Jack Riley’s life in the High Country is the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s famous poem.
Nestled in Australia’s High Country, the Murray River starts out as a bubbling small stream near Mount Kosciuszko and flows 2,530 km to the Southern Ocean, near Goolwa in South Australia. Showcasing stunning mountains, beautiful waterways and scenic villages, the Upper Murray region is also home to legendary bush characters with Jack Riley (the Man from Snowy River) being the most famous.
In 1884 Riley was employed as the manager of Tom Groggin Station and worked there for 30 years where he gained a reputation as a skilled horseman and stockman. He is also recognised as the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s celebrated poem and The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival held annually in April at Corryong.
During the winter of 1914 Riley became gravely ill and a team of cattlemen set off to get him medical attention in Corryong from his Tom Groggin Hut. Through freezing temperatures and falling snow they carried the semi-conscious Riley along Harringtons Track, at first on a makeshift stretcher and then assisted on horseback for the climb over Hermit Mountain.
At Surveyors Creek the party set up camp in an abandoned miners hut and it was here that Riley passed away. A memorial to Riley has been established near the remains of the hut and his grave rests in Corryong’s town cemetery. It is inscribed with the words, ‘In memory of the Man from Snowy River, Jack Riley, buried here 16th July 1914’. It’s signposted to the left of the main entrance.
The Man from Snowy River Festival celebrates Australia’s unique mountain bush culture, heritage and history. The weekend is full of activities and entertainment including poets, artists, musicians, horse competitions, trade stalls, street parades, markets, re-enactments, rodeo, camp cooking, historical machinery, ute muster and cattle-dog competitions.
The highlight of the festival is the $60,000 The Man from Snowy River Challenge where many of the country’s most skilful riders compete in six gruelling horsemanship events. The winner for 2019 was Kieran Davidson who ended the recent domination of the event by local champion John Mitchell from Tooma.
Just outside the Visitor Centre is the life-sized bronze statue of Jack Riley on horseback. Beside the statue is some interpretive signage and an interactive recording of local poet Maurie Foun performing the “Man from Snowy River” poem.
Across the road, The Man from Snowy River Museum chronicles the story of Riley and provides further insight into his life. Here, you can learn about the pioneering life of the early settlers of the Upper Murray and view a variety of antiques and memorabilia. Highlights include the Jim Simpson POW knitted rug from WWII, a collection of early skiing relics, Jack Riley mementos and the Jarvis Homestead (a 19th-century slab-timber hut).
The Corryong Memorial Hall and gardens complex is a tribute to locals who served in conflicts in which Australia has been involved. A statue of Horrie the Wog Dog tells the story how an Egyptian terrier followed the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion throughout various locations in the Middle East and in Greece and Crete, before being smuggled back to Australia in 1942 and living his life out near Corryong.
The largest town in the Upper Murray region, Corryong offers a variety of shops, eateries, historic buildings and two pubs. Playle’s lookout provides 360-degree scenic views over the township, Thowgla Valley and Mt Mittamatite. There are picnic tables, BBQ, rotunda, toilets and plenty of native plants and trees to appreciate.
Eleven kilometres north-east of Corryong is the historic Towong Racecourse where scenes from the 1983 movie “Phar Lap” where filmed. The track is the second longest in Victoria and is often referred to as the ‘Flemington of the bush’. It also retains one of the oldest grandstands.
The racecourse has links to one of Australia’s most notorious gangsters: Squizzy Taylor. The story goes that on Cup day in 1927 one of Squizzy’s gang members started an argument inside the betting ring and as the crowds flocked around, Squizzy simply waltzed into the secretary’s office and made off with the day’s takings. It was a brazen robbery that landed Squizzy and his mates 280 pounds.
Continuing downstream you’ll encounter a number of interesting riverside villages. Tintaldra was first settled as a cattle run in 1837 and has an historic General Store and Museum. Walwa (aboriginal word meaning ‘a meeting of waters’) is celebrated as the origin of the Murray Grey cattle breed and nearby the Jingelic Bridge Hotel has spectacular riverside views.
The upper reaches of the mighty Murray River are also dominated by a number of breathtaking national parks and reserves. These natural attractions include rugged mountain peaks, rocky outcrops and impressive waterfalls.
Located within the Burrowa Pine Mountain National Park, Cudgewa Bluff Falls are one of the most popular scenic attractions in the Upper Murray. Follow the Bluff Creek nature trail through fern gullies and blue-gum forest before reaching the falls where water spectacularly cascades off the park plateau. A steep and rocky track then climbs to Campbells Lookout which provides fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s also possible to drive to the falls.
Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park (18,400 ha) is defined by two rugged but differing peaks connected by a thin, vegetated ridge. The southern part of the park is dominated by Mount Burrowa (1300m), predominantly made of a hard rock called jemba rhyolite. The highest point of the northern section is Pine Mountain (1062m) from which impressive views of the Murray River Valley and the high country can be found. Pine Mountain is a monolith made mostly of large granite crystals which is reputedly one and a half times as big as Uluru.
Mount Lawson State Park (13,150 ha) is recognised for its steep slopes, cliffs and rocky bluffs which impart a natural rugged beauty. Starting at the Kurrajongs picnic area, the Flaggy Creek Gorge walk passes through the harsh and distinctive northern end of Mount Lawson State Park. It provides access to some brilliant viewpoints and to the waterfalls and rock pools within Flaggy Creek Gorge. The opening scramble to Valley View is challenging but well worth the effort.
Perched amongst granite outcrops the lookout offers panoramic views over Lake Hume and the Murray River Valley. Depending on the level of the Lake you may either witness the valley full with water or when the Lake is drained you will see the course of the Murray as it twists its way through the basin below.
Further downstream at Granya the Murray spills into Lake Hume. Built over a 17-year period between 1919 and 1936, the dam was named in honour of Hamilton Hume, who was one of the first Europeans to discover and cross the Murray River.
Lake Hume is the major operating storage of the Murray River system and holds six times the amount of water held in Sydney Harbour. Releases from the dam supply irrigation and domestic, stock and urban demands to Victoria and New South Wales, and provide about one-third of South Australia’s entitlement.
Mount Granya State Park (6,140 hectares) is another prominent feature in the Upper Murray landscape. Its steep forested slopes rise dramatically above Lake Hume and surrounding valleys to form imposing ridges and plateaus. The park features a variety of plant communities, animals and colourful wildflower displays. A 10.4 kilometre return walk from Cotton Tree Creek Visitor area passes an old Scout hut and a seasonal waterfall before climbing to the Mt Granya’s summit for superb views. Alternatively, you can drive to the summit to experience the views.
Corryong is located 125 km east of Albury (via Murray Valley Highway).
Corryong Visitor Information Centre
50 Hanson St
Phone: (02) 6076 2277
Helpful staff, visitor information, maps, displays, souvenirs etc.
Phone: (02) 6076 2277
The Man From Snowy River Festival
Colac Colac Caravan Park
1994 Murray Valley Highway, Victoria 3707 (just outside Corryong)
Ph: (02) 6076 1520
Walwa Riverside Caravan Park
110 River Road, Walwa NSW 3709
Ph: (02) 6037 1388
Upper Murray Resort
8680 Murray River Rd, Walwa VIC 3709
Ph: (02) 6037 1226