which duck hunting will not be permitted are known as Nature Conservation Reserves.

Kanyapella Wildlife Area is not well-known and seldom visited. Bird watching and bush walking is popular with a handful of individuals and groups. However, Echuca Regional Park and Barmah-Millewa Forest afford better birding and better bush-walking opportunities.

The reserve can be accessed by a number of roads which head north from the Murray Valley Highway. Kanyapella can also be accessed from Echuca via Mitchell Road.

The Tongala Main Drain passes through the forest. When it is flowing, the drain effectively divides the forest into two sections.

There are commercial camp grounds and accommodation in Echuca, Tongala and Shepparton.

Vehicles are not permitted off-tracks. All vehicles ~ including trail bikes ~ must be registered and driven by a licensed person. Firewood collection is not permitted. There is a picnic spot alongside Warrigul Creek but the picnic table is old and unusable.

Visitors are urged to obtain good maps before visiting the forest. The Country Fire Authority maps are as good as any.

The wetlands have not had water in them for many years. The area is badly drought-affected and it is unlikely that environmental water allocations will be available for the forest in the foreseeable future.









Related pages
Bushland Reserves of northern Victoria and southern Riverina NSW

Indigenous plants

Photo Gallery of the birds of northern Victoria and southern Riverina NSW

Birding guide to Wyuna and Kanyapella

Victorian Environmental Assessment Council River Red Gum Forest investigation: final report

Site map (index)


Bushland Reserves
northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina

Stone curlew
Bush Stone Curlew ~ still found in Kanyapella ~ by Keith Stockwell

Kanyapella Basin Wildlife Area

formerly called Kanyapella Co-operative Management Wildlife Reserve


Located east of Echuca and close to the Goulburn River (VicRoads Map 31 G4), Kanyapella Basin is the remains of a former lake, Lake Kanyapella, which resulted of earth movements (Cadell Fault) about 18,000 years ago. When the lake drained, winds blew sand from the dry lake bed to form sand dunes. The remainder of the area is classified as River Red Gum and Black Box dominated shallow freshwater marsh and freshwater meadow.

Since 1985, 2,452 hectares of the 2,950 hectare basin has been a wildlife reserve and flood retardation wetland, management of which has since been divided between several agencies:

Parks Victoria (a division of the Department of Sustainability and Environment ) is responsible for a 13ha nature reserve which includes a vandalised storage shed (which is to be removed this year);

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is responsible for a 461 hectare State Forest;

Goulburn Murray Water manage and own 1,960 hectares which was purchased from private land-owners by the former State Rivers and Water Supply Commission ~ much of this area has been leased to adjoining land holders as grazing land, subject to conditions;

Shire of Campaspe is responsible for the through roads;

Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority is responsible for waterways;

The Department of Primary Industry (DPI) plays a major role in coordinating management of the reserve and has made submissions to obtain funding for environmental works in the reserve.

The Victorian Environment Assessment Council (VEAC) recommended that much of Kanyapella Basin be a national park. A review panel changed the recommendation from a national park to a wildlife area. Despite these recommendations, the advisory committee continues to meet quarterly and the status quo has remained.


About 30,000 years ago, uplifting west of the Cadell Fault Line blocked the Goulburn River, leading to the creation of Lake Kanyapella. When the Goulburn cut through the uplifted area, the lake drained,and wind blew sand from the old lake floor to create sandhills, including the Bama Sandhills, the sandhills near Echuca Racecourse, the sandhills in Victoria Park (Echuca) and sandhills in Moama. The present Kanyapella Basin is marked as Little Kanyapella on the diagram below.


The above diagram is sourced from the VEAC Investigation Paper on Victoria's River Red Gum Forests. It should be stressed that the Murray River did not flow into the Goulburn in this area until after the Cadell Tilt Block blocked the course of the Murray about 15,000 years ago. The old course of the Murray River, today's Green Gully, is not shown on the diagram above.

Sand and sandy silt underlie most of the clay which covers most of the (Little Kanyapella) basin. Sandhills lie to the north-east. Much of the surrounding area is irrigated. Seepage from irrigated land tends to pass through the sands under the clay top soil and move in a northerly direction. One consequence is that the ground water of the basin is fresh. Furthermore, many of the trees can make use of groundwater when the upper soil layer is dry; most of the trees in the reserve appear to be healthy despite prolonged drought. Irrigation appears to have a positive impact upon this reserve. Source: DPI unpublished data.


