Located between Broken Hill and Cobar in the Outback of New South Wales, Wilcannia on the Darling River became an important staging point for supplies, wool and wheat exports and people travelling to the region. This is where the Barrier Highway (A32) crosses the river and is the third largest inland port in Australia.
With water being drained further up the river for big agriculture, the Darling River is in decline, effecting the animals of the region. Birdlife still thrives here, however, not only the thousands of migratory birds in their season but the locals as well.
The Aboriginal people of the Barkandji Nation, ’people of the barka’ occupied this region for many thousands of years and today still are very active in here. The Darling River runs from Queensland to Victoria, crossing NSW for more than 2,700 kilometres, the name Barka means river in their language.
Aboriginal artists here over millenia have developed their own distinctive style of art, ’Line Art’ including the influential and talented Badger Bates, born here in 1947. Ancient works of the Barkindji people can still be seen at Mutawintji National Park.
The town of Wilcannia had its beginnings in 1866, when it was proclaimed. It grew quickly over the last half of the 19th Century as a river port, reaching its heyday in the 1880s with the paddesteamers, earning the title of ’Queen City of the West’.
Cobb & Co. had a horse drawn coaching service run through the town to places futher west and north, a coach building business was created here in the late 1800s. Only later, did road and rail replace their need.
Many of the buildings built then are still in existence, built from stone giving the town its distinctive and historical western Outback look and feel. Wilcannia’s importance as a trading and staging post only declined when the Indian Pacific Railway from Sydney to Broken Hill was built, bypassing the town.
The many rustic surviving sandstone buildings, built during the 1800s are well worth a tour, including the Post Office, the Wilcannia Athenaeum Pioneer Museum and the Police Station and Courthouse.
In this desert Outback national park, there are kangaroos and emus that roam the countryside. The landscape, beautiful and serene, is marked with deep ravines made over millenia by waterways. They teem with life, their shade and water keeping the animals and birds cool and fed.
The red sandy plains of Kinchega also protects much wildlife. The Menindee Lake system and the rich cultural heritage of the people that lived here for more than 35,000 years is sure to enthrall.
Have a stop in Wilcannia, have a coffee, with a bit of luck, you can chat with some of the locals, see the beautiful heritage buildings that have survived. Wilcannia, a place with a deep and long history.
It is important to inform Local Information Centres (including automotive clubs) of your plans to explore remote areas. Inform them of where you plan to go, when you leave and when you plan to arrive. Take any advice they give you about the local conditions. Learn as much as possible about surviving in the Outback as possible before setting out. These are only handy hints, aquiring as much knowledge as possible can save your life.
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