A special piece of the Murray
On our last day in Echuca we set off for the Barmah Red Gum region which is up into NSW along the Cobb Highway, something like 60 km all up. It is a bit of a twisting drive and the road comes back on itself such that the small township of Barmah (in NSW) actually has Victoria more or less to the north of it.
The Barmah Red Gum region is a special area because it is the largest red gum forest in Australia. The area was logged during the paddlesteamer days and the trees taken down the river to Echuca to the saw mills there. The forests are starting to recover. The flood plain of the Murray is quite extensive in this area and that is why the red gums flourish here. Red gums need to be periodically flooded and can withstand their feet being in water for several months, the flooding also enables the seed of the trees to germinate.
As we drove along an interesting geological feature appeared beside the road. It was a ridge line 10-15 metres high running away beside the road, almost like a big flood levee. At one point the road went through a cutting to the other side , the land was considerably higher than on the side we had come from. Allthego climbed up for a photo of the fault line.
We had stumbled over the Cadell fault line! So what you might say! This fault is particularly important in the geological history of the Murray River. Now, if I am losing any of my dear readers here then I am sorry. Allthego likes a bit of geology and geography! I have had a brief look at Wikipedia to check up on this stuff. After all we are following the river and a little bit of geology want hurt, I hope. The Murray is about 130 million years old, having formed when the great inland seas receded from the interior. Some 25 million years ago there was a great continental uplift that gave rise to the fault and ridge line. The fault line runs from Deniliquin in NSW down to Echuca in Victoria. It cut right through the Murray and the river’s course was diverted into a number of channels and lake systems, creating the flood plain. Almost like an inland delta. The perfect habitat for the red gums!
Now, we have come up here to do an eco boat trip on the river. The 2 hour journey takes us up and back along a section of the Murray known as ‘the Narrows’ or the ‘Barmah choke’. At either end of the ‘narrows’ the Murray is much wider. In the narrows it is about 10 -15 metres or so wide but is lined by red gums, a number have fallen into the river and stick out into the stream, the boat navigates around these, the water is a couple of metres deep. Because of the fault line, the river is also flowing down a steeper gradient and is doing about 7-9 km an hour compared to the normal Murray pace pf 3-4 km. Coming back, the current assisted and we did the journey much quicker. The intiguing thing is that this section of river is thought to be geologically very young. Evidence suggesting the river having had another course change in the mid 1500s. The banks are quite straight up and down and the river’s channel is perched above the plain either side. Apparantly, it is one of the world’s best examples of fault induced river course changes. Enough!
It was a great journey on the river, bird life abundant. We saw many azure kingfishers in the reeds and branches dangling riverside. A few people fishing and canoing along as well. The overcast weather an actual advantage as glare and shadows did not hinder the experience. The big red river gums were quite special. Some grotesque shapes. Also, stumps left behind from the logging days were dangling in the river and in other cases had sprouted again sending new growth out. An interesting place to camp and experience the river environment.
We returned to Echuca to ready for the onward journey. A short note though on custard tarts. Glenrowan and Tocumwal had been devoid of tarts, couldn’t get one at all. So in Echuca we thought we needed to find some as a matter of importance. Two specimens were acquired one from a bakery based in Moama (on the NSW side of the river) and one in Echuca, in fact a branch of the Beechworth Bakery.
They were not overly inspiring. However, the Beechworth one had an innovative design by using a stencil to create a nutmeg star rather than just a pile of dust. They also did a spirally stencil swirl. Looked a bit like a flat white coffee topping. Our vote went to the Beechworth tart because of the initiative of the stencil pattern. Look forward to more tarts at our next stop!
The next morning we packed up and left Echuca for Swan Hill. It is about 150 km. But we have a couple of stops in mind along the way. The first is at Torrumbarry about 30 km along the road. By river, through all the twists and turns it is 80 km. Torrumbarry is where Lock 26 and a weir is on the Murray. It is 1628 km to the rivers’s mouth over in S.A. The river flows slowly here, it is only 86 metres above sea level.
When we arrive at the weir there is a large jam of cars and speed boats on the road into the river. The delayed, due to Covid, Southern 80 water ski race is on today. How could we not avoid it? There are numerous classes of entries. Some powerful jet boats indeed. The race leaves the weir and heads 80 km upstream back to Echuca. The fastest boats and skiers do it in 40 miniutes, or thereabouts. There are two skiers behind each boat, on one ski each. The water was a mass of colour and throbbing motors as boats messed around before moving to the start point. We had morning tea and lunch here watching the action.
Time moved on though and we continued on our way passing through the small town of Gunbower at the southern end of Gunbower Island. The island is the largest inland island in Australia, 26,400 hectares formed by an anna branch of the Murray (Gunbower Creek) and the Murray itself. An anna branch is a section of the river that diverts from the main channel and then rejoins the main stream further downstream. The local hotel has a splendid mural that has recently been completed by the same fellow who did the ones at Rochester.
Further along we decide to stop the night at a free camp beside Gunbower Creek at Cohuna, it is a great free camp opposite the town. It is Sunday and Allthego was hoping to catch the Eels playing at the local hotel over dinner. But alas the pub is closed for food and there is only AFL on the big screen. We stopped in for a drink and are entertained by a couple of old timers bemoaning how times have changed in the town, they had a limited vocabulary and descibed most things as ” ….. this and …. that”. We moved on and picked up some fish ‘n chips at the local cafe for dinner. First fish ‘n chips for nearly a month! Great sunset at the freecamp. We will make it to Swan Hill in the morning!