Come with us as we wander through the River Red Gum forests and splash around on the sandy river beaches of the ‘Mighty Murray River’!

The Murray River is the backbone of this region and was once a highway used for transportation of goods and people on paddle steamers.

It rises in the Snowy Mountains and meanders across Australia’s inland plains forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria as it flows more than 2500-kilometres to the Southern Ocean in South Australia.IMG_2548.jpg

Join us as we follow this iconic river to Morgan in South Australia, where the Murray River and the Darling River converge and the Murray turns south for its final 315-kilometre journey before reaching the ocean at Lake Alexandrina.

We began our Murray River journey heading west from Towong.

Soon after leaving Towong there was a short climb to a lookout where a panoramic view stretched for kilometres. IMG_2395A beautiful steel butterfly stood at least 2-metres high overlooking the rolling hills and a noticeboard informed us of the various mountains to the east including Australia’s highest, Mount Kosciusko.

We continued on through the lush farming country with our next stop the small heritage listed town of Tintaldra, 1 of only 2 towns at the headwaters of the mighty Murray, the other being Khoncoban further upstream.IMG_2388

Like many of the towns along the Murray, Tintaldra has a story to tell dating back many years with lots of interesting history recorded on plaques and monuments around the town.

In 1837 a group of young aborigines brought Charles Huon de Kerilleau from Cooma to show him where there was ‘a land of plenty’ and in that same year it was settled as a grazing outpost for the Shelly family.

By 1854 Sydney Grandison Watson, one of the Upper Murray’s  most colourful characters, began a more permanent settlement.

Watson owned Tintaldra Station, a property of more than 12,000 acres and in 1864 he commissioned Edwin Jephcott to build a store to service the Upper Murray . A store that was to become a masterpiece of primitive workmanship built mainly from River Red Gum.

With an eye to monopolising the towns business, he then had a hotel built-in 1870 thus Tintaldra became the hub of the Upper Murray with a ferry punt crossing, customs house, blacksmith, police sergeant, doctor and midwife.

Tintaldra is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘young man by the water’.DSC_0304 - Copy

This small, historic village is now the oldest in the Upper Murray district, with a general store on one side of the road and a hotel on the other.

It is a popular tourist stopover where you can enjoy a beer in a true country pub… or step back in time in the faithfully restored oldest store in the Upper Murray and enjoy their famous billy tea, damper and a meal of Jumbuck stew.IMG_2350

The museum at the store has a 150-year-old organ as well as other artefacts of the era including a wood fired bakery and on the wall is even Jack-Rileya photo of old Jack Riley, ‘The Man from Snowy River’.

The Murray provides excellent Murray Cod fishing and standing tall on a pylon on the old bridge near Tintaldra, a large Murray Cod sculpture graces the water way.IMG_2355

We crossed the bridge, to grab a photo then back on Victorian soil, the next town on our map was Walwa.

As we continued on the Murray flowed along its course on one side of the highway, while on the other, mountains graced the countryside and every so often farm gates, with some very interesting mailboxes, passed us by.

Walwa was only about 23-kilometres along the Murray River Highway from Tintaldra and although only having a population of around 250, it is the 2nd largest of the 4 Upper Murray towns – Corryong, Tintaldra, Towong and Walwa, with a range of services, stores and a history back to the 1860’s.

Located 1-kilometre from the Murray River on the former Murray Valley Highway, Walwa was named after a Walwa pastoral run in 1839 with the name thought to have derived from an Aboriginal word describing ‘a place of waters’.

Today there is a great general store, a recreation reserve, a caravan park, a hotel, a golf club, a recreation reserve, an art/craft gallery, a hall, a medical centre, a couple of churches and a primary school.

5-kilometres on we crossed a bridge over the river to the small New South Wales township of Jingellic.

Jingellic only had a general store, which was the last shop until Bellbridge 80-kilometres away, and in the shade of old river gums beside the Murray River, sat a lovely old pub, the Bridge Hotel, a popular watering hole that was built in 1925.

On the banks of the river below the Historic Bridge Hotel was a free camping ground at ‘Jingellic Reserve’ but as it was early in the day and the campground was just a little crowded, we decided to push on. Neil had another campground marked on his map that he was keen to check out.

