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Rock ramp fishway

Rock ramp fishway

Rock Ramp examples: <br>
		1. Left: full width lateral ridge rock ramp, Condamine Weir, Condamine, Queensland<br> 
		2. Top right: partial width lateral ridge rock ramp, Goondiwindi weir, Macintyre River, Queensland<br> 
		3. Bottom right: full width rock ramp fishway with low flow lateral ridge channel down the centre and high flow random rock graded ramp on both banks, Clews Road, Murray Creek, Queensland Photo by 1 and 2 Janice Kerr and 3 Matthew Moore

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Disclaimer: In addition to the standard disclaimer located at the bottom of the page, please note the Fishways (biopassage structures) disclaimer.

Fish passage structures on Bowenville Gauging Station Weir, Oakey Creek, Queensland including rock ramp and baffles Photo by Andrea Prior
Lateral ridge rock ramp fishway built into the tailwater with low flow fish passage channel down the centre and high flow fish passage on both banks, Palm Tree Road, Sandy Creek, Queensland Photo by Matthew Moore
Dalmeny Gauging Station Weir, Oaky Creek, Queensland, Fyke nets set upstream to capture fish that are passing over the weir, also showing rock ramp and baffles to assist fish passage Photo by James Fawcett
Partial width reverse rock ramp (dog leg) fishway built into the tailwater, Koumale, Tedlands Wetland, Queensland Photo by Matthew Moore

Other name/s

Nature-like fishways



Rock ramp fishways have historically been most commonly used for barriers up to two metres high, but are increasingly being used for structures greater than two metres. They are nature-like fishways providing biopassage and aquatic habitat through a simulated natural stream environment that contains pools, runs, riffles and rapids.

Developed as a more natural style of fishway structure for low water level drops, rock ramp fishways now have widespread application where upstream fish passage is required at low level weirs, grade control structures in open channels, gauging station weirs and downstream of culverts. Although they appear relatively natural, rock ramp fishways must be carefully configured and rocks strategically placed to provide appropriate hydraulic conditions for fish to overcome barriers and pass upstream.

Rock ramp fishways are the most common fishway type constructed in Queensland[2]. These structures have had variable success in transferring fish upstream because of variations in design, construction, and maintenance. A well-designed, constructed, and maintained rock ramp fishway can provide excellent connectivity of fish populations, with major positive influences on upstream fish communities[1].They are useful for providing biopassage for small fish, particularly returning juvenile diadromous species (e.g. barramundi, bass, mullet) upstream into freshwater habitats. Small fish and other aquatic fauna (e.g. invertebrates, turtles, platypus) use range of water velocity profiles and turbulence, and interstitial spaces[3].

There are many variations in the design of rock ramp fishways. Rock ramps may be full or partial width, that is, they may cover the full width or part of the width of the waterway. Full width designs tend to provide considerably more functionality than partial width designs, particularly if the headwater varies, however partial width designs can also be very effective[1]. Rock ramp fishways can be built entirely in the tailwater or less commonly be entirely recessed in the headwater. They can also have a straight profile or reverse back toward the barrier for optimal entrance placement (i.e. dog leg)[1].

Rock ramp fishways are typically constructed of rocks, but they can be made of artificial material such as concrete blocks[3]. Concrete can be used to secure the rocks and ridges and ensures all levels in each ridge are exact and increase stability.


There are two main sub-types of rock ramp fishways. Rocks may be placed semi-randomly in the waterway for a natural aesthetic look (referred to as random rock design), or they may be placed in ridge lines to form small pools (referred to as lateral ridge design)[3].

The lateral ridge has been the most common rock ramp design for Queensland streams. This design comprises a series of small pools and riffles arranged in a transverse step configuration. There are short steps at the riffles formed by rock weirs comprising large ridge rocks, which connect with slightly longer flat sections that form the pools. That is, the ramp surface is formed into a series of ridges and pools, and the ridges typically two metres apart with a 100 mm drop between ridges[4].

The random rock design includes rocks of varying sizes that mimic a natural rocky bed. Large boulders are placed at strategic places along the rock ramp creating pools of low flow and turbulence for fish to move from pool to pool and over the barrier. In this design, large protruding rocks should be spaced two diameters apart[1].



Lateral ridge rock ramp fishway built into the headwater with one ridge downstream (in tailwater) to ensure good entrance attraction flows during times when irrigation infrastructure is in operation, Palm Tree Road, Sandy Creek, Queensland Photo by Matthew Moore
Reverse (dog leg) rock ramp fishway built into the tailwater with a partial width design during low flows and full width during high flows down the centre (due to site constraints), Berrys Weir, Bremer River, Queensland Photo by Matthew Moore


  1. ^ a b c d Jones, M, O'Connor, JP & Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (2017), Monitoring the performance of fishways and fish passage works. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 March 2021].
  2. ^ Moore, M, McCann, J & Power, T (2018), Greater-Brisbane-Fish-Barrier-Prioritisation-Report.pdf. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 November 2020].
  3. ^ a b c O’Connor, J, Stuart, I & Mallen-Cooper, M (2015), 'Performance, operation and maintenance guidelines for fishways and fish passage works', Trove. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 November 2020].
  4. ^ Thorncraft, G & Harris, JH (2000), Fish passage and fishways in New South Wales - a status report, Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Albury, N.S.W..

Last updated: 10 May 2021

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2021) Rock ramp fishway, WetlandInfo website, accessed 25 June 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation