Murray's red cliffs

indiafrank

Parkside, Australia

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The Murray River or River Murray is Australia’s longest river at 2,508 kilometres (1,558 mi) in length, the Murray rises in the Australian Alps, draining the western side of Australia’s highest mountains and, for most of its length, meanders across Australia’s inland plains, forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria as it flows to the northwest, before turning south for its final 500 kilometres (310 mi) into South Australia, reaching the ocean at Lake Alexandrina.

The water of the Murray flows through several lakes that fluctuate in salinity (and were often fresh until recent decades) including Lake Alexandrina and The Coorong before emptying through the Murray Mouth into the southeastern portion of the Indian Ocean, often referenced on Australian maps as the Southern Ocean, near Goolwa. Despite discharging considerable volumes of water at times, particularly before the advent of largescale river regulation, the mouth has always been comparatively small and shallow.

As of 2010, the Murray River system receives 58 percent of its natural flow. It is perhaps Australia’s most important irrigated region, and it is widely known as the food bowl of the nation.

The Murray River forms part of the 3,750 km (2,330 mi) long combined Murray-Darling river system which drains most of inland Victoria, New South Wales, and southern Queensland. Overall the catchment area is one seventh of Australia’s total land mass. The Murray carries only a small fraction of the water of comparably-sized rivers in other parts of the world, and with a great annual variability of its flow. In its natural state it has even been known to dry up completely during extreme droughts, although that is extremely rare, with only two or three instances of this occurring since official record keeping began.

The Murray River makes up much of the border between the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales. Where it does, the border is the top of the bank of the southern side of the river (i.e., none of the river itself is actually in Victoria). This boundary definition can be ambiguous, since the river changes course, and some of the river banks have been modified.

West of the line of longitude 141°E, the river continues as the border between Victoria and South Australia for 3.6 km (2.2 mi), where this is the only stretch where a state border runs down the middle of the river. This was due to a miscalculation during the 1840s, when the border was originally surveyed. Past this point, the Murray River is entirely within the state of South Australia.

Being one of the major river systems in one of the driest continents of Earth, the Murray has significant cultural relevance to Indigenous Australians. According to the peoples of Lake Alexandrina, the Murray was created by the tracks of the Great Ancestor, Ngurunderi, as he pursued Pondi, the Murray Cod. The chase originated in the interior of New South Wales. Ngurunderi pursued the fish (who, like many totem animals in Aboriginal myths, is often portrayed as a man) on rafts (or lala) made from red gums and continually launched spears at his target. But Pondi was a wily prey and carved a weaving path, carving out the river’s various tributaries. Ngurundi was forced to beach his rafts, and often create new ones as he changed from reach to reach of the river.

At Kobathatang, Ngurunderi finally got lucky, and struck Pondi in the tail with a spear. However, the shock to the fish was so great it launched him forward in a straight line to a place called Peindjalang, near Tailem Bend. Eager to rectify his failure to catch his prey, the hunter and his two wives (sometimes the escaped sibling wives of Waku and Kanu) hurried on, and took positions high on the cliff on which Tailem Bend now stands. They sprung an ambush on Pondi only to fail again. Ngurunderi set off in pursuit again, but lost his prey as Pondi dived into Lake Alexandrina. Ngurunderi and his women settled on the shore, only to suffer bad luck with fishing, being plagued by a water fiend known as Muldjewangk. They later moved to a more suitable spot at the site of present-day Ashville. The twin summits of Mount Misery are supposed to be the remnants of his rafts, they are known as Lalangengall or the two watercraft.

Remarkably, this story of a hunter pursuing a Murray cod that carved out the Murray persists in numerous forms in various language groups that inhabit the enormous area spanned by the Murray system. The Wotojobaluk people of Victoria tell of Totyerguil from the area now known as Swan Hill who ran out of spears while chasing Otchtout the cod.

The first Europeans to encounter the river were Hamilton Hume and William Hovell, who crossed the river where Albury now stands in 1824: Hume named it the Hume River after his father. In 1830 Captain Charles Sturt reached the river after travelling down its tributary the Murrumbidgee River and named it the Murray River in honour of the then British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Sir George Murray, not realising it was the same river that Hume and Hovell had encountered further upstream.

Sturt continued down the remaining length of the Murray to finally reach Lake Alexandrina and the river’s mouth. The area of the Murray Mouth was explored more thoroughly by Captain Collet Barker in 1831.

In 1852 Francis Cadell, in preparation for the launch of his steamer service, explored the river in a canvas boat, travelling 1,300 miles (2,100 km) downstream from Swan Hill.

