The River Murray was first discovered by Hume and Hovell, who reached it at a point above Albury in 1824. Hovell named it the Hume after Hume's father, but when Captain Sturt made his voyage to the Murray mouth in 1830, near present day Goolwa, he named it the Murray, after the then Secretary of State for the Colonies. When Sturt reached Lake Alexandrina in 1830, he wrote, 'I could not but regret that the Murray had thus terminated, for I immediately foresaw that in all probability we should be disappointed in finding any practical communication between the lake and the ocean'. A few years later George Fife Angas described the area as 'a grand and solem scene, a dull haze shuts out the horizon, and the utter and almost awful solitude is unbroken by any living thing'.
Ever since Charles Sturt's seventy-seven day trip down Australia's greatest river in 1829-1830, the river has been of utmost importance to South Australia. The publication of Sturt's account in 1832, indirectly resulted in the establishment of South Australia in 1836. Early attempts to navigate the river were almost as dangerous as the voyage by sailing ship from Europe. They were not successful until 1852 when the government offered a bonus of $8,000 for the first paddlesteamer to reach Echuca. This was achieved by both William Randell and Francis Cadell.
William Randell, born on 2 May 1824, arrived in South Australia with his parents in 1837. Randell soon realised the potential for trade on the Murray and built a steamboat for that purpose. Early in 1853 the Mary Ann, named after his mother, was on the river to start trading. Soon it was racing Captain Francis Cadell's steamer and river trading was established, providing many thousands of new jobs and creating new settlements and industries along the entire length of the river Murray system. Cadell had priviously discovered the Roper River in the Northern Territory.
Floods, droughts, lack of firewood, competition with bullock teams, coaches, railway and road transport, as well as the various State customs duties have resulted in the decline and eventual death of the paddle steamers.
The Milang on Lake Albert.
The story of the Paddle Steamers, their captains and crew has been told superbly by Nancy Cato in her book 'All The Rivers Run' which was later made into an eight-hour television mini-series, starring Sigrid Thornton, best known for her role in The Man of Snowy River, and John Waters.
The Dispatch built in 1877.
One of the early settlers along the Murray was Lachlan McBean. Born on 29 October 1810 in Scotland, he arrived in Adelaide on 1 December 1839. When he took up 'Dustholes' he lived in a tent. He made several overland journeys from NSW and Queensland and later named his property Baldon.
Although Mannum and Murray Bridge were soon established, major settlements along the river were not started until 1887 when George Chaffey moved from Mildura to Renmark, in South Australia's Upper Murray. Here he began, with government help, the first irrigation settlement, growing citrus, stonefruits, vegetables and grapes. A high concentration of settlers of German background, along the river and its towns, ensured the continuation there of German traditions and institutions. When the settlement of Loxton was subdivided in the 1890s the first landbuyers were of German origin.
Murray Bridge, about 1905.
During the 1890s depression eleven village settlements were started along the Murray River. Only Lyrup proved to be a success. Large scale development came after WW1 when soldier settlements were started at Barmera, Berri, Cadell, Renmark and Waikerie.
Nellie built in 1882.
Through the effort of countless men and women the Murray and its surrounding region has become the state's most important primary producing area. From its source in the Snowy Mountains, the water travels nearly 2,000 km before reaching the South Australian border. From several of its pumping stations its water supplies fifty percent of the consumption in Adelaide and almost all in towns as far away as Port Augusta and Woomera.
River Murray flag used since 1853.