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Murray River timeline from ancient lands to 1900 brief history


Our Murray River lands are ancient. A slow moving river system
that's been carved over millions of years. The diversity of the river's
landscapes is truly breathtaking...you'll embrace Murray's ancient stories.

You'll enjoy our character and community as the world drifts by.
Relax, experience and connect with the peaceful beauty of Australia's
great river and the life that depends on it.

Discover Murray River - One river, many lands


To discover more visit the Murray Darling Basin page and our complimentary Educational Packs and digital resources.

Other great Murray-Darling Basin topics on Discover Murray River


The story of Australia's Murray River 60 millions years to 1900

60 millions years to 1900
1900 to 1950
1951 to Current


60-32 million
years ago

 

Murray Basin takes shape


 

32-12 million
years ago

 

Sea levels rise, flooding the western part of the Basin

  • Creation of the Murravian Gulf and Riverine Plains

 

6-2 million
years ago

 

Sea invades and retreats


 

2 million - 500,000
years ago

 

Lake Bungunnia is formed


 

The last 500,000
years

 

Cyclical wet and dry periods


 

200,000 - 125,000
years ago

 

Rainforest disappears

Time of the Megafauna


 

125,000 - 70,000
years ago

 

Climate warms


 

70,000- 55,000
years ago

 

Climate begins to cool and evaporation is reduced


 

55,000-30,000
years ago

 

A time of plenty

Aboriginal settement

Climate becomes drier


 

30,000-25,000
years ago

 

Cabell Tilt Block diverts Murray River


 

25,000-16,000
years ago

 

Last ice-age produces a cool arid phase

Megafauna become extinct


 

16,000-13,000
years ago

 

Re-vegetation of the landscape


 

12,000-6,000
years ago

 

 

 

New course for the Murray

River red gum forests created

Temperatures and sea-levels rise


 

6,000-5,000
years ago

 

Murrayian people displace negritos


 

1788

 

Captain Cook discovers Australia and Europeans begin to settle


 

1813

 

Blue mountains crossed

  • Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth find a way across the Blue Mountains and provide access to the vast inland plains of the Murray-Darling Basin.

 

1824

 

Europeans sight Murray River

  • On 16 November, Hume, Hovell and party become the first Europeans to see the Murray, near Albury
  • The river is given the name HUME, in honour of Hamilton Hume's father, Andrew Hume.

 

1829-1836

 

Exploration

  • Sturt and Mitchell explore the Murray and Darling.
  • Captain Charles Sturt names the MURRAY RIVER on 23 January 1830, in honour of Sir George Murray, Secretary of State for the Colonies. The ceremony takes place at the Murray-Darling convergence near the present town of Wentworth.

 

1830

 

Traditional Aboriginal society begins to break down

  • Between 1830 and 1860 Aboriginal population of the Murray is decimated by introduced disease such as measles, influenza and smallpox, for which they have no immunity. Direct conflict with Europeans occurs. The most notorious is the Rufus River Massacre near Lake Victoria in 1841. Squatters take up land for sheep and cattle grazing. During the gold rushes of the 1850s, Aboriginies replace European workers on many Murray stations. Land is fenced. Governments establish Aboriginal settlements.

 

1838-1842

 

Stock route created to South Australia

  • The Murray is followed by drovers or "overlanders", taking sheep and cattle to the newly-established town of Adelaide.

 

1840-1847

 

Economic depression


 

1840-1850

 

Squatters settle

  • River frontage land taken up by squatters
  • Sheep and cattle are introduced to the Valley.
  • Squatters from the Murray near Euston, Edmund Morey and John McKinlay (later to become an explorer), visit Adelaide in 1848 to lobby the Governor and businessmen to put steamers on the Murray.

 

1850

 

New South Wales-Victoria border defined

  • The whole of the Murray watercourse is declared to be in New South Wales.

Australian colonies Government ACT

  • Colonial parliaments given the rights to impose customs duties on goods coming from other colonies.