Apparently for a price of a beer at the pub, campers can use the toilets and showers… and for a beautiful free campground who minds buying a beer? This one will definitely be marked on our map for another trip.

The name ‘Jingellic’ is an Aboriginal name for ‘bald hill’ and like many Upper Murray towns and villages it was given its name from an early squatter’s run.

The area was first held under a government lease in the late 1830s and as early as the 1870s Jingellic was the site of a small commercial punt that provided dry passage over the Murray River between the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales.

The old pylons from the original Jingellic Bridge can still be seen from Jingellic Reserve\. The current Jingellic Bridge was built in 1959.

Back on the Victorian side of the river the border was actually marked with a high-water mark south of the river.

Leaving Jingellic, we moved further downstream to the picturesque Burrowye Bend Reserve where we planned to camp the night.

After a short climb over Mount Alfred Gap, which was the only steep part of the day, and narrowly avoiding a herd of cattle grazing in the long paddock beside the highway, we finally arrived at the campground.

There were lots of great camping locations right on the water’s edge and only a handful of other campers, so we headed to the far end of the reserve near the bend.

Beautiful tall River Red Gums lined the river banks. Some had shed their smooth bark in long ribbons and many had twisted branches casting ghost like shadows over the campground as the sun went down… their twisted, dead trunks home to lots of wildlife.

River Red Gums are unique to the Australian bush and grow along the waterways as well as in other areas where water is not apparent at surface level. In fact, they are the most widespread eucalypt in Australia. They propagate when floodwaters run high and can live up to 700-years or more.IMG_2448

Unfortunately, there are risks involved in camping outdoors and one of the risks is trees falling or dropping limbs. Nicknamed the ‘Widow Maker’ the River Red Gum have a habit of dropping large branches without warning so we were quite selective where we set up camp.

Burrowye Bend’ was a beautiful spot… secluded with lots of shade and easy access to the water. One thing about camping along this stretch of river was that the water flowed clear and could be collected in buckets and used for washing dishes… and ourselves.

We were back to using the ‘bush toilet‘ too as there were no amenities. This meant our shovel was put to good use again and it wasn’t unusual to see someone heading for the bush with the shovel in hand and a roll of toilet paper. There’s no good camping trip without having to dig a hole and our shovel had had a work out over the past 10-days!IMG_2420

We spent 2-days swimming, relaxing with a good book and telling yarns around the bush television (campfire)… and our stay wasn’t without entertainment.

We had our own floor show as we watched some elderly people negotiate the fast-flowing water from one side of the river to the other… all in an attempt to catch that big fish.

Not once, not twice, but 3 times they waded, at times in chest deep water, stumbling over the rocky bottom and struggling against the strong current. They caught their fish – a 70cm Murray River Cod (with mozzarella cheese they told us), kissed it and let it go!

We had been so spoilt with so many free camps over the past couple of weeks but this one at ‘Burrowye Bend’ was an absolute beauty… the sunset over the river, cockatoos screeching, a few beers, a nice campfire, IMG_2468the smell of dinner cooking in the camp oven and each morning woken at sunrise by the laughter of kookaburras mixed with the moo’s from the cattle and the baa’s from the sheep on the river’s edge… then came shrieking calls from the cockatoos in the trees surrounding us, followed by the yodelling of the magpies.

There were even ‘bees‘ in the trees!IMG_2526

Sadly, it was time to leave this incredible free camp and head on with the hope of finding another down the road.

Our Murray River drive continued to be scenic, twisting and interesting with lots to see along the way.

Not far from Burrowye Bend the flow of the river slowed as it started to enter the upper reaches of the Hume Dam. This section of the river stretches back from the dam wall about 100 kilometres but even this far back the aspect of the river had changed considerably and quickly.

We slowed or stopped often to take photos from vantage points along the way. The level of the river was understandably low because of the limited rainfall we had had also, and at times was reduced to a series of billabongs and waterholes.

A distant line of gums marked the course of the river and for kilometre after kilometre we followed what appeared to be a wetland with vivid green patches of grassed areas, the banks and sections of the riverbed visibly dry with hundreds upon hundreds of eerie ghost River Red Gums – drowned River Red Gums spookily overshadowing the rivers path.

