“Where does the inland flowing NSW Macquarie River end – maybe an inland sea?”
This question was posed by NSW Governor Sir Ralph Darling to Charles Sturt and Hamilton Hume in 1828. Their expedition led to the discovery of the Bogan River. In an 1829 expedition these two explorers reached the Upper Darling. In 1835 Major Thomas Mitchell travelled 483kms down the river and correctly assumed it would eventually merge with the Murray.
PART I – BREWARRINA TO BOURKE
The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
Death and ruin are everywhere.
All that’s left of last year’s flood
Is the sickly stream of the grey-black mud.
The salt springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
And this is the dirge of the Darling River
Henry Lawson was very well acquainted with the NSW outback and his verse captures in a nutshell the frequent ebbs and the infrequent flows that are the Darling River.
The roads tracing the Darling River from its multiple sources down to its merger with the Murray is known as “The Darling River Run.” With the right weather conditions, it can be travelled by anyone. In bad weather conditions, no-one can do it. A few millimetres of rain can make the roads impassable and severe penalties apply to anyone using a road closed by local councils. In dry weather dust presents a problem that requires caravan owners to adequately seal doors and windows.
The Darling is a river of extremes – extreme flooding – extreme lack of water. This river has played an important part in Australia’s history. It was influential in establishing the NSW outback, providing a major means of transport before rail and roads existed. Paddle steamers carried supplies to the settlers along the length of the river. They returned towing barges loaded with wool from stations between Bourke to Wilcannia and then on to railheads at Morgan and Murray Bridge in South Australia.