"In the beginning"


The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of the blog management, (on the other hand, they are not necessarily not the views of the blog management).

No effort has been made to stay within the bounds of the truth in this blog as it has always been the view of the management that the truth should never be allowed to stand in the way of a good story.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Murray River

The River Trade.

The Murray and Darling rivers were the first highways for the towns located along them and the many large pastoral properties that were located in the prime wool growing areas that bordered the rivers.

Until the riverboats got into full swing provisions and supplies were carried to these areas by horse and wagon or bullock teams with long delays when wet weather churned up the dirt tracks that served as roads in those early days.

The rivers offered a much quicker and more reliable source of transport…. But only when the water was at a satisfactory level, in a very dry, flat country where the melting of winter snow in the mountains where the Murray’s headwaters were located fed the river there were often times when the water levels were not sufficient to handle the river trade.

Water rushing into a lock chamber to raise a riverboat.

With the level stabalized the gates open to allow the boat to proceed.

Some of the more visionary folk at the time drew up plans for 26 weirs and locks on the Murray and another dozen on the Darling, in the flat land that has a fall of only 31 feet in its last 800 miles makes for a very slow moving river.

This plan was partly under way when the railways transport system improved to the degree that it was no longer viable to complete the whole project, the Murray plans were wound back to 11 weirs with the distance between them increased in some areas to the degree that no longer would the weirs influence the levels to maintain safe river transport during a dry summer spell.

The lower reaches of the river however are now maintained at a good level even during the long periods of drought we have had over the last decade, each weir is adjustable and the usual difference in levels above and below a weir is about 10 to 12 feet.

The Paddle wheelers and the barges they towed behind them were able to negotiate past the weirs in an ingenious manner using a lock chamber which was flooded to raise them or drained to lower them, now-a-days the locks are very busy catering for the large number of houseboats and other tourist craft that use the river.

Upstream of Mildura the river is only navigable by large craft in times of high flow rates.

As the paddles turn to propel the riverboat forward they leave twin trails on the river.

When the Darling River Joins the Murray at Wentworth its muddy water is distinctly visible from the clearer water of the Murray for a while downstream until they blend together, the Darling is even more slow flowing than the Murray and picks up much more silt because it drry's up more often.

Back in the 1950's every "blockie", as the small land holders were called, owned a little grey Ferguson tractor, during a bad flood when the town councils equipment couldn't keep up with the building and maintainance of the levee banks around the town of Wentworth several dozen of these little tractors would rally round to help with the work.

They are a much revered piece of the town history today and a rally is held for them each year.... they arrive from all over Vic. and NSW for it.


Catchment Area 1.072000 square kilometres

Highest Point (Mt. Kosciusko) 2.230 metres

Average annual flows, Upper Murray

and downstream tributaries 14,800,000 megalitres

River Murray length 2.530 kilometres

Darling River length 2.740 kilometres

Murrumbidgee River length 1,580 kilometres

Goulburn River length 560 kilometres

Lake Hume capacity 3.838.000 megalitres

Lake Dartmouth capacity 4,000.000 megalitres

Lake Victoria capacity 680,000 megalitres

Menindee Lakes capacity 1,800,000 megalitres

The River Murray Commission apportions the waters of the Murray between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and facilitates navigation on the lower river and has responsibilities for water quality management

Storages, weirs and locks, and other control works have been constructed by the Commission.

The Commission operates these works:

· To conserve river flow

· To deliver water to the States for irrigation and other purposes as needed

· To maintain navigation of the river in the lower reaches

The Commission also receives and distributes to the States. waters of the Snowy River diverted to the upper Murray River by works constructed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Scheme.

Menindee Lakes storage, in western New South Wales, is not a River Murray Commission storage; it belongs to the State of New South Wales. However, under the Menindee Lakes Storage Agreement, a considerable part of the water stored in the Lakes is made available for use by the Commission.


kenju said...

You are just a fountain of knowledge!
The town I grew up in has a river, but there is only one lock that I know of.

Jeanette said...

Gday Peter lovely photo's of your stop over in Mildura and a very Informative post. I hope Warren wasnt in the pathway of the last storm that went through Qld.. Jan

Dave said...

Very cool information Peter! *S*

Nice pictures too.

Ralph said...

That a great story and picture. Thanks.

Big Dave T said...

I didn't know they had that much water in Australia. You're a good source for history in the land down under but I'm sure you know you'll have some competition soon. Australia the movie is due out soon.

Pamela said...

I think a slow trip in a houseboat down (or up?) would be most enjoyable.

I'd love the scenery!

(hat tips to Australia's "sexiest hunk" Hugh Jackman)

Cliff said...

Dear Mr Prime Minister,
(I just realized I can't read the word prime without thinking of a good steak)
Having lived on a major river all of my life it was with interest I read about the rivers. Neat stuff and I thank you.
Also great pics down below on your previous post.

Christina said...

very interesting, Peter!

Jamie Dawn said...

Very interesting info about how they managed (and still manage) to navigate the waters of those rivers.
Towns have always seemed to sprout up along rivers.
Waterways offer so much. I'm sure whenever drought happened, those old towns suffered greatly.
It's wonderful how those locks and weirs make it possible for travel to occur even during dry spells.
I like the photo with the two lines streaming behind.

Walker said...

They should pay you for this.
You are probbably giving more people to come visit that the department of tourism does.
Great post