A River Red Gum may grow for anywhere between 400 and 1000 years before it falls and as it decomposes over centuries it becomes a home for new life with Murray Cod laying their eggs in drowned red gums.

These magnificent trees that once dominated this inland river system of Australia, is now severely threatened by reductions in river flow and increased salinity. The clear, fast flowing waters of the upper reaches had sadly vanished!

We passed free camping on the river at the rural locality of Thologalong and then side tracked a couple of kilometres off the highway to Granya.

Between Towong and Granya there were so many great free camping areas, all adjacent to the river; Lighthouse Bend, Neil’s Bend, Jingellic, Gadd’s bend, Bullock Flat, Burrowye Bend  and the Kurrajongs to name a few!

Granya is a town on the Murray arm of Lake Hume and was established in the 1860s following a gold rush with the origin of the name uncertain. Gold was found at Bethanga, 20-kilometres west of Granya in 1867, but it was another 11-years before intermittent prospecting led to mining at Granya.

It’s school was closed in 1994 and today a hall, a history museum, a CFA (Country Fire Authority) station, a recreation reserve, a notable paper roster and paper collection point and a very interesting postal system continue to service the community.

Further on we passed the turnoff to the Wymah Ferry. ‘The Spirit of Wymah’ is a heritage listed cable ferry built in 1946 and crosses the river at Wymah in New South Wales and Granya in Victoria.

The passenger carrying ferry can take 3-cars, however is not suitable for caravans.  It is one of only 2 surviving ferries that crosses the Murray River with the other being Speewa Ferry, at Swan Hill. The ferry is toll-free and runs every day except on the first Wednesday of every month when it is closed between 9am and 12pm.

Further on we came to Talgarro. Talgarro was named after the Talgarno pastoral station (1836) and it is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal expression describing ‘dry country’.

The settling of farm selection in the 1870s led to the opening of a school in 1877, an Anglican Sunday school in 1880 and a public hall in 1889.

It is only 23-kilometres east of Albury Wodonga on the southern shoreline of Lake Hume and has been relocated twice over the years because of the damming of the Hume Weir.

Today there is only a CFA station, a cemetery and the Courthouse Hotel with the residents travelling further afield for other needs.

Continuing on we passed Bellbridge, a small town located near Bethanga Bridge and overlooking Lake Hume.

Crossing the bridge we stopped at the Hume Dam wall to have a look and a wander around. The dam wall was closed for maintance  while we were there but we could peer down over the power station and watch the Murray begin its journey on one side, or see a big deep lake on the other.

The Hume Dam, formerly the Hume Weir, is a major dam across the Murray River downstream of its junction with the Mitta River in the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia and it really is a sight to see if you are in the region.

It came about following a number of years of drought during the second half of the 1890s, culminating in a record dry year in 1902 when the community saw the need for water storage to collect the high flows of winter and spring water for release in drier months.

The result being a dam located about 10-kilometres east of Albury Wodonga and around 300-kilometres downstream from where the Murray rises on the Great Dividing Range. It holds 6 times more water than Sydney Harbour and while it was only just over 16% full while we were visiting, there was still plenty of water flowing.

From the dam we commenced our journey to Albury Wodonga, the bustling cities on the New South Wales, Victorian border.

Travelling through Bonegilla I was reminded of stories my Mum had told of her years of training in the army during World War II.

Latchford Barracks is located near the border of Victoria and New South Wales on approximately 220 hectares of land. The base was established in 1940 as the Bonegilla Army Camp. From 1947 to 1971 the camp was used for migrant accommodation and in 1978 there was a major property redevelopment resulting in much of the property being demolished. Latchford Barracks was formally opened again in 1983.

Albury and Wodonga are located on opposite sides of the Murray River, with Albury located in New South Wales and Wodonga located on the Victorian side of the border.

We pulled in at the lovely Belvoir Park (Sumsion Gardens) in Wodonga for lunch. This Park boasted a great children’s playground, undercover BBQ’s, an extensive lawn area, a lovely lake with heaps of bird life and a footpath that runs the entire perimeter of the lake and although the lake is not suitable to swim in, it was certainly a favourite place for the locals to exercise.

Leaving Wodonga, the highway took us away from the river’s edge as we followed the Hume Freeway for quite a distance before turning west and back onto the Murray Valley Highway.

