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Discovering the Murray River

Explorer Captain Charles Sturt arrived in the area in the 1830s in the search for an inland sea. He entered the headwaters of a wide river, which he named the Darling. On a subsequent expedition he entered a mighty river, which he named the Murray. In 1830, while navigating the Murray, he came across a river junction, which he was convinced was the confluence with the Darling. Settlers and drovers began arriving in the area, bringing cattle and sheep to graze the natural pastures.

Transforming the landscape

A major drought in Victoria from 1877 to 1884 prompted Alfred Deakin, a minister in the State Government and chairman of a Royal Commission on water supply, to visit the irrigation areas of California, where he met George and William Chaffey. In 1886 George Chaffey came to Australia and selected a derelict sheep station at Mildura as the site for his first irrigation settlement signing an agreement with the Victorian Government to spend at least £300,000 on permanent improvements in the next twenty years. After much political wrangling, the settlement of Mildura was established in 1887.

Establishing a settlement

A number of squatters moved onto the land along the Darling and Murray rivers, expanding their holdings west from the Murrumbidgee area and north-east from South Australia. With the arrival of paddleboats in 1853, the small settlement port of Wentworth found itself ideally situated as an administrative and commercial centre for the untapped wealth of the vast outback. For many years Sydney was the only port in New South Wales to handle more cargo than Wentworth. 

Post-war settlement

The region's diverse cultural and economic identity was firmly established following the arrival of the soldier settlers and the post-war migrants from Italy, Ireland, Greece, England and the former Yugoslavia, who brought with them traditional cultivation skills that helped to make Mildura the Australian food bowl it is today. Mildura was soon the main town of the district and in 1937 it officially became a city. Today, Mildura is a bright, thriving regional centre, and the surrounding Sunraysia district has a population of over 50,000.

The River

The Darling and the Murray are Australia’s two longest rivers. The Murray weaves its magic through three states, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

In New South Wales, the Darling River flows through Menindee Lakes and Kinchega National Park, all the way south to the township of Pooncarie to join the Murray at Wentworth where the confluence creates a spectacular display of swirling waters. The confluence can be seen at Junction Park in Wentworth where the best vantage point is the viewing tower.

Take time to view one of the several weirs and locks along the river which are part of the Murray irrigation scheme. Originally constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, the system of weirs and locks was designed to provide stable levels for irrigation diversions and year-round navigation for commercial cargo and paddle steamers. Today the locks serve an increasing number of houseboats, tourist cruise boats and other recreational craft as well as providing a stable water level all year round.
To the north-west of Mildura, just a 30 minute drive is the township of Wentworth, home...

30 Minutes
Indication from Mildura CBD
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