Darling River Run
We wanted to follow the Darling River all the way. As I mentioned earlier, we discovered it officially starts at the fish traps at Brewarrina and we saw it again at Bourke, and camped at Tilpa Station on the Darling at Louth, 100km south west of Bourke.
We followed its route south along dirt roads that varied in width and quality but were usually pretty good. Disappointingly the roads are usually a good few kilometers away from the river so we only really saw it when we crossed the bridge at Tilpa and again at Wilcannia. It then flows into the Menindee Lakes.
At Menindee there’s the Kinchega National Park which has a river drive - a stunning 25km meander along the banks with stands of massive gnarled red gums. We were looking for a campground but it’s right on the banks of the river and so the towering “widow maker” River Red gums, which are truly magnificent, put us off. It was great to meander alongside the river though through these forests of giants. We saw a weir and met some fishermen who showed us their haul and the yabbies they’d caught.
We pulled up stumps for the night at a great free campsite out of the national park along the shores of Lake Pamamaroo (which the locals just pronounce as Pamaroo). A few kilometres from our camp was the Burke and Wills camp (complete with toilet) where the Burke and Wills party camped for a few months after they’d left Melbourne. Most of the party stayed here while 7 of them set off on their ill-fated exploration.
Side note: As I write this, I’m sitting in South Australia and we had lunch in Clare today and stumbled across another giant of a tree with a memorial commemorating the early explorers. It also stated the camel train that carried the remains of Burke and Wills from Innamincka to Melbourne passed by the tree as well.
I bought some local apricots at Menindee for $2.00 and they were small and delicious and I wished I’d bought a big bagful!
The road from Menindee to Pooncarie was probably the worst stretch of dirt road we’ve been on but a few times we got some glimpses of the river and at one spot went across country to look at a beautiful sweep of the river.
We then detoured from the course of the river to see Mungo National Park and then caught up again with the Darling at Wentworth where it meets the mighty Murray. It was pretty exciting to have followed the river it’s entire course, seeing it here and there and finally seeing it flow into the Murray. What an historic moment for our family!
Simon’s side note: Because we wanted to follow the Darling, it’s meant we’ve traversed most of NSW on dirt roads. We’ve worked out that we were on sealed roads for maybe 250 km of our journey from Hebel Gate (south of Dirranbandi, QLD) through to Buronga/Mildura on the Murray River in Victoria. Travelling on unsealed roads has just added to our journey. You don’t notice the change in country so much on bitumen roads, but dirt roads allow you to see the change is soil and notice the corresponding change in plant species. It can literally be a matter of meters for the ecology to change.