Prize offered for first paddle steamers on Murray

  • South Australian Legislative Council offers a prize for four thousand pounds to be shared by the first two steamers to navigate the Murray to the Darling convergence.

 

1851

 

Gold rush

  • Murray stations are left without labour or means of getting supplies in or sending wool to market
  • Large markets for food and other supplies emerge on gold fields
  • Favourable conditions are created for the commencement of river trade.

 

1853

 

First paddle steamer launched at Mannum

  • The first paddle steamer on the Murray at Noa No Landing, the "Mary Ann", is taken for a trial run upstream of Mannum in South Australia on 19 February. William Randell is her builder and captain
  • First Murray River Flag flown on the Eureka barge and was hoisted on the arrival of the Randell brothers to Goolwa. It was the third flag flow in Australia
  • Captains Randell and Cadell begin commercial navigation on Murray. First steamers are P.S. Mary Ann and P.S. Lady Augusta
  • 28 September, the first wool shipped on inland rivers is collected by the P.S. Lady Augusta and the barge Eureka from Poon Boon station on the Wakool River
  • Goolwa, near the Murray Mouth, becomes the main "bottom end" river port. Mannum also becomes a port
  • Heavy, bulky and fragile goods are transported far inland to pen up large areas for settlement. Wool from inland stations is carried to market much more efficiently than by bullock wagon.
  • Wire fencing begins on a large scale
  • Snagging begins, to improve navigability of the River
  • Timber cutting begins along river banks for fuel and boat building
  • Steam engines are taken into the interior.

 

1854

 

First railway link

  • Goolwa is linked by a horse-operated railway to Port Elliot, providing an outlet for produce from the Murray-Darling Basin.

 

1855

 

Paddle-steamer reaches Albury

  • P.S. Albury and her barge Wakool, under Captain Johnston, reach Albury, on 2 October. Albury is the upper limit of Murray navigation, 2,195 kilometres from the mouth.

 

1863

 

Inter-Colonial Conference on River Management

  • Representatives from New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria meet to discuss the utilization of rivers, especially navigation. the Conference concluded:

"...the commerce, population and wealth of Australia can be largely increased by rendering navigable and otherwise utilizing the great rivers of the interior such as the Murray, Edward, Murrumbidgee, and Darling..."


 

1864

 

Echuca linked by rail to Melbourne

  • Railway link greatly stimulates "top end" rive trade and establishes Echuca as a major inland port.

 

1867

 

Major Flood


 

1867-1872

 

River Survey

  • First comprehensive survey of the bed and banks of the Murray River is carried out between Albury and Wentworth.

 

1870

 

Major Flood


 

1870-1880

 

River trade reaches peak

Mallee clearing commences

Rabbit Plague


 

1873

 

Railway links Wodonga to Melbourne


 

1878

 

North-West Bend Railway to Morgan

Deniliquin and Moama Railway Company


 

1879

 

First road bridge across the Murray at Murray Bridge


 

1880-1886

 

Severe drought


 

1881

 

Wetlands reclaimed for agriculture on Lower Murray

Railway links Albury with Sydney


 

1883

 

Work commences on Torrumbarry system


 

1886

 

Victorian Irrigation Act

Railway extended to Yarrawonga from Melbourne


 

1887

 

Large scale irrigation commences at Mildura and Renmark


 

1888

 

Cobram linked by rail to Melbourne


 

1890

 

First N.S.W. irrigation on the Murray at Wentworth

Major Flood

Swan Hill linked by rail to Melbourne


 

1890-1893

 

Economic depression


 

1891

 

First map of Murray-Darling Basin


 

1891-1923

 

Settlement of the Victorian Mallee


 

1892

 

Corowa linked by rail to Sydney


 

1893

 

Corowa, "The Birthplace of Federation"

Communal irrigation settlements in South Australia

Renmark Irrigation Trust established


 

1895

 

First Mildura Irrigation Trust established

Overseas expert provides advice on irrigation


 

1895-1902

 

Severe drought


 

60 millions years to 1900
1900-1950
1951-Current

Top


 



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