Allthego has had some time to reflect on a map of the journey from the headwaters of the Murray to where we now are, Goolwa. In a simple over view the River flows more or less north from Tom Groggin in the Snowy Mountains before looping around and heading west towards Albury and on to Echuca. From there it is north west up to Mildura and Wentworth, where it is joined by the Darling River whose source lies far to the north in Queensland. At Wentworth the River starts to track west towards Renmark and Waikerie, well to the north of Adelaide. The River then kicks up a bit to Morgan and then abruptly turns south for about 300 km to the sea at Goolwa. Why has it suddenly done this abrupt plunge south? Has it run out of energy, no longer seeking the arid interior and decides instead to take the easy route south down to the sea? A theory is that about 50 m years ago the rise of the Lofty Ranges to the east of present day Adelaide changed the course of the Murray which at that time flowed into Spencers Gulf, well to the north of Adelaide. Seems an interesting concept that explains the abrupt shift in its course.
At Weliington the River disappeared into Lake Alexandrina, this is a big lake by any stretch of the imagination. When it is full a reliable measurement seems to suggets that it is around 650 sq kilometres, only a few metres deep at the deepest points. In dry seasons it shrinks, during the millenium drought it became very sluggish and the mouth of the river threatened to close, only dredging kept it open. The system of barrages between islands keeps the Lake fresh and the Coorong salty.
The inland port of Goolwa lies several hundred metres up stream from the barrage known as the Goolwa Barrage, there is a small lock on it. We set off on a short cruise aboard the Spirit of the Coorong to the Murray mouth, descending from the Lake through the lock into the Coorong. The barrage was releasing absolutely oddles of fresh water into the Coorong. Pelicans and sea gulls were having a great time feeding on small fish as they came over the sluices, the boat captain suggesting they were mostly carp. Black swans are all about, these birds are apparantly a good indicator of the health of the River. It seems to be good at the moment!
The water in the Lake and Coorong is quite brown from the floodwaters, not clear blue here! Similarly down at the mouth the water is very discoloured. About 70% of the Murray’s discharge into the Lake flows past Goolwa and along the channel and out through the Murray mouth. The other 30 % flows through another channel and one of the other barrages.
Now aboard the boat and after nearly seven weeks following the great River from near its source in the Snowy Mountains it is a bit of a thrill seeing the water surging through the wave breaks and over the bar into the Southern Ocean!
Goolwa is a very pleasant lakeside town, some nice old buildings and view points of the Lake. The bridge to Hindmarsh Island a prominent landmark. The bridge was once a major point of confrontation with our indigenous peoples, its construction, replacing a ferry, was a major impositionon on an area of the island that was reserved for ‘secret women’s business’. One has to cross over onto Hindmarsh Island to get to the river mouth. Things seem to have calmed down now and Hindmarsh Island is having a building boom with a big canal estate and numerous other developments taking place. Prior to the Bridge Allthego suspects it was a sleepy old place, protected by the inefficiencies and transport delays of the ferry operation.
Our last day at Goolwa was spent on the Cockle Train, a heritage tourist railway that rattles down to Victor Harbor taking about half an hour. Whilst the paddle steamers where quite effective in managing the river trade, the Murray mouth was a difficult and dangerous passage to navigate and get product to market. Goolwa was never able to become a sea port. The solution was to construct down to Victor Harbor Australia’s first railway, where a sea port was established on Encounter Bay. The tourist railway basically follows the route of this old railway line, at times running through sandhills along the beach. Interesting journey, rattling along in an old restored ‘Red Hen’ rail car. We enjoyed the few hours we had in Victor, mostly spent in a very good pizza place!
By the way, the ‘Harbor’ in Victor Harbor is spelt without the ‘u’. There are a few other place names in SA also missing the ‘u’. This is due to spelling errors made by an early Surveyor General of South Australia. Victor Harbour Railway Station though is correctly spelt with a ‘u’. Isn’t that fascinating!
Back in Goolwa we packed up and headed for a van park on the fringe of Adelaide in the shadow of the Adelaide Hills. Our time along the Murray is at an end, but a new adventure is to begin. MItchell and Piper have flown into Adelaide from the US and are joining us for the journey back to Brisbane. We are stopping at a few spots along the River to show them some highlights before dropping in on on some relatives further east on the way home.
The Blog has caught up with real time! It will now go a little quite with perhaps a couple of updates before we get back to Brisbane, and some warmer weather we hope, in about two weeks time!