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Waikerie started as a village settlement in 1894

Waikerie mapWaikerie

Waikerie began as a village settlement in 1894, part of a government scheme to open up land along the upper Murray. Steamers brought the settlers' rations of tea, sugar, flour and milk but mostly these 'blockers' fended for themselves in small communal groups. It was a harsh environment with the river boats their only link to the world they had left behind.

Waikerie was one of nine such farming communities where people who had not met before had to band together for the common good. Each family was allotted land, tools and a horse, as well as funds for food, but whatever was grown or caught was common property.

The scheme eventually failed and in 1910 land was allotted to the first group of private settlers, who grew oranges, peaches, sultanas and other fruits on the irrigated blocks. Again the river boats were essential, bringing in supplies and equipment and transporting the produce to Morgan for transfer to Adelaide markets.

River Wrecks

William R. Randell & barge Cobar

The wreck of the side-wheeler, William R. Randell, is located downstream from Waikerie, a short distance below Lock 2. The paddle steamer was abandoned in the 1930s and sank during the 1939 floods.

The wreck of the Cobar barge, which for many years was used by the William R. Randell, is nearby.

Parts of both vessels are usually visible above the waterline and provide important archaeological information about the construction of river boats.

J.G. Arnold

The paddle steamer J.G. Arnold came to grief near Holder Bend in 1942. At the time it was being delivered from Morgan to Mildura for the Victorian Forestry Commission but, with the river in flood, it sand in deep water just above Waikerie cliffs and was not recovered.

Snagging Boats

GraplerSome of the river's greatest hazards were the snags - the remains of trees that had been flushed downstream or had toppled into the river from the adjacent banks. With their branches and roots largely underwater, snags not only blocked waterways, but could puncture the hull of a steamer or barge.

From 1855, the three colonial governments along the river (South Australia, Victoria and New south Wales) were paying snagging parties to remove the masses of fallen red gum branches and trees from the waterway. Some of these snags were hauled from the river by bullock teams, but in places where it was difficult to get to the river, boats were used.

In 1857 South Australia financed Francis Cadell to remove snags an other hazards along the Murray. He designed the first-built snag boat, the Grapler, which was fitted with a crane that could lift 14 to 15 tons.

Another snag boat, the PS Industry was built in 1876 and was replaced by a second vessel of the same name in 1911.

De-snagging involved winching the trees or logs from the river and burning them; identifying and burning riverside logs that could become snags; and cutting trees that were about to fall into the channel.

Fallen trees and logs today are valued as fish breeding habitats for the Murray Cod and are protected.

GPS: Zone 54 E 0406476 N 6217975
Panel west of the ferry landing, in Lions Riverfront Park

Interpretive panels are located at:

River Boat Trail | Border Cliffs | Renmark | Berri | Loxton | Waikerie | Morgan | Blanchetown | Mannum
Murray Bridge | Tailem Bend | Wellington | Meningie | Point Malcolm | Milang | Goolwa

Please do not interfere in any way with ship-wrecks and land based heritage sites

Published with permission of Government of South Australia
Department for Environment and Heritage


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