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History of Echuca Moama on the Murray River from 1853

Originally the Yorta Yorta people occupied a unique stretch of forest-wetlands that are located in what is now known as the central Murray – Goulburn region.

Founded in 1853, Echuca became the largest inland port in Australia, second only to the Port of Melbourne. Like many bustling and successful towns in its time breweries and brothels boomed. A combination of wealth with the finest of fashions and bare-knuckle fights lasting for hours. The town became the trading hub from as far as Queensland, utilising the Darling and Murrumbidgee Rivers to transport their wares like wool and harvests of wheat, eventually by rail to the Port of Melbourne.

The historic Port of Echuca literally means the ‘meeting of the waters’ and sits on the junction of the Murray and Campaspe and just downstream from the Goulburn River. Echuca was founded by one of the most enterprising characters of the early colonial days, an ex-convict named Henry Hopwood. In 1850 he bought a small punt, which operated across the Murray River near the Campaspe Junction.

Echuca memories : old photos

Originally known as 'Hopwood’s Ferry' the name was changed to Echuca as the town grew. Hopwood worked to establish a town, which eventually had a major influence on the development of the great inland river system. He built the Bridge Hotel in 1859 and helped found the Riverine Herald in 1863. When he died in 1869 he left a thriving town where nothing existed 16 years earlier.

The centre of Echuca during its heyday was the huge red gum wharf built in 1865 with restoration beginning in 1973. At one time it recorded that more than 240 boat visits and their wares transferred in 1 year. The riverboat trade was of national importance because it had the effect of opening up inland Australia for settlement and thereby increasing the country’s production of wool.

In the 1870s the district supported a dozen mills cutting in excess of 1000 logs each week. Before long the 2 industries began to rely on each other. The riverboat days boomed at Echuca – until the great depression of the 1890s. As the railways were extended in New South Wales and road transport improved, the river trade declined and the old wharf was defunct by the 1920s.

Moama has had a chequered history. When the settlement began in 1845, it was known as Maiden’s Punt, named after James Maiden – punt owner, station manager, publican and post master. Three years later the village area was surveyed and lots were put up for sale when the town was renamed Moama, in 1851.

Situated on the main cattle route from Southern New South Wales to the gold fields at Bendigo in the 1850s, the settlement became a cattle market and crossing place and big deals took place across the bar of Maiden’s Junction Inn. There were celebrations in the in 1853 when Captain William Randell, the first person to travel upstream from Goolwa, arrived in the paddle steamer, Mary Ann. Randell’s arrival herald the boat building industry and river trade that bolstered Moama’s fortunes in years to come.

Moama declined when the cattle market crashed in the late 1850s and competition from Echuca nearby. James Maiden and Henry Hopwood were fierce rivals in business for years.

The historic port is now home to the largest collection of paddle steamers in Australia. Many of them have been fully restored and offer daily cruises along with insights into a trading river from over 100 years ago.

The historic Port of Echuca adjoining the wharf is a living museum. Historic buildings, horse-drawn carriages, gravel roads, blacksmith and woodturner all creating a wonderful atmosphere recreating the 1800s.

Shop at boutique stores along Echuca's historic High Street, containing historic buildings with spectacular facades. Plus explore the range of accommodation choices and other stunning attractions including the popular clubs in the region. Echuca and Moama are the perfect base for a great holiday on the Murray River with their stunning Mediterranean climate.

Experience the mighty Murray River on a river cruise, hire a houseboat in Echuca, go fishing, swimming or simply paddle a canoe. It's a delightful way to unwind. Wake up to clear country air and a chorus of birds. Explore nearby towns, magnificent red gum forests, wetlands and fauna parks. Soak up a lifetime of memories. Excellent dining in local restaurants or have a wonderful riverbank picnic. You can also enjoy a round at one of the Murray’s best golf courses, Rich River Golf Club.

You can also absorb the incredible beauty of nature with magnificent red gum forests at nearby Barmah State Forest. See amazing wetlands that are home to over 200 species of waterbirds and other fauna with a Kingfisher Cruise.

Echuca Moama has a myriad of festivals and events. There’s fun for everyone.


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