In 1858 the Government Zoologist, William Blandowski, along with Gerard Krefft, explored the lower reaches of the Murray and Darling rivers, compiling a list of birds and mammals.

The lack of an estuary means that shipping cannot enter the Murray from the sea. However in the 19th century the river supported a substantial commercial trade using shallow-draft paddle steamers, the first trips being made by two boats from South Australia on the spring flood of 1853. The Lady Augusta, captained by Francis Cadell, reached Swan Hill while another, Mary Ann, captained by William Randell, made it as far as Moama (near Echuca). In 1855 a steamer carrying gold-mining supplies reached Albury but Echuca was the usual turn-around point though small boats continued to link with up-river ports such as Tocumwal, Wahgunya and Albury.

The arrival of steamboat transport was welcomed by pastoralists who had been suffering from a shortage of transport due to the demands of the gold fields. By 1860 a dozen steamers were operating in the high water season along the Murray and its tributaries. Once the railway reached Echuca in 1864, the bulk of the woolclip from the Riverina was transported via river to Echuca and then south to Melbourne.

The Murray was plagued by “snags”, fallen trees submerged in the water, and considerable efforts were made to clear the river of these threats to shipping by using barges equipped with steam-driven winches. In recent times, efforts have been made to restore many of these “snags” by placing dead gum trees back into the river. The primary purpose of this is to provide habitat for fish species whose breeding grounds and shelter were eradicated by the removal of “snags”.

The volume and value of river trade made Echuca Victoria’s second port and in the decade from 1874 it underwent considerable expansion. By this time up to thirty steamers and a similar number of barges were working the river in season. River transport began to decline once the railways touched the Murray at numerous points. The unreliable levels made it impossible for boats to compete with the rail and later road transport. However, the river still carries pleasure boats along its entire length.

Today, most traffic on the river is recreational. Small private boats are used for water skiing and fishing. Houseboats are common, both commercial for hire and privately owned. There are a number of both historic paddle steamers and newer boats offering cruises ranging from half an hour to 5 days. In 2009, British Adventurer David Cornthwaite walked and kayaked 2476 km along the Murray River from source to sea.

The Murray River has been a significant barrier to land-based travel and trade. Many of the Ports for transport of goods along the Murray have also developed as places to cross the river, either by bridge or ferry. The first bridge to cross the Murray, which was built in 1869, is in the town of Murray Bridge, formerly called Edwards Crossing.

Small-scale pumping plants began drawing water from the Murray in the 1850s and the first high-volume plant was constructed at Mildura in 1887. The introduction of pumping stations along the river promoted an expansion of farming and led ultimately to the development of irrigation areas (including the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area).

In 1915, the three Murray states – New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia – signed the River Murray Agreement which proposed the construction of storage reservoirs in the river’s headwaters as well as at Lake Victoria near the South Australian border. Along the intervening stretch of the river a series of locks and weirs were built. These were originally proposed to support navigation even in times of low water, but riverborne transport was already declining due to improved highway and railway systems.

Four large reservoirs were built along the Murray. In addition to Lake Victoria (completed late 1920s). These are Lake Hume near Albury–Wodonga (completed 1936), Lake Mulwala at Yarrawonga (completed 1939), and Lake Dartmouth, which is actually on the Mitta Mitta River upstream of Lake Hume (completed 1979). The Murray also receives water from the complex dam and pipeline system of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

From 1935 to 1940 a series of barrages was built near the Murray Mouth to stop seawater egress into the lower part of the river during low flow periods. They are the Goolwa Barrage, located at 632 metres (2,073 ft), Mundoo Channel Barrage at 800 metres (2,600 ft), Boundary Creek Barrage at 243 metres (797 ft), Ewe Island Barrage at 853 metres (2,799 ft), and Tauwitchere Barrage at 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi).

These dams inverted the patterns of the river’s natural flow from the original winter-spring flood and summer-autumn dry to the present low level through winter and higher during summer. These changes ensured the availability of water for irrigation and made the Murray Valley Australia’s most productive agricultural region, but have seriously disrupted the life cycles of many ecosystems both inside and outside the river, and the irrigation has led to dryland salinity that now threatens the agricultural industries.

The disruption of the river’s natural flow, runoff from agriculture, and the introduction of pest species like the European carp has led to serious environmental damage along the river’s length and to concerns that the river will be unusably salty in the medium to long term – a serious problem given that the Murray supplies 40 percent of the water supply for Adelaide. Efforts to alleviate the problems proceed but disagreement between various groups stalls progress.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_River

Artwork Comments

  • MoreKeala
  • kalaryder
  • indiafrank
  • Larry Trupp
  • Marie Sharp
  • indiafrank
  • kalaryder
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