Hindmarsh is bounded by the Little Desert National Park in the south and Wyperfeld National Park to the north. The Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River) together with Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh), Outlet Creek and Ngalpakatia/Ngelpagutya (Lake Albacutya) provide a natural corridor that connects the two parks as it traverses through a productive cropping landscape.

The Project Hindmarsh revegetation initiative connects the Little and Big Desert National Parks via roadsides, the Lawloit and Propadollah Ridges and the Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River). Commencing in 1998, the Project Hindmarsh planting weekend is a flagship of the Hindmarsh Landcare Network and the longest running event of its kind in Australia. The Hindmarsh Landcare Network is a passionate and active group, providing valuable support to Landcare groups in the region.

map of Hindmarsh Shire Area

First Nations cultural values are very significant. The high abundance of scar trees and middens is testimony of the profound indigenous connection to Barringgi Gadjyin (Wimmera River) and lakes. In the Antwerp area alone, there are over 250 registered scarred trees (possibly the highest concentration in Victoria). The river was a source of freshwater, plant foods, mussels, fish and bird life. The river continues to influence the cultural landscape today and is an important area for connecting to Country.

In 2005 Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) and the Australian and Victorian Governments entered into an Indigenous Land Use Agreement. Wotjobaluk people were recognised as having native title rights over the Barringgi Gadjyin (Wimmera River), Outlet Creek, Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh), Ngalpakatia/ Ngelpagutya (Lake Albacutya), Wail State Forest and parts of the Little Desert National Park.

The river and adjacent land support a rich variety of riparian vegetation and aquatic species. River red gum and black  box communities form a vital corridor for wildlife habitat and movement through the landscape.

The Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River) along with Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh), Ngalpakatia/Ngelpagutya (Lake Albacutya) and Outlet Creek is recognised as the Wimmera Heritage River under the Victorian Heritage Rivers Act 1992. This recognises the important nature conservation, scenic, recreational and cultural values of these waterways.

The river regularly contains water, but only intermittently fills Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh) and beyond, relying on very large floods to generate sufficient flows. When  full, Lakes Hindmarsh and Albacutya attract visitors to enjoy water skiing, fishing, yabbying, bird watching and camping. Ngalpakatia/Ngelpagutya (Lake Albacutya) is an internationally significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention, supporting tens of thousands of waterbirds when flooded, the nationally threatened regent parrot (Polytelis anthopeplus) and a unique salt tolerant river red gum.(41) Both lakes are considered nationally important wetlands.(69)

The Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River) and lakes system’s Heritage River status recognises the important nature conservation, scenic, recreational and cultural values. There is a strong desire by the Hindmarsh Shire Council supported by the community to build a 103 kilometre Wimmera River Discovery Trail linking Dimboola, Jeparit, Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh), Rainbow and Ngalpakatia/Ngelpagutya (Lake Albacutya). This will be a valuable addition to the region’s visitor economy.

Hindmarsh’s four main towns, Nhill, Dimboola, Rainbow and Jeparit, are co-located with rivers and lakes, reflecting their importance to the liveability of local communities. Waterways support popular annual drawcard events. A study into the socio economic value of recreational and environmental water estimated that the Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River) and Nhill Lake contributed $2.1 million to the local economy with more than 41,000 participants in 2019-20.(6)

The Local Area contains 281 wetlands ranging in size from Victoria’s largest freshwater lake, Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh), through to small shallow seasonal wetlands. Many wetlands are important to local communities, often containing abundant bird, wildlife and recreational opportunities. Notable wetlands include Pink Lake, Ross Lake, Nhill Lake, Nhill Swamp, Mount Elgin Swamp, Yanac Swamp and Woorak Swamp.

The Little Desert National Park supports a diverse variety of plants and animals. Birds Australia lists it as an Important Bird Area and one of Australia’s Key Biodiversity Areas.(70) There are numerous species across the park, including the nationally threatened Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata), rare native orchids, western pygmy possum (Cercartetus concinnus), silky mouse (Pseudomys apodemoides) and fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata).(71) Around 50,000 people visit annually, attracted by Spring wildflowers, walking, camping, four- wheel driving, bird and wildlife watching opportunities.(72)

Small patches of native vegetation including endangered remnant Buloke woodlands are scattered throughout the agricultural landscape. Some small remaining areas of native grasslands around Nhill support the critically endangered golden sun moth (Synemonplana).