Travelling Australia - Journal 2012
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June 2012 - Mannum visit
Mannum is a township of about 2000 people on the west bank of the Murray River about an hours drive from Adelaide and about half an hour from the Barossa Valley. Average annual rainfall is 346 millimetres, but the amount of rain varies substantially from year to year.

The town was founded on the bank of the Murray River as a paddle-steamer centre and has grown out of the confines of the strip of land between the river and the cliff. The main shopping street (Randell Street) runs between the river bank and inland cliff down a gentle slope to the vehicle ferry terminal on the river bank. The road is lined by shops. Available space between the cliff and river is limited so most of Mannum is on the flat ground above the cliff and appears to be spreading inland into available land. This particularly applies to businesses requiring space (such as service stations). An IGA shopping centre being built above the cliff will have an interesting impact on pedestrian and vehicular traffic flows in Mannum when it is completed. Council offices, schools and many churches have been built above the river valley but hotels, restaurants and most businesses serving tourists are along Randell Street beside the river bank.
Randell Street Randell Street in Mannum looking up the slope towards the war memorial

Shops Randell Street Shops along Randell Street in Mannum; the buildings behind the shops are on the slope of the cliff above the shopping area.

Many houses and business buildings in Mannum reflect building practice when they were built. Some of the older stone residences look impressive; many are along the river bank but a number were also built on the upper level and are still in use. The edge of the cliff, with panoramic views over the river and river flats on the other bank, has been a desirable building area for many years. Some early stone buildings used for business remain.



Houseboats
Mannum is a centre for houseboat hire with the large, white, very comfortable, Unforgettable brand of houseboats lined up along the river bank obvious participants in this market. The lower River Murray is well-suited for houseboats which adopt the expedient of coming alongside the bank by driving nose first onto the bank then tying up.



River Trade History
Mannum is also rediscovering its paddle-steamer history reaching back to the original Murray paddle-steamer (the Mary Ann). The locally made boiler for this vessel was reputed to expand frighteningly when heated and inspired no confidence it was safe; when Mary Ann was retired the boiler was distrusted too much to re-use in another paddle-steamer and was discarded to be recovered many years later and put on display in the Mannum Dock Museum. The Museum also incorporates the dry-dock used for more than 40 years to service river vessels. The steam-driven pump used to pump water out of the dry-dock has been restored to working order and is extremely well-presented beside the dry-dock which is deteriorating and needs restoration.

The other element in Mannum's river-trade history is the paddle-steamer Marion which was built in 1897 and has a long history of work, then being laid up for years, and finally restored to full working order at Mannum and commissioned in 1994. She is now based at the Dock Museum and makes trips on the Murray River as a tourist vessel with an interesting history.
PS Marion PS Marion alongside at Mannum. The paddle steamer has been restored to full working order after an eventful working life and years laid up.



River Cruises
River cruises are available in several vessels.
Marion is a restored working paddle-steamer built in 1897 which makes occasional cruises from Mannum.
Murray Princess is a new construction (1986) all metal stern-wheeler which makes weekly trips from Mannum.
Proud Mary is a new construction (1982) vessel which operates all-year round, mainly from Murray Bridge, but frequently seen along the river and at Mannum.



Agriculture
There is more to Mannum than the Murray River. This is the service centre for the surrounding agricultural area devoted to growing crops (wheat, oats and barley). Nearly all dry-land farming with a few irrigators. Much cropland is loamy-sand; some parts have outcrops of limestone. When driving along rural roads around Mannum the difference is obvious; roads on the loamy sand are flat and smooth when dry but would quickly become impassable in rain while the roads over limestone are rough and uncomfortable, even soon after grading, but would still be passable after rain.
Germinating crop Germination after seeding in the loamy-sand cropland around Mannum



Mannum Waterfalls
The Mount Lofty Hills lie along a north-south line west of Mannum (between the town and Adelaide) with patches of granite. The boundary between the sandy-loam of the Mallee Murray (or Murray Plains) and the granite base of the Mount Lofty Ranges is not a straight line. The granite extends along Reedy Creek nearly to the Mannum-Murray Bridge Road where, a couple of kilometres off the road, there is a long waterfall. This is not a long vertical drop but a wide and long slope where flowing water has removed topsoil exposing a granite face. After a lot of rain it would be spectacular; even with little rain it is worth looking at.

There is a brown and white tourist sign on the Mannum-Murray Bridge road pointing to the falls and the bitumen car park is only half a kilometre from that road. Then there is a walk of about a kilometre to overlook the falls. There is no signage and the track soon becomes confused with side-tracks; wooden steps were installed years ago to facilitate use of the track but many are now rotten and useless. Other parts of what was once a reasonable track have been leaving visitors scrambling over rock. I visited on a Sunday and counted 16 cars in the car park; the ground below and near the falls was alive with residents of Mannum and Murray Bridge making family visits and walking dogs. The waterfalls are excellent for this purpose and make a good local recreation area but as a tourist attraction they are past their best date.
Mannum Waterfall
Mannum Waterfall on Reedy Creek with reduced flow of water. After considerable rainfall the flow should be spectacular.


Water Pipe
Mannum is the source of one of the several pipelines carrying Murray River water to Adelaide. The pipe runs from the pumping station beside the river along the Adelaide Road for some way. Although Adelaide water is reputed to be all sourced from the Murray a Government discussion paper of 2004 entitled 'Waterproofing Adelaide' claims that 60 per cent of Adelaide's water comes from the Adelaide Hills and Murray Water is used as a top-up when required. A graph on page 16 of that report shows how effective Murray Water has been since 1980 in filling gaps in supply from the Adelaide Hills and confirms the wide variation in availability of Adelaide Hills water.
Pipe to Adelaide Pipeline carrying Murray River water to Adelaide running beside the Mannum-Adelaide road.



Lenger Reserve
The entire area around Mannum was originally covered by mallee scrub which settlers cleared so effectively that it is now difficult to envisage this vegetation. One property (Lenger Reserve) taken over by the National Trust of South Australia is being used to preserve and restore, as far as possible, the original vegetation and provide a habitat for birds. Volunteer labour is used to plant appropriate species and the removal of grazing stock has allowed many native plants to recover. Lenger Reserve has minimal facilities but is extremely interesting to visitors interested in plants and/or birds.
Mallee Ringneck Mallee Ringneck (a variant of the Australian Ringneck) feeding on saltbush seeds in Lenger Reserve. The bird was far too interested in eating seeds to be very concerned by this photographer in full view and slowly coming closer.

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