Until recently, Kanyapella Basin has bee dry and degraded due to the combined effects of a protracted period of below-average rainfall, lack of environmental water, river regulation, tree removal, over-grazing and introduced pest animals. In particular, the shrub and ground layers have suffered. Most of the larger trees, however, appear to be in good condition because they are able to obtain fresh ground water from the sands beneath the clay surface layer.

Since much of the basin was declared a wildlife reserve in 1985, Dwarf Cherry, Chinese Scrub, lignum and native grasses have been making a very slow recovery. The vegetation has responded particularly well to above-average rains during 2010-11.

Prior to 1985 many trees were logged. However, many mature trees were left along the road reserves. Unfortunately, there is evidence of some illegal logging.

There is now considerable regeneration of Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) and Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) over most of the reserve. There have been working bees during which hundreds of indigenous shrubs have been planted (e.g. on the sandhills and along the southern boundary of the reserve). There are plans under way to revegetate other disturbed areas, including an area from which a DSE shed is to be/has been removed.

Recovering Black Box grassland in Kanyapella Forest (K Stockwell)


A variety of native grasses grow on the forest floor. A feature of the reserve is an enormous Box Tree, hundreds of years old, and still in healthy condition.

Base of a huge old Box Tree in Kanyapella forest (K Stockwell)

The basin used to fill in times of flood. Engineering works carried out in 2010 mean that floodwaters can once again be diverted in the basin.

Some areas of rushes and lignum remain along Warrigul Creek and elsewhere even though the Basin has been dry for many years.

Around 200 species of plants have ben recorded in Kanyapella.

Some rare, threatened or near threatened plants which h.

An interesting tree with a large round hole can be observed along Warragul Track (between Scott Track and Castle Track). There is a mound (aboriginal midden) nearby. Perhaps the tree's growth was "manipulated" by aboriginal inhabitants to create a marker, possibly to denote a tribal boundary or perhaps it was meant as a directional sign. The midden would have been surrounded by flood waters at times, allowing the indigenous people to sleep and cook on dry ground.

Management and engineering works

Drainage channels and embankments were built in the reserve some years ago, affecting the habitat. Some channels carry runoff from nearby irrigated farms. Some embankments were built on the suggestion of shooters to facilitate flooding of sections in order to promote the breeding of ducks but the work has fallen into disrepair. Rehabilitation works are necessary if the basin is to act as a flood retarding basin and if its conservation values are to be enhanced. Some funding has been sourced from Murray Goulburn Water and the Australian Government to enable some engineering works, revegetation work, replacement fencing and new signage.

It is some years since the reserve has contained water and so much of the vegetation is stressed. Fences and infrastructure fell into disrepair; sheep and horses from neighbouring properties were able to graze over most of the reserve. During 2008 and 2009, most boundary fences were replaced or repaired. Some other fencing improvements are likely during 2010.

As stated above, key stake-holders include Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, DPI, DSE, Parks Victoria, Campaspe Shire, and Goulburn Murray Water. Other stake-holders include adjoining landholders, Field and Game Victoria, Koyuga-Kanyapella Landcare Group and the Echuca and District Branch of Birdlife Australia (formerly BOCA).

Representatives of these bodies used to meet quarterly to discuss management issues and to suggest ways of enhancing the environmental health of the reserve. Some issues followed up as a result of these meetings included fox and feral cat eradication measures, working bees to plant indigenous trees and shrubs, fencing improvements, track maintenance, law enforcement, signage and the signing off of a management plan.

Unfortunately, since funding was reduced, the facilitator's position has been discontinued and the quarterly meetings no longer take place.

Copies of the management plan are available through the government office in Tatura. The management plan and draft management plan contain a wealth of information about Kanyapella's flora and fauna..

Members of the Koyuga-Kanyapella Landcare Group have been particularly keen to reintroduce some of the indigenous shrubs (such as wattles) which have been depleted or vanished from the basin over the decades. indigenous shrubs and trees were planted near the southern boundary in November 2009.

It is expected that, following the completion of engineering works, environmental water, when and if it is available, will be allowed to enter specific parts of the reserve over Spring or early summer and then be allowed to evaporate or be drained away as autumn approaches. Only a small percentage of the area is likely to receive environmental water at any one time so that the basin can be used as a flood amelioration basin should a major rain event occur. The Black Box/grassland area may not be deliberately flooded. Local land-holders have expressed an interest in re-using environmental water as it drains from the wetland.

Two regulators and some levee banks were constructed in 2010. As a result, it should now be possible to divert water into much of the basin.

