The Manning is one of Australia’s few large river systems not to be dammed for water supply purposes anywhere along its 261km length. The river starts at an elevation of nearly 1500 metres in the area of the Barrington Tops area and Backwater Creek one of the 10 creeks and rivers that eventually flow into and form the Manning River. It flows through remote rural lands for much of its upper catchment touching only small townships such as Mount George before becoming a significant river flowing through Wingham. This picturesque town of nearly 5000 was chosen in the 1840’s as a location for a government settlement because supply boats could not proceed any further up the Manning River. The river continues its journey past Tinonee also established in 1856 as a government town. Once the river reaches Taree, now the largest town on the river with a population of around 20,000 it splits and the southern arm flows into the Pacific Ocean at Old Bar. The northern arm is joined by the Dawson River and the Landsdowne River and meets the ocean at Harrington. Indeed the Manning River is the only double delta river in the southern Hemisphere and the only permanent multiple entrance river in the world other than the Nile in Egypt.
Historically, the Manning River became the economic lifeblood of the region as a transport link for timber and agricultural products to Sydney. Today its importance is more to do with recreation and tourism offering local residents and visitors the opportunity to use and enjoy the river for simple leisure activities. It was deemed a recreational fishing area in 2001 with 150km of saltwater estuary and many more of fresh water in the Manning River system.