What is a Billabong?

What is a Billabong?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 06/21/2019

Reading time: 3 mins

The phrase ‘billabong’ is used throughout many of our tour itineraries.

From the Yellow Water Billabong, to the White Lily Billabong, we use it a lot. But what actually is it referring to?

For local Australians, this term is common, featured in surf brands and popular country songs. However, for others, it may be a confusing word.

To put it simply, a billabong refers to a large body of water, with its actual translation being ‘a watercourse that only runs after rain’.

How do they form

A billabong can form when a river changes its course, cutting off a section and leaving behind a large body of water, similar to a lake. It usually only occurs after rain floods the river and nearby region. Eventually, the river water breaks through the base of the loop, and an extra water section is formed. Billabongs can also form from pools of water accruing after a large flood.

Rainwater continues to restore the billabong from rain and nearby rivers. The area stays fresh and supports a copiousness amount of wildlife.

The word Billabong’s origins

The term billabong comes from the Wiradjuri word ‘bilabang’ which translates to ‘lake’. The Wiradjuri language is from the Aboriginal Wiradhuric tribe, located in New South Wales. The section bila translates to ‘river’, whereas the bang refers to ‘continuing in time or space’.

For the Aboriginal people of Australia, billabongs were an important water source. This was due to the billabongs remaining for longer periods compared to rivers. During the dry season, the majority of the water sources dried up, leaving only billabongs. Each billabong was named and cherished, with tribes moving nearby in the dry season to survive the harsh hot weather.

Where can you see them

There is a stunning abundance of wetlands throughout the Australian land. However, Kakadu National Park is renowned for its spectacular billabongs.

  • White Lily Billabong

    Being one of the most prominent watering holes in the area, White Lily Billabong is well worth the visit. An array of wildlife flocks here, both in and surrounding the sparkling water,. Enjoy a water cruise along the large billabong. Spot unique wildlife such as birds, crocodiles, and the famous white lily.

  • Corroboree Billabong

    This Billabong is only a section of the Mary River Wetlands, but its picturesque scenery makes it the most memorable spot. It is undoubtedly most visited for being the largest concentration of crocodiles in the entire world, with crocodile cruises going ahead every day. Aside from the crocodiles, a massive collection of flora and fauna also inhabit the region, with bird watching the 280 different bird species a massive highlight.

  • Yellow Water Billabong

    If you are keen to fish, Yellow Water Billabong is for you! It is one of the top fishing spots in the entire country, with numerous fish species that are relatively easy to snag. If not, simply cruising around the area is a treat, with an abundance of incredible wildlife and stunning scenery.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.