After three days at the Mulwala campground we headed for a caravan park in Moama to refill water, charge the van’s batteries, do some washing and, most important, empty the toilet!
The Maiden’s Inn Caravan park is named for Maiden, an ex-convict, but subsequently a cattle dealer (duffer? – someone who steals cattle) who, in 1845, established a punt and inn on the northern side of the Murray. The area was then known as Maiden’s Point. Following some unknown inspiration, in 1851 it was later re-named Moama which means ‘place of the dead’. Meanwhile, on the southern side of the Murray, Henry Hopwood, sentenced to 14 years transportation for stealing silk, and subsequently to become a policeman for two years in the colony, arrived and set up a rival punt and inn. His site became known as Echuca – meaning the ‘meeting of the waters’. The two partnered to form a river port and eventually Echuca became the largest inland port in Australia and the main ship building facility for river transport, supply of red gum for wharfs, railway sleepers, and building materials. There were a dozen sawmills cutting 1000 logs per week. Echuca was suggested as a possible national capital in 1891. But by then expansion of the railways (on Echuca sleepers!) and roads, fickle river conditions and the decline of the paddle steamer fleet, Echuca’s importance was in decline. The 1890’s depression and the collapse of several banks ended Echuca’s role as an economic centre.
Now Moama/Echuca is a tourist centre for Murray River activities and history. We took a ride on an authentic paddle steamer the P.S. Pevensey, built at the Moama slipway in 1911 by Permewan Wright & Co. Ltd. She is named after a sheep property on the Murrumbidgee River called Pevensey Station. The Pevensey collected bales of wool from station properties and brought them to the Echuca wharf. At the Port of Echuca the wool was loaded onto trains and taken to Melbourne for shipping overseas.
When the river trade ended the Pevensey was tied up at Mildura. It came to Echuca to be restored in 1973. Fixing the boat was no easy task. Each piece of new timber for the hull was matched against the original then cut to shape using an adze. Today the Pevensey is known to people all over the world for its role as “Philadelphia” in the Australian television mini-series ‘All the Rivers Run’, made in Echuca in 1982-1983.
Tonnage: 130; Length: 111 feet 5 inches (33.42 metres); Beam: 23 feet (6.9 metres); Draft: 2 feet empty, 4 feet 6 inches when fully loaded, this is approximately 0.6 metres when empty and 1.35 metres when fully loaded. Horse power: 20 h.p. Engine type: Built by Marshall & Sons of England. It is a 2 cylinder steam engine No 55721. Construction: Iron & timber; Fuel: Red gum logs. Speed: 8 miles per hour, this is around 12 km per hour.
Mathoura Reed beds
Mathoura is about 40kms north of Echuca and adjacent to large areas of wetlands and reed beds associated with the Murray River. A bird hide has been established for public use and is Mathoura’s claim to fame. We went out in the evening and spent about 1 1/2 hours there. We didn’t see much in the way of birdlife and weren’t really close enough anyway (that 100-400mm Fuji lens is calling).
Around Christmas in 1906 a man named Arthur Mattingley paid a return visit to Mathoura. Mattingley was a keen photographer and had with him a half plate camera, a cumbersome affair compared to modern digital cameras but one capable of taking high quality photos. He was at the time the Secretary of the Australasian Ornithologists’ Union and a very competent cameraman, described in The Australian Dictionary of Biography as “a pioneer of Australian bird photography.” Detailed information about Arthur Mattingley and his concern for the bird life at Mathoura is here courtesy of the Mathoura Buisness group.