We have been trying our best to stay beside the river but occasionally we had to veer away and this time we were heading to the famous wine centre of Rutherglen.

We passed lots of wineries and very dry farming country.

It was mostly dairy and grape growing country out here but it was beyond me how anything could survive in these conditions!

 

Rutherglen is located between Yarrawonga and Wodonga, just 10 kilometres from the Murray River and the small state border towns of Wahgunyah in Victoria and Corowa in New South Wales.IMG_2594.JPG

In the early to mid-1800s, this area was an important grazing area but in 1860 the discovery of gold saw the town of Rutherglen spring up with several churches, a school and a post office.

After the gold rush, Rutherglen eventually realised it’s wealth in agriculture and established itself as one of Victoria’s most important wine-producing districts, which was quite evident driving through the town centre and along the highway.

The ‘Rutherglen Wine Experience Visitor Information Centre’  is located in the town centre offerings displays of the town’s rich history, how wines are made, and of course, comprehensive tourist information and is well worth a visit.

The main street of Rutherglen maintains its historical charm, with most of the shop fronts and hotels retaining the same look they had in the 19th century. A Moreton Bay Fig tree that was planted in 1877 still stands and an old water tower standing tall on the edge town advertising it is ‘wine country’ was certainly an eye catcher as we drove in.  A mesh tower resembling a wine bottle was added to the top of the tower in 1969.

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There are a number of interesting spots along the Murray River, close to Rutherglen, which are worth exploring.

West of Rutherglen, via Moodemere Road, is Lake Moodemere which is surrounded by extensive wetlands and River Red Gum – a haven for birdlife and ideal for fishing.

Further along Moodemere Road is Stantons Bend where there is a long sandy beach suitable for swimming.

North of Rutherglen, via Up River Road and Police Paddocks Road, is Police Paddocks. This reserve consists of a 400-hectare island located within the Gooramadda State Forest.

Travelling from Rutherglen to Corowa we passed through the border town of Wahgunyah where we stopped to check out a free campsite before crossing the Murray River using the heritage-listed John Foord Bridge.IMG_2608 - Copy - Copy - Copy

The John Foord Bridge was named in honour of John Foord who was born in England in 1819 and died in 1883.

Foord founded Wahgunyah in Victoria in 1856, and North Wahgunyah, which is now Corowa in 1859.

Corowa is in NSW, and Wahgunyah is in Victoria with the only thing joining them, another bridge across the river. Well, actually, they do have separate state governments, laws, regulations, speed limits, taxes, and because of the different laws from one state to another, Victoria was once very restrictive about gambling on poker machines so consequently there are more clubs with ‘pokies’ just across the border in New South Wales… but  they do offer a free bus service from Wahgunyah to attract the people from just across the river.IMG_2686 - Copy

Corowa is a substantial and historically significant river town which is mainly a service centre for the rich agricultural lands of wool, cereals and grapes on both sides of the Murray River.

After a quick visit to Corowa we did an about turn and drove back over the bridge to Wahgunyah where we set up camp at ‘Willow Reserve’… and once again we were treated to a free camp, the delights of the beautiful River Red Gums and a nice little swimming beach just over the bank.IMG_2631 - Copy

This reserve, situated right on the banks of the Murray River has a day use area with picnic tables and BBQ facilities and of course further down the track a free camp ground.

Public toilets serviced both areas and there is easy access to the river for swimming at various points and a lovely walking track along the Murray River.

That evening we enjoyed our last meal (for this trip), with Mon and Neil. They were heading home the next day and we were continuing our quest along the Murray.

Charles Sturt explored the Murray River area in 1829-30 and in 1838 led a droving party with 300 head of cattle through the district, en route to South Australia.

It was also in 1838 that a party including John Foord set off from Yass with 1000 head of cattle, in search of fresh grazing land. Along with 3-business partners he took up a 30,000-acre run on the southern side of the river known as ‘Wahgunyah‘, said to mean ‘big camp’.

He produced wheat and became the flour miller, storekeeper, transporter, punt owner and bridge builder. In 1859 he purchased land on the New South Wales side and planned the township of North Wahgunyah, now known as Corowa.

