Navigation of the Murray?

South Australian Register

16 January 1852

Colonial Secretary's Office, January 15, 1851.

His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor directs the publication of the following letter for general information:- Moorundee, 29th December, 1851.


I have the honour to report to you, for the information of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, that I arrived here a short time since from Sydney, by the overland route.

And as I had travelled along the banks of the Murrumbidgee to its junction with the Murray, I had frequent opportunities of ascertaining the navigable capabilities of those rivers, also of the productiveness of the land adjacent thereto; not only by my own observation, but by information obtained from the squatters in those districts.

I will, therefore, now venture to make a few remarks on the subject.

In the Murrumbidgee district there are 4,794 horses, 133,958 horned cattle, and 732,667 sheep, and grain is grown in this district even at the present time to some extent; and considering the fertility of the soil in the valley of the Murrumbidgee, between Jugiong and Wagga Wagga (the alluvial deposit varying in depth from 10 to 12 feet), and also the fine tracts of agricultural land on the River Tumut, Tarcutta, Adalong, and Kiamba Creeks, all of which are tributaries to the Murrumbidgee, I have no hesitation in stating that grain could be grown to a very considerable extent. In the neighbourhood of these tributary streams, the mountain ranges are said to contain mineral wealth of no ordinary kind, some specimens of which I had the honour to forward to His Excellency; and it is the opinion of a great number of the influential squatters of this district that the resources of the valuable country in question would be developed if steam-boats were placed on the waters of the Murray.

Between Wagga Wagga and the junction of the Murrumbidgee with the Murray, there are several rocky bars in the bed of the river, but I was given to understand that the depth of water over these bars is something consider able during the flood time; under those circumstances the river would always be navigable four months in the year. Wood is also very abundant on the whole line, so that there would be no difficulty in obtaining a plentiful supply of fuel for steam-boats.

"Should those rivers be navigated by steam-boats, it would then afford the squatters a cheap and easy mode of conveyance for their produce (in the shape of wool, tallow, hides, grain, and minerals), to a market, via South Australia; whereas, at the present time, the cost of carriage of produce is so great and uncertain, that the squatters find it impossible to avail themselves of the vast resources of the above-mentioned districts.

"From Wagga Wagga to the junction of the Lachlan with the Murrumbidgee, the soil is not of so good a character as that in the neighbourhood of Gundagai; but, notwithstanding, it produces luxuriant vegetation, and it could doubtless be made available for agricultural purposes. 'There are 4,847 horses, 138,479 horned cattle, and 347,762 sheep, depasturing in the Lachlan district at the present time. Nearly all the squatters of this district are labouring under great disadvantages respecting the transit of produce to and from market towns; and I am glad in having this opportunity, of stating that a great number of the squatters in question are looking forward to the steam navigation of the Murray as one of paramount importance, not only to themselves, but also to a large community occupying an extensive territory on the Murrumbidgee and elsewhere.

"Mr. Commissioner Bingham and a Mr. Melville kindly promised to afford me every information respecting the navigation of the Murrumbidgee, and of the produce likely to be conveyed down that river, if steam-boats were placed on it; and as soon as I receive the statistical accounts promised by those gentlemen, I will forward them to you for His Excellency's perusal. In conclusion, I have the honour to state that nearly all the squatters I conversed with, between Gundagai and Moorundee, agreed with me that boats could steam up to Wagga Wagga, during the flood time; and it is my firm impression that one steam-boat would not be able to perform the work required.

During my journey, I was frequently compelled to travel 12 or 13 miles back from the river in consequence of the high state of the flood. At Moorundee, the river rose about 24 feet.

I have the honour to be, Sir Your most obedient servant, E. B Scott. Hon. Colonial Secretary."