Three States all in a Day's Drive

Sunday, Apr 12, 2015 at 18:58

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Every year around Easter time, we spend ten days in the Riverland of South Australia, an annual holiday event that we have undertaken for a very long time and as Fiona calls it, her civilised holiday for the year, staying in a high quality Caravan Park in Renmark, with flushing toilets and hot showers. During our stays at Renmark, we do not just sit back and veg out, but are on the go either kayaking in the never ending backwaters in the area, or exploring the many interesting out of the way bush tracks close by, including visits over the state boarders into both Victoria and New South Wales. In over 20 years of exploring the area, there are always new creeks to paddle and remote tracks to explore, which is a very clear case of a quick visit to any area and it is impossible to see all that the area has to offer.

One area that we never tire of travelling through and only 30 minutes drive from Renmark and just across the border into Victoria, are the countless tracks that snake through the Murray-Sunset National Park in the remote North West Part of the State. This section of the Park may look small on maps, but with over one million hectares of Mallee Park to explore, I will still have many more years of enjoyable exploring to do, and then most likely still not seeing very track in the area. For Fiona and I, one very special feature of this area are the Mullaroo Creek, the Lindsay and Murray Rivers that meander through some very special country that offer some of the best camping, fishing and canoeing experiences on offer in the area. As there are very few designated campgrounds, there are many tracks that lead to some very special flat shady locations right on the River front. With these locations, care must be taken where you camp and you must be aware of the very large River Red Gums with massive branches that can come down unexpectedly and cause serious injury or even death.

For those that enjoy fishing, the waterways will reward the fisherman with catches of Golden Perch, Murray Cod, Redfin, Yabbies and the introduced European Carp. If you fish within the Mullaroo Creek and Lindsay River area, you must hold a current Victorian Recreational Fishing Licence if you are over 18 years old, while any fishing in the Murray River will require a New South Wales Recreational Fishing Licence.

The route for this three states in one day drive saw us leave Renmark and cross the Murray River over the Historic Paringa Suspension Bridge and head out on the Lindsay Point Road for the short drive to cross the border and enter Victoria before arriving at Lindsay Point. Lindsay Point is the home of the Laragon world class Almond Huller and Sheller processing plant that produces over 10,000 tones of almonds annually. After leaving Lindsay Point, the road is now all dirt and is know as the Old Mail Road, which is closed in times of very wet weather. Compared to a lot of dirt roads and tracks that we have driven on over the years, the Old Mail Road is in first class condition when time are dry, but for us our biggest concern were the constant and without warning dash of Kangaroos and Emus that inhabit this area in large numbers. With the early stages of the road, the vegetation is only low saltbush, but still high enough to hide the many kangaroos that would seem to jump out of know where. Emus on the other hand were very easy to see, but in typical Emu fashion, would start running in one direction, and then stop in mid track and change direction and run straight for our vehicle. The season must have been good, as the there were many male Emus, with large broods of almost mature chick and even though the young emus were still quite large, the adult would always seem to hang back to make sure that his brood had safely crossed the road. Safely having crossed the road, they would all keep running as if they were in a long distance marathon, only stopping when they were many hundreds of metres away.

Not long after entering the western boundary of the Murray - Sunset National Park is the main turn off that takes you on a great drive towards the Lindsay River and then skirts the Mullaroo Creek, Lindsay and Murray Rivers before rejoining the main Old Mail Road just after the Lock 8 Track. The country soon goes from open clay flats covered in saltbush, to large stands of Black Box Woodlands and dense Lignum flats. We would return to this area again in a few days to further explore areas in the Lindsay River area, and continued east until it was time to make the great detour drive on the Lock 8 Track. The track into Lock 8 is simply known and sign posted as “Lock 8 Track”, so it is very easy to know that you are on the correct track. Leaving the Old Mail Road, the track in snakes its way through Black Box woodlands with large sections of tall lignum. At one small bend in the track and without any warning, you are confronted with very old River Red Gums and the most enjoyable views over the Murray River. Just around the corner of your first sightings of the mighty Murray, there is another small track detour signposted Barge Bar Track that take you in a few hundred metres to some very flat and large camping areas with sandy flat access right on the river. The age of many of the River Red Gums here would have to be close to 500 years old judging by the size of the trees and sitting back admiring the area, you can just imagine Captain Charles Sturt and his crew rowing down the Murray passing this point, knowing that little here has changed in over 185 years. After more twisting and turning along the track and through attires quite dense vegetation, the track finally terminates on the southern side of Lock 8, were you have good views of the weir and across to the actual Lock.