This town’s story began with the rapid population growth in Cowora due to the discovery of gold in nearby Beechworth in 1852. Wahgunyah became a river port, and the district supplied meat and grain to the goldfields. The Rutherglen goldfield was discovered in 1859, and although short-lived, added further impetus to the growth of the town.

Around 1862 a toll bridge was constructed (near the present bridge) and later demolished in 1894. The present iron, John Foord Bridge, was built in 1892.

Next morning, after saying farewell to our friends, we grabbed our bikes and camera and headed off to explore further afield with our first stop before heading over the bridge and the border, a display featuring the Wahgunyah collection of illustrations by Aboriginal artist Tommy McRae.

The land around Wahgunyah was once occupied by the Whroo people, a subgroup of the Bangerang tribe who inhabited the other side of the river.

The Bangerang people and their tribal lands extended north to the Murrumbidgee River and along the Murray River from Howlong to Berrigan and south to Mansfield in Victoria.

In the late 1880-90s, one of the members of this tribe, Tommy Mac Rae, was encouraged to make sketches in pen and ink of various tribal activities and the tribe’s contact with white man. The surviving originals are an important record of those events.

We crossed the bridge and headed to a lovely park where we followed a winding path along the river bank. This side of the river is also the home to 2-rowing clubs and a purpose-built wharf for river house boats.

After riding the length of the park and reading the different plaques that were situated at different locations along the river and learning more about the enterprising business man of the district, John Foord and how he set up the first river crossing, then built the first bridge in 1862, which was a wooden structure, we continued our ride around the outskirts of town.IMG_2634

In the back streets we followed the old railway line past the old flour mill, where they now make all sorts of chocolate temptations and also produce whisky, we stopped to take photos at the old rail station and we passed what had to be the biggest and flashiest building in Corowa. Apparently the ‘Corowa RSL’ is where it all happens in this busy Murray River Town; music, dining, dancing, sports, bar and lounge area, TAB and Keno.

After leaving the back streets we made our way back up into the busy main section of town, where we discovered more history by reading the plaques that were positioned in front of the buildings that are still in use today.

Standing at the end of the main street was a sculpture of three brolgas and directly opposite was the war memorial, which housed the town clock. Brolga’s were a common sight on our tour around town.th1Q5YZ1DO.jpg

Corowa was the birthplace of the Federation of Australia in 1901.img_2619.jpg

In 1893 at Corowa, a conference was held, which accepted the motion that all future  Federation conference delegates should be elected by the people, instead of being representatives of the various governments, and that they should draw up a constitution and submit it to the people for approval.

Irrigation and navigation rights to the Murray were settled at a conference in April 1902 which culminated in the setting up of the River Murray Commission and another title that Corowa can claim, was that of ‘rabbit population reducer’ with the introduction of myxomatosis in the district in 1950.

Heading back to camp we detoured along the streets of Wahgunyah.

The main employer in this little town of 500-people is the Uncle Toby’s Factory although there are also 4-wineries in the vicinity.

Wahgunyah’s a tiny town but was once the busiest upstream port on the Murray and boasted a quay, customs house and bond stores. The paddle steamers carried goods to and from Echuca to overland transport to and from Melbourne but then the rail link to Melbourne was built in 1879 putting an end to the river trade.

Today there are only a couple of old buildings remaining, nowhere near as many as in its heyday.

The Customs House building near the bridge, was used in the early days to check anyone travelling from Victoria into New South Wales … that was until Federation in 1901. The building has now been restored and has a National Trust classification.

The former Post Office (1863) is now a private dwelling, the now Post Office was the former Bank of Victoria, built in 1880 and the now Savage Store (1861) was originally built as the Wahgunyah Hotel and also used as a Cobb & Co booking office for a service that ran to Melbourne.

The small Wahgunyah Pioneer Cemetery off Distillery Road is the resting place of John Foorde and his family and the Carlile Cemetery, further along the road, is where the graves of many of the early pioneers and Chinese pioneers of the gold rush days are located. Well preserved and maintained Chinese Burning Towers that were used by Chinese families to burn offerings to help the departed on their next journey, can still be seen.

On the edge of the reserve where we camped, we discovered the ‘Mass Tree’, a red gum where Wahgunyah’s first Catholic service was held in a tent in 1869.

