The Princess moored at Murray Bridge, taken from the Bridge
26 March 2016
No real rush to get up this morning, had a good sleep last night – it was so dark and quiet. The birds were up early though, in particular a large group (50 or more) of cockatoos were screeching and making their presence felt! Breakfast was buffet style, plenty of goodies to choose from, while the boat made its way from Mundurra to the jetty at Murray Bridge, just in front of the Bridge itself.
Murray Bridge taken from The Roundhouse
Originally known as “Edwards Crossing” prior to the opening of the road bridge in 1879 Murray Bridge began to develop once it became the first permanent crossing over the River Murray in South Australia. When the railway also crossed the river in the 1880s Murray Bridge boomed, attracting additional business that previously had been carried on in the older ports such as Goolwa and Mannum. A new Railway Bridge was constructed in 1924. The town’s most recent Swanport Bridge, which was built 5km downstream from Murray Bridge, was completed in 1979.
Land reclamation, irrigation and agricultural development transformed the lower Murray in the early years of the twentieth century. As dairy farming developed into a key regional industry, Murray Bridge became an important centre for milk production. A large milk and butter factory was built by Beauchamps on 1914. Milk was originally collected by conventional paddle steamers but as the milk industry grew, milk boats of about 40 feet in length, with a wooden canopy, collected the milk twice daily. These craft operated until around 1948.
Roses along the riverfront (left) and the Murray Bridge Gardens
We had been briefed on things to see and do in Murray Bridge, and given a map of the town, so off we set to explore. Murray Bridge is in the traditional lands of the Ngarrindjeri people, who refer to Murray Bridge as Pomberuk. The first European explorer was Charles Sturt who camped there on 8 February 1830.
The first road bridge across the lower Murray was completed at Murray Bridge in 1879. The bridge also became a shared road and rail bridge in 1886 until the separate rail bridge was completed in 1925. The bridge was designed for 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) though in actuality, only 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) trains ever used it. In 1979 the Swanport Bridge, carrying the South Eastern Freeway across the Murray River was completed 5 kilometres downstream, removing most through traffic from the historic Murray Bridge. You can read more about the Murray River bridge here
In particular we wanted to walk about halfway across the bridge with its great views up and down the river. The changes along the river are remarkable, and being the Easter weekend there are a lot of people holidaying along the river banks. Some were camping, there were lots of caravans, and numerous houseboats, some looking very luxurious and big enough for a few families. There were some swimmers, but the majority seemed to be enjoying boating or jet skis. The latter followed the boat along the river as the wash from the paddles were creating waves suitable for the jet skis to cut across as though they were surfing the waves!
After leaving the Murray Princess we walked around the point to a beautiful garden then returned to the main road to visit the Round House (above) that captures the history of the first permanent bridge to span the Murray River. Originally built for Mr Henry Park, superintendent overseeing bridge construction works in 1874, this unusual hexagonal shaped historical residence enhances spectacular views of the river and bridges.
The main bedroom in the Round House (above left) and a delightful volunteer guide (above right)
State Heritage and National Estate listed, this building has been lovingly restored and maintained by local volunteers. The Roundhouse was the first substantial building in Murray Bridge and has significant historical value to the early development of the town serving as a School, Post Office, Church and Council chambers.
Reflections of old buildings and craft in the river (above left) and the Municipal Offices (above right)
We walked along the main street, fairly quiet on Easter Saturday, then made our way back to the Princess for departure at 11am. As we departed most of the passengers attended a very interesting informative chat on board about the history of the river in and around Murray Bridge by local identity and historian Peter Harden. As we departed Murray Bridge to cruise upstream Peter pointed out spots of interest, he was very well informed of the history of the river and the towns along it, I could have listened to him for hours.
Lunch was next and entertainment for lunch was a skit performed by some of the crew, to the music of Waltzing Matilda – they had a lot of fun!
At 3pm we moored again in Mannum, and a large group of us joined Captain James McDougall for a walk along the riverbank to the Mannum Dock Museum which offers river history of the township of Mannum and surrounds, and tell the story of the early days of life on the mighty Murray River. The Paddle Steamer “Mary Ann”, the first paddle steamer built by Captain William Randell in 1853 and the historic Randell Dry Dock (below left) built in 1876 with the fully restored Keys beam Steam Engine (below right) built in 1850, are a part of the museum.
As we were returning to the Princess we saw the paddle steamer “Marion” returning from a short cruise on the Murray. Taking full advantage of her home base on the River Murray in Mannum, the Paddle Steamer Marion, a fully restored heritage vessel built in 1897, is an integral part of the Mannum Dock Museum. Marion was recommissioned in late 1994 following her restoration by a dedicated team of volunteers who contributed many thousands of hours to this project. Being one of the last steam driven, wood fired, overnight passenger carrying side paddle steamers in the world, she stands now as a testament to their enthusiasm and dedication. PS Marion continues to be maintained and crewed by volunteers.
Being restored to the glory days of the 1940s, with guidance from the Conservation Management Plan, the Paddle Steamer Marion (right) not only accurately portrays the era of river trading as it was, it brings life to the museum as a fully operational object of the Museum’s collection. Visitors can inspect the vessel whilst moored at Arnold Park Wharf, or elect to take an extended River Murray cruise to soak up the experience of the traditional maritime way of life.
By 5pm we were back on the Princess to cruise upstream to Salt Bush Flat and to get ready for Happy Hour (Cocktail of the Night – below left) and dinner until we moored for the second night at Salt bush Flat. After dinner the crew again entertained us with some hilarious skits. The resident guitarist, Warren, also entertained us and encouraged the passengers to dance (below right) – the delightful lady in the middle of the image is 87 years old, and she knew all the moves!
At 5pm we left Mannum to cruise upstream to Salt Bush Flat, where we moored at about 9pm. Tomorrow we continue the adventure with various activities planned at Salt Bush Flat, then cruising on to River View Lodge.
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