Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
26-30 March 2006 - Echuca  

Location map Echuca is an interesting place. The major claim to fame as a paddle-steamer centre capitalises on its history as a major hub for paddle-steamer traffic on the Murray-Darling river system and as the port where wool was shifted from river traffic onto railway trains to be sent to Melbourne for export. Part of the original wharf of massive red-gum timbers still survives and has been turned into the Port of Echuca tourist attraction with numerous paddle-wheel vessels offering river trips and an "old Echuca" nearby giving the atmosphere of the town more than 100 years ago. We didn't do a river trip as there was nothing to see but the river bank and we had gone on a paddle steamer at Mildura.
PS Pevensey Paddle Steamer Pevensey on the Murray River at Echuca.
Echuca Wharf Paddle Steamer Pride of the Murray leaving Echuca Wharf. The high wharf with intermediate working levels could continue working paddle steamers despite great variation in river height.

Echuca also has an agricultural side with large areas around the town on the Victorian side devoted to irrigated dairy farms. Water from Lake Mulwala on the Murray River is flooded onto pasture to provide moisture to grow feed for dairy cattle. Herds of differently coloured dairy cows looked quite attractive as we drove past them but we visited a diary farm display at Tongala which explained a dairy farm as just another form of business where the milk output of each cow is carefully monitored. Any cow not producing enough milk to justify being retained goes down the road to the meat-works and ends up as McDonalds hamburgers (at Tongala this is not just a figure of speech, the meatworks is a McDonald's supplier)

Extensive river red-gum forests on wetland reserves lie along the Murray upstream of Echuca. Some logging is permitted but much of the red-gum forest is reserved. A healthy red-gum forest is regularly flooded killing any undergrowth and other tree species so that a red-gum forest is made up of only red-gums - they look unusual but very attractive.
Red-gum wetlands Near Barmara the Murray River flows through river red gum wetlands.
Brown Snake Brown snake swimming across the Murray River.
Away from the Murray and the water from the river the picture is different. North of the river, on the way to Deniliquin, there is no irrigated land. The road passes through drier paddocks which one guide book describes as the beginning of the dry Riverina plains stretching away to the north where sheep have been the main industry for over a hundred years. Ironically, a main feeder canal carrying water from the Murray River passes through the edge of Deniliquin on its way to New South Wales irrigated areas and Deniliquin waters its grass from this canal.

Echuca has a full range of supermarkets and other shops spread widely over several blocks adjacent to the old port and we found it a comfortable place to stay. Many of the older buildings are of distinctive red brick which we had also seen in Kerang and Swan Hill.
Echidna Echidna in Kyabram zoo.
Hay rolls Hay rolls in the dairying area around Tongala.