Bremer River (Queensland)

The Bremer River is a river that is a tributary of the Brisbane River, located in the Scenic Rim and Brisbane regions of South East Queensland, Australia. The 100-kilometre (62 mi)-long Bremer River drains several Scenic Rim valleys in south-east Queensland, including the Fassifern Valley, with its catchment area covering approximately 2,032 square kilometres (785 sq mi).[3] Most valleys within the catchment have extensive river terraces. The Bremer River system is extremely degraded.

Bremer River
Urarrar (Red Stemmed Gum Trees in Ugarapul )
Road bridge across the Bremer River in Ipswich
Location of Bremer River river mouth in Queensland
EtymologyCaptain James Gordon Bremer[1]
RegionScenic Rim, South East Queensland
CitiesIpswich, Brisbane
Physical characteristics
SourceScenic Rim
  locationMain Range National Park
  coordinates27°55′55″S 152°27′53″E
  elevation140 m (460 ft)
Mouthconfluence with the Brisbane River
Barellan Point
27°34′57″S 152°51′16″E
4 m (13 ft)
Length100 km (62 mi)
Basin size2,032 km2 (785 sq mi)
Basin features
River systemBrisbane River catchment
  leftWestern Creek, Franklin Vale Creek
  rightWarrill Creek, Reynold Creek, Purga Creek, Deebing Creek, Bundamba Creek
National parkMain Range National Park

European explorers John Oxley and Allan Cunningham visited the river in 1824 and it was first named by Oxley as Bremer's Creek presumably after Captain James Gordon Bremer who was in charge of HMS Tamar, at that time performing duties in the waters of the colony of New South Wales.[1]

Course and features

Upper river at Rosevale, 2011
Churchbank Weir on Warrill Creek, 2015

The Bremer rises in the hills of the Scenic Rim, passes close to the town of Rosewood and winds through the city of Ipswich. The catchment area is bordered by the Little Liverpool Range to the west, with the Main Range lying to the south and south-west. Towards the east is Flinders Peak and the Flinders Peak Group.[4] The river has a number of tributaries including Deebing Creek, Bundamba Creek, Purga Creek, Reynolds Creek, Warrill Creek, Western Creek and Franklin Vale Creek. The town of Grandchester is situated on Western Creek and Rosevale was settled on the upper reaches. Its length is about 100 km (62 mi).[5]


Bremer River at Ipswich in 1872

The Bremer River was known as The Urarrar meaning Red Stemmed Gum Trees in Yugararpul language according to The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld,: 1866-1939), Thursday 18 January 1934, page 13. A tree grown along the banks of the ancient river. The river possessed spirit creatures called Bunyips, better known as Mundaguttas according to Ugarapul Elder Evelyn Dodds who drawings are displayed along the River of the creatures.

The first sighting of the Bremer River by Europeans was made by John Oxley and Allan Cunningham on 19 September 1824 as they explored the Brisbane River.[6]:9 On their return journey six days later the exploration party camped on the opposite side of the river where the tributary entered the main stream. Shortly after Oxley began to refer to the tributary as the Bremer River but didn't specify from who the name was derived from.[6]:10 It has been assumed to be named in honour of James Gordon Bremer, a naval officer on HMS Tamar. No attempt to explore the Bremer was made at this time. Edmund Lockyer passed through the area in 1825, noting the junction of the Bremer, referring to it as Bremer's Creek but he did not explore it. The first European to travel along the river was Captain Patrick Logan who in either late 1826 or early 1827 investigated the Bremer. He discovered deposits of limestone at the site of what was to become Ipswich.[6]:10 Upstream from there the river became shallow and rocky, so Logan did not explore further.

The upper reaches of the river were explored by Alan Cunningham in 1828 while he was searching for a route to the Darling Downs. Cunningham made measurements and produced a map which he sent to Governor Darling.[6]:11

The first steam vessel on the river was the Experiment on 18 June 1846 after spending the night stranded on a mud band at Goodna.[6]:101

In 1863 an immigration depot was built on the north bank of the Bremer, after residents of Ipswich petitioned for a depot to alleviate a shortage of labour.[6]:25 Immigrants were brought to Ipswich by paddle steamer. The depot was sometimes overcrowded and continued to operate until 1900.

Before the railway line from Ipswich to Brisbane was completed in 1875, the river served as an important navigation route between the two towns.

The Bremer Catchment Association was established in 1995.[6]:99 The group engages small community groups in projects such as weed control and tree planting.


