After getting up a little later today, we drove from our motel down to the river for another ride on a Murray River paddle boat. The story of the river that we heard was very similar to the one that we heard on the boat a few days ago in Echuca. (After all, it is the same river!) The difference on this trip was that it took us through the Mildura Lock (Number 11 on the river) before sailing, or perhaps paddling further downstream.
Our boat today was the ‘Rothsbury’. She was built in 1881 at the river town of Gunbower to serve as a large and powerful tow boat. She was used for towing barges for the wool and logging trade. She was was brought to Mildura in 1909 by the Permewan Wright & Company who had an extensive operation in the region. In 1911 the Rothbury was engaged in towing barges laden with wood to supply “stock piles” along the river for various boilers and other passing steamers. After a series of owners, she eventually lay moored and idle at the Mildura slipway for 10 years until she was restored in 1968 for the tourism trade. During this restoration her 55HP Steam Engine and boiler combination was removed for a lower maintenance Gardner Diesel Engine, however she retains her original wheelhouse and original top deck cabins.
From the paddle boat we could see the old Mildura Homestead site on the river bank. After our cruise, we visited it. We found that all the buildings on the site were closed due to Covid, but we could still walk around the homestead area.
This homestead is a reconstruction of Mildura Station, which was established here by the Jamieson brothers in 1847 as a pastoral lease. The early pastoral days here were successful, boosted by the fledgling riverboat trade, and 10,000 sheep grazed the Mildura run by 1854. By 1886 George Chaffey, a Canadian, and the father of irrigation in the ares, came to Mildura at the invitation of Victoria’s Minister for Water Supply, Alfred Deakin, who had recently inspected the work done by the Chaffey Brothers in California, USA.
Both Chaffey’s brothers subsequently came to Australia and after protracted negotiations, in 1887 purchased the then defunct pastoral lease and created the Mildura Irrigation Colony. The Chaffey’s adapted the plan of their North American operations and developed a series of steam-driven pumps to lift water from the Murray River, first into King’s Billabong then subsequently to various heights to irrigate up to 33,000 acres.
The brothers were so successful that they could afford to build a large mansion that is now the Mildura Art Gallery.
On the opposite corner, looking over the river is another grand house. I don’t know anything about it other than I doubt that it was the servant’s residence.
Our last part of the day was spent across the river in New South Wales near the river town of Wentworth. Here, I wandered around the Perry Sand Hills to do some photography.
The Perry Sandhills sit on the edge of the river flood plain and occupy around 880 acres of land. They are an ancient site and include an Aboriginal cultural heritage area. Due to their unique nature, the sand hills have been used as a backdrop in many films and television shows. Their striking patterns, ripples and formations of the sand are quite mesmerising. Geologists say that these sand hills originated after an ice age (40,000 years ago) and are formed by wind erosion over thousands of years.
Back in the town of Wentworth, I climbed the small viewing tower to see the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers, which, combined, is the fourth largest river system in the world. When the Darling is in full flow, a distinct colour difference can be seen as the waters from both rivers merge, but today its was not so distinct.
Our last task of the day was to refuel our car in preparation for us heading further west into South Australia tomorrow.