With a length of 2508kms and including its tributaries the Darling, Culgoa, Balonne and Condamine rivers, a length of 2740kms makes the Murray River Australia’s longest waterway and the third longest navigable river in the world (from Hume Dam to Lake Alexandrina). It is the 15th longest river in the world and flows from Mt Kosciusko in NSW to Goolwa in SA. It is the border between NSW and Vic for 1880kms, with the river being ‘owned’ by NSW. Thus, sticking your toe in the river from the Victorian side constitutes crossing the border. Despite this the Murray Darling basin is the driest major water system in the world. Its catchment area is over a million square kms but only 4% of the rainfall in the Murray Darling Basin flows into the sea. This loss is due to irrigation, agriculture and evaporation by the relentless sun. A political and management nightmare by any standards.
The Murray Darling Basin has provided nourishment for humans for many thousands of years. Ten thousand Aboriginal sites have been located and human remains found at Mungo National Park have been dated at 42,000 years old!
The first Europeans to find the river were explorers Hume and Hovell in 1824 naming it after Colonial Secretary Sir George Murray.
A William Randall pioneered steamship navigation on the river in 1853 in the Mary Ann. Since the 1850’s paddle steamers have flown the blue, red and white Murray River flag. Paddle steamers provided the transport of wool, timber and cargo until the arrival of the rail network.
There are 2 million people now living in the bountiful Murray Darling Basin.
30,000 wetland environments have been established. It is home to the Murray Cod, Australia’s largest fresh water fish known to grow up to 22kg and the world’s largest river red gum forests.
The Hume Dam was built near Albury in 1936 to regulate the river flow which is also controlled by a system of locks as well as barrages at the river mouth in South Australia.
Enough of the facts and figures. The Murray is the lifeblood of south eastern Australia, but it is more than that. Sit anywhere along its banks below the Hume for a day or more, perhaps a week and before you know it your whole being will have slowed to the pace of ‘The River’. One soon becomes at one with nature. A condition known by our mates as ‘The Tocumwal Trance’.
I invite you to sit quietly on the banks of The River and take it in not at the large river towns where you’ll hear the steam whistles of paddle steamers and the slap, slap of their giant paddle wheels and the noise of speed boats, skiers and wake boards, but away from the towns on a quiet bend on a lonely sandy beach.
Take in the smell of the river, just thinking about it I can smell it now. The dead trees with mud marks of previous floods, the rough bark a home to insects and spiders. The eddies and whirls of the current in the deep sections. The birds and the cacophony of cockatoos as the sun warms the day. The almost deafening sound of cicadas as the sun reaches its zenith. And the sudden crack and earth shaking whumpf as another red gum sheds a bough. No wonder they call them ‘widow makers’.
Just a summary gleaned from Murray Interesting Facts, visitthemurray.com.au,
murrayriver.com.au and many summers spent snoozing on the banks of the Mighty Murray.