By late afternoon storm clouds had started to roll in, accompanied by flashes of lightning dancing across the sky and rolling thunder. It rained heavily throughout the night and into the next afternoon until the clearing storm clouds set an amazing sunset and the night was once again ablaze with stars.

Corowa was certainly a noisy little town on a Saturday night but luckily, we were on the other side of the river. The New South Welshmen certainly know how to have a party well into the early hours of the morning.

Rain started to fall again about 3:30am and continued until around 6:30ish when we climbed out of our tent.

As soon as our tent was completely dry the next morning, we waved goodbye to the friends we had made at this camp and hit the road as sole travellers, in search of another free camp.

Still in Victoria on the Murray Valley Highway we followed the white line through a few vineyards and olive plantations, crossing the Ovens River and eventually arriving in Bundalong, a very small town that if you blinked as you drove down the main street you would pass right by without even seeing.

Heading on we passed through very dry, flat farming country, sadly lacking the water needed for crops because of the shortage of water. Occasionally we passed a few cattle grazing in the paddocks. This was dairy cattle country but there wasn’t a lot for the cattle to feed on, just the odd roll of hay scattered here and there in the paddocks.

Up market Mulwala, sitting on the banks of Lake Mulwala was our next stop.

This town was relatively new with lots of new housing happening and Lake Mulwala was another unforgettable sight, lying between the twin towns of Mulwala and Yarrawonga, with its majestic and ghostly River Red Gums.

Lake Mulwala was designed to hold irrigation water for release to farmers. When the weir was built to form the lake a River Red Gum forest was flooded and the tree stumps still remain in place, mostly just below the water surface but as the water level was very low, hundreds of ghost trees were clearly visible.

Sail boats were launching at the boat ramp and speed boats roared up and down the only clear section in the lake dragging skiers behind while a few lonely dinghies sat patiently between the dead trees waiting for their next catch as they rocked and rolled over the wake as boats sped by.  We stopped at the beautiful lakeside park and picnic ground for a break then headed off again for Yarrawonga.

Yarrawonga was a much larger town with a Bunnings store and various other businesses.

In search of a free campground nearby we continued straight through the town for about 5-kilometres then realising we had missed the turnoff to our next destination (after checking Wikicamps) it was an about turn and back to the outskirts of Yarrawonga.

Green Bank‘ was down a side street that led to a dirt track and to the banks the Murray River in State Forest.

We had followed the river as closely as the roads would allow, which wasn’t very close in places, but we still managed to camp alongside the river each night.

This was another beautiful campground with long drop loos, plenty of room to spread out, we could light a campfire, we could swim and we were surround by more beautiful River Red Gums.

There are so many similar stretches of free camping available along the Murray River, places where people can pitch a tent or park a van without paying, or just paying a donation for the privilege.

That evening thunder storms rolled in but with very little rain… just enough to make it uncomfortable to sit outside so we retired to the rooftop tent with our books.

The rain had stopped but it was blowing quite hard when we left ‘Green Bank‘ the next morning,

In search of another free camp we headed in the direction of  Echuca and  Barmah Lakes Campground in the Barmah National Park.

Heading out along the Murray Valley Highway we passed lots of caravans heading in the opposite direction.

Lush orange and olive plantations were now dotted along the highway, quite a change from the dry pastures we had been following. These plantations obviously had access to water from the Murray as many had channels bordering their properties.

Cobram was our first stop where we had a quick look at the town…

then headed to ‘Big Tom Beach’ Campground to see if we could find some koalas. We had been told back at Wahgunyah there were koalas at this campground so we parked up and set off on a short walk but we didn’t spot one!

This was another free campground with long drop toilets but as it was only a short distance from the campground we had just left, we decided to keep going.

Cobram is located on the Murray River, just across this mighty waterway from the small New South Wales border town of Barooga .

It was quite a big town with a selection of shops, supermarkets, hotels and cafes and the historic buildings in the town centre included the Cobram Hotel built in 1892, law offices built in 1892 and the Masonic Lodge built in 1888.

The Mill End is the oldest part of Cobram, located on the north side of the Murray River. This originally thickly timbered area was first surveyed in 1886, with its name reflecting the sawmills that operated in the area. Today the precinct includes Cobram’s oldest hotel, the Royal Victoria, a local shopping area and an established residential area.

