Apart from small areas of cleared land along the Dargo and Wonnangatta Rivers, the upper catchment is predominantly forested public land including sections of the Alpine National Park and Mitchell River National Park.
The Mitchell is joined by the Wentworth River at Tabberabbera. Below this point, the river enters the Mitchell River National Park where it flows through spectacular gorges.
Below the national park, the river enters the floodplain. Here, the river has cut a steep sided valley over three kilometres wide in places. Sediment deposits here have made this a fertile area for intensive agriculture.
The Mitchell River has a long estuary reach which extends from the old barrier upstream from Bairnsdale township to where the river enters the Gippsland Lakes at Lake King via the internationally significant silt jetties. There are important wetlands on both sides of the river including Macleod Morass, Jones Bay and the Lakes King Wetlands at Eagle Point.
These wetlands are part of the Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site which is listed as internationally important under the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971).
As a major tourist and recreational destination, the lakes play a vital role in supporting the regional economy.
Mitchell Floodplain 2010