A section of a nearby sand dune has been revegetated and its boundary fences were replaced or repaired between 2001 and 2011. A fence alongside Mitchell Road was repaired (replaced in places) in 2011.

Bush Stone Curlew: still sighted in Kanyapella Basin (K Stockwell)

As a result of the conservation measures, it is hoped that ~ if and when the wetland area receives water ~ Brolga will return to this forest, that Bush Stone Curlews will continue to survive and that water birds will breed each winter. At least four Bush Stone Curlews were observed in the forest at various times over the past four years and a forest lease-holder claims some are resident on his farm. If commercial cattle grazing ceases, an ecological grazing regime using sheep may be appropriate, at times, to maintain optimal condition for the Curlews and to reduce weeds or the build up of fuel. Grazing would be best done over winter provided the soil is dry, before indigenous grasses flower and set seed. Grazing should be restricted to certain parts of the reserve.

A baiting programme was carried out during 2011. Prior to the baiting, about 187 foxes were believed to be in the reserve. 495 baits were laid. Evidence suggests that five baits were stolen and three sites vandalised. It is estimated that only a few old foxes remained at the end of the period. Shooters hope to be able to detect and dispatch most of the remaining foxes. It is likely, however, that foxes are now moving in from surrounding areas. An on-going programme is needed!

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At some stage in the future, walking tracks may be marked and dilapidated picnic tables repaired so that the public might enjoy this forest in increasing numbers. There are no marked trails at this stage. However, it is possible to complete circuit walks using existing vehicular tracks. Cross country (compass bearing) walks are possible in places. When planning a day walk in the forest, it is best to cross the main drainage channel via Mitchell Road bridge or via a regulator near the end of Castle Road.

Suggested Circuit Walk

Here is a circuit walk. Drive from Echuca via Ogilvie Avenue and Mitchell Road and, shortly after the bitumen ends, at a large Kanyapella Sign, turn left into Tehan Road and immediately turn left along a dirt track. Leave some cars alongside this track at the edge of a grassy woodland where a fence separates them from Mitchell Road.
O km Park cars and follow the track to the raised Levee and walk along the levee toward the east
1.6km Turn left off the levee once a track alongside the main drain is reached.
2.1km Turn right at Mitchell Road and cross the drain (Warrigul Creek)
2.3km Turn right onto dirt track (take left fork)
4.1km Veer left
4.6km Once Warrigul Track/Castle Track junction is reached head due east (off track, using a compass) (wetland).
6.3km Right at Murphy Road (head south along the eastern boundary of the reserve)
7km Right at Scott Road and immediately turn left and follow Kanyapella Track
10km Left at Scott Track and follow it along old fence line.
13km Follow the main drain back to Mitchell Road and then back to the cars (15km)
OR, if the drain is dry, cross the drain and take Levee 4 back to Tehan Road and the cars (15km)
OR walk alongside the main drain away from Mitchell Road and cross it on a regulator wall ~ return on the other side of the drain, taking Levee 4 back to the cars (17km).

New signs have recently bee/will soon be erected (e.g. advising that trail bikes must be registered and ridden only by licensed drivers and advising that firewood collection is not permitted). To help protect the vegetation, some boundary fences have been rebuilt and others repaired; a new grid has also been installed. Illegal grazing appears to have been overcome.

Registered vehicles can be driven on several unsealed roads, including Mitchell Road, Watson Road, Castles Road, Fraser Road and Tehan Road. The unsealed tracks in the basin are fine during dry weather but are often impassable, and should be avoided, following rain or flooding. Driving on wet tracks can damage them, causing deep ruts.

The basin was zoned as a Cooperative Management Wildlife Reserve but is to be designated as a Wildlife Area.VEAC recommended that Kanyapella be part of a national park but this recommendation was over-ruled.

A coloured brochure about the reserve has been prepared and was sent to a printer in May 2011. Copies are to be made available to local tourist information centres and DPI offices.

Note: the collection of firewood is not permitted in the reserve; patrols have been stepped up and some prosecutions have occurred. Becaused of increased staffing, a roster system is in place to ensure that the reserve is patrolled or a ranger on call every day, includiong holidays and weekends. Warning signs have been/will be erected.

Topographic map: Koyuga 7825-1-2 1:25,000 (VicMap)

Click here to view a map of the area

Click here to download a pdf brochure on birding spots of the Kanyapella Basin by Dallas Wyatt.

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Last revision was 23rd May 2011.


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