As we continued on the river twisted and turned through thick state forest, native bushland and wetlands, past attractive sandy beaches lined with towering gum trees and more camping and grass picnic areas.

Thompsons Beach is located just north of the bridge over the river to Barooga, while Scotts Beach, with its extensive camping area, is located just a couple of kilometres from the town centre along River Road.

On the way to Scotts Beach is Quinn Island, a 40-hectare water bird haven located on a bend in the river with a footbridge providing pedestrian access to the island.

Back on the road we made tracks for the national park passing through Yarroweyah (also spelt Yarroweya), where only a few houses and a roadhouse lined the highway.

Yarroweyah was only 6-kilometres west of Cobram on the branch railway line between Cobram and Strathmerton.

Yarroweyah, was the name of a pastoral run taken up in 1842 by Elizabeth Hume, the widowed sister-in-law of the explorer, Hamilton Hume. It was later named the Yarrawonga Run, extending from Cobram to Yarrawonga, 25- kilometres eastwards.

Strathmerton was only a small rural service centre on the Goulburn Valley Highway. It lies at the heart of rich dairy country with most of the district’s population either dairy farmers or people working in the dairy industry.

It is also known for a ‘Beach on every Bend’ with 18 sandy beaches only a few kilometres north of the town.

Settled by Benjamin Boyd in 1841, his property was originally called ‘Ulupna’, the name of a local Aboriginal family group, but it was later changed to Strathmerton; Strath being Gaelic for valley and Merton, the name of Boyd’s family’s Scottish home.

Soldier settlements opened up and developed the land during the late 1940s and Kraft Cheese constructed their first cheese-making plant in 1949. The factory has gradually expanded over the years and is now the largest in the southern hemisphere having expanded even more after Bega Cheese purchased the facilities in 2009.

The wind had picked up considerably as we drove on and it was hard pushing into the headwind.

We passed quite a few roadside stops but none with amenities.

The countryside was still very dry and the once lush orange and olive plantations gave way to now dry vineyards and a few cattle and sheep properties.

We passed the turnoff to Bearil, another small rural community, then at Yalca North we allowed ‘Nav’ to take us down a narrow road to Yalca then on through the tiny town of Picola where we were unexpectedly hit by a dust storm.

Picola is a rural village 11-kilometres north-west of Nathalia and only had a church, a hall, an oval, tennis courts, a bowling green and a hotel.

Its name is thought to have derive from an Aboriginal word either describing an Aboriginal sub-group or meaning ‘whirling or rushing water’.

During the early period of farm-selection settlement, Picola vied with Nathalia because of Picola‘s proximity to the EchucaTocumwal coach route and in 1896 the railway line was extended from Nathalia to Picola and used for transporting wheat, livestock and red gum taken from Barmah National Park , then state forest, and milled at Picola.

Today Picola is a mixture of irrigated farms, wheat-growing and timber milling.

The dust storm not only caused chaos with visibility at times, but it also created some spectacular scenes as we continued on.

Finally, we came to Barmah where we turned and headed into the Barmah National Park. Our next destination only a few kilometres away.IMG_2726

Barmah is a small hamlet located north of the border in New South Wales.

Just downstream of the town the Murray winds south, then east far enough to put a small point of New South Wales directly south of Barmah before resuming its generally westwards course.

Barmah is also near the largest River Red Gum forest in the world and an area that holds enormous cultural significance to the Indigenous traditional owners, the Yorta Yorta Nation.

The Barmah National Park , together with the adjoining Millewa forest, form this River Red Gum forest.

The Barmah National Park is on the floodplain of the Murray River where a channel narrows at an area known as the Barmah Choke, a narrow section of the river that restricts the flow of the Murray to just over 10,000ML per day. When this floodplain floods it becomes an important breeding ground for Murray Cod.

The narrowest section or ‘choke’ is upstream of Barmah and bound on either side by the Moira and Barmah lakes.

The Barmah-Millewa forest is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It is also an important bird area as it is rich in bird species and the breeding ground for the Superb Parrot, a species listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.

There were only 4 other campers when we arrived at ‘Barmah Lake Campground’ on the dry flood plains beside the large lake.

There were long drop toilets not far away from where we set up camp and picnic tables which were a bonus as it meant we didn’t have to unpack our table and although the lake was difficult to get to with its reedy banks it made for a lovely camp for a few days.

