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Murray River

Updated on December 8, 2014

One of the world's greatest rivers has been years in trouble thanks to mismanagement and extraction of irrigation water. Now the word has gone out and there is a race to save it as the river gums have died, animal life has waned and the lake at the mouth has largely turned to salt.

A few months ago a huge amount of water raced down from the north from Queensland and Northern New South Wales. Parts of these two states drowned in water from massive rainfalls, a cyclone and floods the like of which have not been seen in our lifetime. It took a few weeks to reach the Murray and its tributary, the Darling (pictured).

The river seemed to be saved as water spread across the landscape like icing on a cake. But it was a temporary fix as the wet conditions rarely last long.

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Murray River and Houseboats
Murray River and Houseboats

An Aussie Icon

If you live here or just visit Australia you soon hear of the Murray River and it's place in our history. Surrounding it and the Darling are massive sheep and cattle stations and the river, which was a viable and cheap form of transport to get the produce to market, allowed them to exist. Long before the roads were built to such far flung places as Birdsville, Bourke and Broken Hill the river boats plied the corridors of water bringing supplies and taking away bales of wool and other stuff to rail heads and the ports of Port Pirie and Adelaide and the cities along the way.

Some of those paddle boats have been restored at great cost and now take tourists along the river in cruises that last from short trips to a week or so. The video below is of one such cruise line.

For the Tourists

The Mighty Murray

It was about the only placed in Australia that was not touched by the keeping of convicts sent here from Britain as punishment for crimes.

Returning war veterans were given land along its shores to develop for agriculture and a lot of migrants, particularly Italian, settled here as well.

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Renowned for Its Trees

One of the truly memorable things about the river was its beautiful red gums. These giant hardwood trees were dependent on the water for their survival. As the recent drought of some 10 years took it's toll along with all the water loss through irrigation many of these trees died. The marshes that were fed by the river also dried up or were greatly reduced in size and water birds, dependent on them for breeding, dwindled in number.

This is parrot country and many of our most beautiful birds are now facing extinction due to loss of habitat and the condition of the rivers they depend on. We have already lost a lot of these birds and they will never be seen again. Australia's parrots are amazing and many are smuggled overseas and attract high prices from collectors. Their colours are superb and their talents unbelievable.

Other animals under stress include the unique and wonderful platypus. They were so confusing to the early explorers some thought they were a hoax while others could not work out if they were ducks or birds or just what they are. They are one of five species of monotremes, i.e. mammals that lay eggs, and they build their nests in the riverbanks that the carp are busily eroding. This is adding extra pressure to their survival.

Platypus Swimming

Australia's Parrots

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What some Aussies get to do - Landing a Big One

European Carp
European Carp

Big Fish and Other River Food

It's not only the big fish that come out of this river but we have fresh water crays, yabbies, and several types of fish. The latter include the Murray Cod, Bream, Callop, Redfin, Perch, Freshwater sunfish, and the list goes on.

Prior to white settlement the indigenous people would build traps by allowing fish to swim into the prepared channels and then blocking them off so they ould be easily caught.

Unfortunately the European carp, an introduced species, has taken over and is responsible for huge fish losses and some species may disappear and never be seen again. They grow to an incredible size and eat the eggs of the native fish. They are also bottom scavengers and stir up the water while eroding the banks so that the water spread out further than normal. This pest appears to be beyond control as a single female can lay thousands of eggs in a year.

A local program called Landline featured the problem with carp one Sunday a few years ago. My shackles were raised and as my contacts at the Australian National University were strong at the time it was rather easy to gather some professional researchers and others and hold some seminars. They were titled Rivers Australia and after several were held with great success other countries were wanting me to do the same for them, particularly New Zealand.

One thing that did come out of it was an appeal to every council in Australia to hold carp fishing competitions at least once a year with prizes for different categories. This is still done around the country as the carp numbers continue to increase in dangerous proportions for local fish. They are bottom feeders and they eat the eggs of other species and chew at the banks, thus widening the river away from it's natural course.

Many things were shown to be affecting the Murray and Darling Rivers such as the cattle allowed to graze on the banks. They were also allowed to get into the water and pee and defaecate there while the poisonous dips used on sheep stations are drained into it. All these things greatly affect the wildlife dependent on the water, including humans.

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Agriculture Around the Murray

Still images from Dreamstime - click here

© 2011 norma-holt

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    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 4 years ago from East Central Florida

      Loved the Platypus video!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      All of your lenses are outstanding. Each is highly informative. Thank you for publishing this one.

    • profile image

      Godsgraciousgift 5 years ago

      Thanks for making this nice lens. I liked reading it.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice lens on the Murray river, Australia. Just thought I would let you know I got 50 points for voting in your polls.

      Lucky 300 poll vote, so I will pass the luck on to you, by Blessing this lens, but it deserves the blessing, top lens.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Years ago we visited the Murray River area and spent an afternoon lounging on a blanket with a picnic in a sandy area by the river. Brought back fond memories.