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Yanga National Park and Echuca

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 9:25 am

Just south of Balranald, on our way to the Murray Valley, we followed the signs to Yanga National Park and Yanga Lake, and Yanga Homesteadthis time it was a real lake, and with 1200ha of water, a big one at that! The Murrumbidgee fed lake offers a rich birdlife and even swimming and paddling opportunities at Regatta Beach. Two other attractions in the park are the large Yanga Homestead and the former Yanga Wool Shed. The homestead was built in 1870 at the center of a 40 farm workers strong property with an historic refrigeration shed to keep meat, vegetables and milk cool in the outback heat.

The 19th century wool shed accommodated 40 shearers at a time. Voices from the audio-visual displays and the persisting sheep smell wafting through the floor boards made the area come to life. You hear a young roustabout who can’t wait to become a shearer himself and shearers complaining about the roustabouts being too slow in pushing new sheep into their stalls. After all, they work in fierce competition to beat the “gun”, the fastest shearer in the shed.

Then there is the sorter who sorts the shorn sheep into age groups and last not least the wool classer who divides the fleeces into quality grades before they are being pressed into bales.

From sheep country we made our way into the Valley of Australia’s longest river. Echuca is in Victoria and the twin town of Moama on the NSW side of the Murray.

There are lovely cafés, shops and museums. But the main attraction is the delightful restoration of the once bustling port and wharf where in the mid-19th century up to two-hundred paddle steamers with bales of wool and bags of grain were unloaded annually. They came from as far north as Walgett and Bourke in times of high water, but could also be stuck for 9 months in drought conditions. 

Once reached the Echuca port hydraulic cranes fed by three water tanks from the nearby pump house cleared the boats and transferred goods straight onto the adjoining steam trains. 

From there they were transported to Melbourne and Adelaide and beyond. Luckily there was a huge supply of red wood to fire up the paddle steamers, steam trains and hydraulic pumps. 

We took a 1 hour cruise with the 1923 P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot and could observe first hand the workings of a steamboat engineer. It takes about 2 hours to create enough steam pressure, roughly between 70 and 120 psi, just to get a paddle steamer started. Once on the go, the engineer has a "feel for it” when he needs to stoke the fire and add more wood to the burner.

We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and walk around the historical wharf. We’ll have to come back to Echuca! Such a lovely place! 

Strolling along the banks of the Murray and seeing all the moored house boats, made us homesick for our european canal boat life. 


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Cheers,

Austin Robinson

austin@robos.com.au