The river at Basin Pocket, 2015

Industrial waste has flowed into the river soon after the catchment was settled. Photos from 1870 show the riverbanks cleared of vegetation. This may have been from the cutting of timber or because an engineer had encouraged the clearing of trees close to the river because when they fell into the river they dragged earth with them, creating an obstacle for steamers in an already narrow channel.[6]:95

The slow-flowing river system is known to flood and is considered to be heavily polluted, suffering from poor water quality.[7] The Bremer does not receive enough water in its catchment to meet both human requirements and the need to flush out impurities. This results in poor water quality with high levels of turbidity, high nutrient levels and high levels of bacteria, especially where sewage and drain runoff from the city of Ipswich is discharged into the river.

Coordinated attempts to improve water quality began after the establishment of the Water Quality Council in 1973. Testing revealed the worst pollution came from woolen mills and meatworks at Dinmore, where organic waste entered the river untreated.[6]:99

Land degradation was identified as a serious problem in the catchment after a Department of Primary Industries survey was conducted in 1979.[8] Riparian vegetation has been nearly completely removed and the banks are now weed-infested.[9] Downstream the river suffers from not only sewage and farming runoff but also abattoir effluent.[9]

In 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 the Healthy Waterways annual assessment of water quality rated the Bremer River an F, the lowest grading possible.[10][11][12][13] The Ipswich City Council has responded by increasing fines for allowing pollutants to contaminate the river.[14] In 2013 and 2014 the Bremer River's water quality rating improved slightly to a D−.[15][16] The 2015 the Healthy Waterways assessment included additional measures in the environmental grades, resulting in grades that are not directly comparable to previous years. The Bremer River was given a D− for 2015.[17]

Heavy metals including mercury, chromium, nickel and cadmium were found in Warrill Creek, a tributary of the Bremer, in 2009.[18] The source of the contamination was discharge from the RAAF Base Amberley. The contaminates did not reach the Bremer River itself.[19] In 2010, the Ipswich City Council and the International Riverfoundation launched a fund to help clean up the river.[20]

The worst pest species was the introduced water hyacinth, which sometimes was so dense it blocked boats. Severe outbreaks occurred in 1917, 193536, 1941 and 1965.[6]:97

Water supply

Moogerah Dam was built in the upper reaches of Reynolds Creek.[21] The dam provides potable water for towns such as Boonah and is an irrigation source for crop farmers and those grazing cattle.

See also


  1. "Ipswich - Culture and History". The Age. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  2. "Map of Bremer River, QLD". Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  3. Strategic Guide to Natural Resource Management in South East Queensland. South East Queensland Regional Strategic Group. November 2000. p. 105. ISBN 0-7345-1740-8.
  4. "Rivers - Assessment of River Condition - Queensland - Brisbane River". Australian Natural Resources Atlas. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  5. "Recreation". Ipswich City Council. 9 March 2012. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  6. Buchanan, Robyn (2009). The Bremer River. Ipswich City Council. ISBN 978-0-9587063-8-4.
  7. "Western Waterways Report Card 2016". Archived from the original on 28 December 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  8. "Bremer Catchment". Ipswich City Council. Archived from the original on 1 June 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  9. Dennison, William C.; Abal, Eva G. (1999). Moreton Bay Study: A Scientific Basis for the Healthy Waterways Campaign. Brisbane: South East Queensland Regional Water Quality Management Strategy Team. p. 190. ISBN 0-9586368-1-8.
  10. Lawrence, Elissa (30 December 2006). "Our worst waterways". The Sunday Mail. News Queensland. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  11. Moore, Tony (22 October 2008). "Brisbane's rivers, creeks in ailing health: report". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Digital. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  12. Jackson, Zane (18 February 2011). "Stay away from the river". The Queensland Times. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  13. Healthy Waterways (24 October 2012). "Healthy Waterways - Bremer River". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  14. Moore, Tony (22 October 2008). "Water polluters to face tougher fines". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  15. Healthy Waterways. "Healthy Waterways - Bremer River". Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  16. Healthy Waterways. "Healthy Waterways - Bremer River". Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  17. Healthy Waterways. "Healthy Waterways - Bremer River". Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  18. Jacobi, Nikole; Tapim, Francis (8 September 2009). "'Exhaustive investigation' into Amberley creek contamination". ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  19. Pollard, Emma (17 December 2009). "Defence Dept to fix Amberley base creek pollution". ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 December 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  20. Jackson, Zane (16 March 2010). "Campaign to clean up Bremer River". The Queensland Times. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  21. "Latest River Heights for Reynolds Ck at Moogerah Dam". Bureau of Meteorology. Australian Government. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2009.

Further reading

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