Retracing our tracks to the main Old Mail Road, we headed further east and the Emus were still in large numbers, before we arrived at the only gate that had to be opened on the boundary of Neds Corner and Kulnine Stations. Those with a keen eye will notice a lonely grave less than 30 metres south of the boundary fence and on the Kulnine side. The first thing that will catch your eye when you have to stop your vehicle to open the gate is a wrought iron fence under a Mallee Tree with what appears to be a wooden headstone. Further investigation reveals that is the tragic resting place of a Mrs Ralton and her two young children, 3 year old son and 2 year old daughter when they were accidentally drowned when on their fishing boat “Secret” in 1910 in the nearby Murray River.

The Old Mail Road now had quite thick patches of Mallee bordering the road, so we had to be even more watchful for Kangaroo and Emus. The next main turn off was to Lock 9, which we had been to before, but wanted to get some images of the old and Historic Millewa A Pumping Station that is just upstream from Lock 9 and was constructed in 1927. The further east we travelled, the better condition the Old Mail Road become and the last section of road that was within the National Parks control was the Wargan Bushland Reserve and this was to be the last of the dirt roads for a few hours. Rather than head to Mildura, a place we have been to many times, we then headed straight up the bitumen to Wentworth where we headed straight to Fotherby Park for our late lunch stop. After a few waypoints were obtained and photos to match to add a few more places to the EO Places Data Base, it was time to head back to Renmark, but this time we would be travelling through New South Wales.

It had been a few years since we had been back onto the Main Renmark / Wentworth Road and the very first thing that has changed in that time is the road out of Wentworth. Back then, the dirt started just out of town and it stayed that way to almost back into Renmark. The drive into Perry Sandhills is now all bitumen, except the track that heads east once you are at the Sandhills. The road continued bitumen all the way until it was time for us to turn off and follow the lower section again out to Lake Victoria. For us the road was in very good condition and the only detour that we made was to try and get to Lock 8 from the north. We could only go a very short distance in as far as Scaddings Bridge Camping area., where the main gate that takes you further into the Lock itself was padlocked. It was still not a waste of time, as I was able to get more photos and a waypoint to add to places before we backtracked and continued on to Lake Victoria and the Rufus River information bay. If you are ever passing this way, it is always a good little stop and to get out, stretch your legs and read about the local history of the area, some good and some a shameful blot on our white past.

The scenery was again ever changing as we headed further west and the Mallee in sections it quite dense, with the odd section of spinifex to give it that real outback feel. The moment that we arrived at the main junction where we joined the northern main road to Renmark, the road deteriorated quite badly to the point that for a main road, it was in very poor condition and I have seen many remote tracks in far better condition. Stopping at the border, where there is the unique state border boundary marker the final 60 kilometres into Renmark can be describe as totally not acceptable for a main road, to the point that there were even regular signs advising drivers not to exceed 80 kph because of the very rough and corrugated road conditions. Back into Renmark and we still had ample to time to top up a few supplies from the supermarket, and then just sit back and take it easy and watching the end of yet another enjoyable day in the Riverland. Over the next 10 days, we would make another two visits back into the Murray - Sunset National Park to catch on a few tracks that I wanted to undertake last year, but a wet boggy track stopped us.

If you are ever in this area and have some spare time on hand, reward yourself and get off the bitumen and explore the many great off road tracks in the area, and perhaps like me, you will be drawn back to the beauty of this special part of South Australia and North Western remote Victoria.

Stephen Langman

April 2015
Smile like a Crocodile
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