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Racecourse Lagoon

Racecourse Lagoon is located 3 km south-west of Uralla and approximately 2km north-west of Dangar's Lagoon.

Racecourse Lagoon Map

Racecourse Lagoon Map
Credit: National Parks & Wildlife

Racecourse Lagoon is one of three upland wetlands near Uralla: the others being Dangars and Barleyfields Lagoons. A wetland is an area that is wet for a period of time and within which the animals and plants are dependant to some degree on water to complete their life cycle.

Racecourse Lagoon is classed as an ‘Upland’ wetland and belongs to a group of wetlands known as ‘The Upland Wetlands of the Drainage Divide of the New England Tableland Bioregion’. All wetlands in this group are protected as Endangered Ecological Communities under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.

Wet and dry – lands
Racecourse Lagoon is not a permanent wetland. Wetlands naturally dry out for periods of time, a feature that controls the type and variety of animals and plants living in the wetland. Consequently, the ecology of temporary wetlands is quite different to the ecology of permanent ones.

Racecourse Lagoon is unusual as it has a very small catchment to its overall size. That is, the area of land over which it can accumulate water is too small to account fully for the wet-dry cycles it experiences. It is likely that human interference at the lagoon, and in the surrounding catchment, influcences the natural wetting and drying cyle that it experiences.

Why are wetlands so important?

Racecourse Lagoon is of great historical, cultural, ecological and hydrological importance to Uralla. 

  • The Anaiwan people lived at Racecourse Lagoon as it provided a source of food, opportunities for religious ceremony and leisure.
  • Racecourse Lagoon is a beautiful place for picnicking, walking, bird watching, nature study, photography and tourism.
  • Racecourse Lagoon is a breeding, nesting and feeding site for birds including migratory birds.
  • Racecourse Lagoon provides refuge for fish and other animals in times of drought.
  • Wetlands are a natural buffer against floods. They can store run-off water and release it slowly, reducing the effects of flooding.
  • Wetlands provide long term carbon storage.
  • Sediments in wetlands hold crucial evidence of changes in climate and vegetation in the form of plant and pollen fossils.

How and why did a lagoon form here?

The regular size and apparent absence of rivers that feed into and out of Racecourse Lagoon has given rise to some far reaching theories as to its origin. Mr. Morris Melvane suggested that Racecourse Lagoon had heavenly origins: “I can only believe that it was caused by a meteorite”.

The truth is somewhat less explosive, but equally dramatic: Racecourse Lagoon was formed by glacial action followed by gradual sedimentation over a very long period of time.

Most New England lagoons are associated with basalt lava flows. However, Racecourse Lagoon is unusual in that it has a granite base and large granite boulders in and around the lagoon.

Threats to upland wetlands
Some Upland wetlands are protected to reduce the impact that disturbance, weeds, feral animals and other activities have on their health and integrity. However, all wetlands are affected by things that happen in the surrounding catchment.

Changes in hydrology
Racecourse Lagoon is unusual as it is not connected to a river or creek on the surface. It is believed to be hydrologicaly related to Dangars Lagoon and Gap Creek. Any disturbance to the aquifer below Racecourse Lagoon, or diversion or extraction of water from the surrounding landscape, has the potential to adversely affect the hydrology of the lagoon.

Local and landscape disturbance
Agricultural activities on wetlands effects species composition and changes soil and nutrient structures within wetlands. Removal of the vegetation from the catchment adversely affects the biodiversity of the wetland, and increases sediment and nutrient loads following rains.

Feral animals and weeds
Introduced animals and plants compete with native wetland species, reducing biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. The costs associated with the control of feral animals and invasive plants are significant.

Climate change
Projected changes to our climate are expected to adversely affect wetlands: their location, extent, the timing, frequency and duration of their wet and dry cycles.

Piecing together the past
The Anaiwan Aboriginal people based around Uralla used the Nganyaywana language and occupied a traditional land area of 8,300 km2 from Guyra to Ben Lomond, Uralla and the Moonbi Ranges, northwest to Tingha. Stone tools found in the New England region have been dated and show Aboriginal occupation from at least 5,000 years Before Present.

Recent archaeological survey shows that Aboriginal people did live in and around Racecourse Lagoon. It is believed that they used rocky outcrops at the southern end of the lagoon for collecting frogs, yabbies and shrimps and harvested water plants, birds and their eggs, along with other animals for their diet. Local wetlands may also have provided burial and ceremonial grounds for Aboriginal communities.

We cannot say for how long or over which periods of time Aboriginal people lived around Racecourse Lagoon, but layers of charcoal found in core samples from the eastern ridge of the lagoon indicate that they may have burnt and managed the vegetation of the lagoon.

Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA)
National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Uralla Shire Council are working together to protect and restore the ecological health of the Lagoon.

In 1999 Uralla Shire Council and the NSW Minister for the Environment, through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, signed a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) to care for Racecourse Lagoon. The Agreement recognises that Racecourse Lagoon is a nationally significant wetland and Uralla Shire Council and the State Government will reserve it for public use and conservation.

The VCA values the conservation area for its intrinsic values and seeks to maintain the biodiversity of the conservation and surrounding area, particularly in relation to:

  • The lagoon/wetland system;
  • Habitat for the wide variety of waterbirds and other protected fauna that frequent the conservation area;
  • Vegetation associated with the Northern Tablelands wetlands, which are poorly conserved in the area.

The VCA highlights the role that Racecourse Lagoon plays in providing habitat for vulnerable species such as Blue-Billed Duck (Oxyura australis) and Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis) and migratory species such as Greenshank, Lathams, (Japanese) Snipe and Red-necked Stint.

Uralla Shire Council and the National Parks and Wildlife service share management responsibility for the lagoon through a Management Plan.

Recreation at Racecourse Lagoon
Visitors are encouraged to appreciate the natural beauty and native flora and fauna of Racecourse Lagoon through walking and picnicking. Picnicking facilities have been provided for your visiting pleasure. The sensitive nature of the lagoon means that activities such as horse riding, motor boating, canoeing, kayaking, cycling and dog walking (on or off leash) are not allowed. Camping and lighting fires are also prohibited. If you do visit Racecourse Lagoon please use designated walking paths and take your rubbish with you when you leave. Directions, along with a map, are available below under 'Further Information'.

Further information

Directions to Racecourse Lagoon
Racecourse Lagoon is 3km south west of Uralla. There is a walk around the Lagoon and picnic tables for lunch. For directions please follow this Google link:

Google Maps - Racecourse Lagoon

Wetlands and Cultural Heritage
Sue Hudson has written an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage education resource ‘Our Australia’ and produced the report ‘Aboriginal land use in the Armidale area’, both are available on request. Please contact an Environmental Project Officer at Council if you wish to receive a copy of either report. 

Identifying Upland Wetlands
If you think you have a wetland on your property, the following resource may help you to identify it:
Upland Wetlands of the drainage divide of the New England Tableland Bioregion

Managing wetlands
NSW DPI produced a guide to wetland management. ‘Recommendations for managing wetlands on farms in NSW’ is available for download from the following link:

Recommendations for Managing Wetlands on Farms in NSW

Download document

Racecourse Lagoon Factsheet (pdf 902kb)


Racecourse Lagoon Family Fun Day 2013


Racecourse Lagoon - Image Gallery

Dragonfly at Racecourse Lagoon
Credit: Kate Boyd
Water Rat or Rakali
Credit: Karl Vernes, UNE
Racecourse Lagoon
Credit: Kate Boyd
Racecourse Lagoon
Powerboating on Racecourse Lagoon
Racecourse Lagoon with Grandstand
Credit: provided by Arnold Goode