The floodplain was not unlike the barren flood plains we had passed further up the Murray with the base of the trees resembling those that had obviously been underwater many times only these still had high leaf covered branches well above the high-water mark to indicate they were still alive.

By early afternoon the wind had picked up again with small dusty gusts continuing well into the afternoon resulting in some of campers packing up and leaving. It finally abated as evening approached leaving us with a settled, starry but somewhat cool evening… the coolest we had had since we had been on the road.

We spent 2 nights at Barmah National Park and each morning we woke to the sound of a small bird admiring another bird in the side mirror of Harry the Hilux and making his presence known by continually pecking at the glass. This was followed by and a herd of brumbies as they galloped through the campground.

It was a chilly start the next morning so with our campsite shadowed by tall trees we decided to move camp a short distance (20 metres or so) up the track… so with the ladder to our rooftop tent up on our tailgate we moved from one table to another then settled down to enjoy a warmer day and relax with our books.IMG_2731

Pelicans, ducks and ibis graced the lake and canoes, dinghies and occasionally a small cruise boat cruised up and down but the water wasn’t that inviting for swimming.

Kookaburras honoured us with their presence, enjoying a few titbits scattered on the ground but when one decided to give us a helping hand (or rather a beak) with lunch preparations we were soon reluctant to encourage them any longer.

One flew straight into the canopy, its large wings unexpectantly brushing along my arm and then proceeded to stick its beak into our unopened cheese – all in an attempt at stealing it – but his attempt was short lived when he realised it wasn’t going anywhere. I’m not sure who got the biggest shock… the kookaburra or me!

There is nothing quite like sitting outdoors under the cover of the clear country skies. The balmy coolness of the night air, the pelicans gliding silently by and the sounds of the kookaburras laughing at each other on the branches of the River Red Gums.  It was so relaxing and lovely to sit around the bush television (campfire) again. It had been a while since we had cooked our dinner over the fire under a starry sky.

Barmah Lake Campground is a great spot for camping with lots of birdlife and wildlife and our days were easily filled with long walks, riding or just relaxing.

The following day we were again notified of the pending sunrise by the shrieking calls from the corellas in the trees above, closely followed by the gay laughter of the kookaburras and yodelling of magpies mixed with the galloping of the brumbies in the background.IMG_2750

IMG_2751It wasn’t until after we left that we were told of how the drought conditions in this area had left these poor brumbies starving, forcing local volunteers to handfeed them in an attempt to keep them alive.

The countryside we have been travelling through since we started our journey was so very, very dry and desperately in need of rain and there was no question, the Murray River was suffering having been in drought of at least the last 7-years!IMG_2771

From Barmah Lake Campground our journey took us to the paddle-steamer port of Echuca.

Echuca is on the Victorian side of the Murray with Moama, it’s twin town, just over the bridge in New South Wales.

Passing back through the town of Barmah we crossed the Murray into New South Wales and continued along Ferry Road/Barmah Road for about 14-kilometres before turning left on to the Cobb Highway and making our way to Moama.

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One thing was sure on the Murray, whenever we crossed a bridge we always knew which state we were entering as on each side of the bridge it was clearly identified with signs that read we were entering New South Wales, or entering Victoria.

Crossing the bridge at Moama we arrived back on Victorian soil again and in Echuca where we immediately made tracks to the visitor information centre to find a caravan park – we had a choice of quite a few parks so it was just a matter of choosing which one.IMG_2778

Discovery Parks Echuca was about 6-kilometres out of the town centre and a lovely park with the mighty Murray River right on its doorstep… although the grumpy lady at reception left a lot to be desired. Obviously, a bad day at the office.IMG_2779

We had visited Echuca a few years back on a previous trip and this charming riverside town is home to the largest paddle steamer fleet in the world and one of Australia’s finest heritage icons – the PS Adelaide, the oldest wooden hulled paddle steamer still operating!

The mighty and ancient Murray River has shown us her many colours and moods as we have followed her west to Echuca but our journey does not end here.

Come with us as we journey along the banks of Australia’s  longest river and explore and experience its lasting beauty.

Even in drought this mighty river still has a graceful magic about it as it flows into South Australia on its path to the Southern Ocean.

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