When you’re visiting Goolwa next, take a walk out to the River Murray barrage for an interesting insight into the river management and the chance to get up close to some of the birds and wildlife that call this gateway to the Coorong home.
As you take the 250 metre walk to the barrage from the car park area, there are a series of interpretive signs to read along the way giving information of the Murray’s journey from the Hume Dam to this barrage near the Murray Mouth. The spacing between the signs represents the scaled distance between the river locks and the poles they are attached to show the river elevation at these sites.
You can discover some interesting facts along the way including that when the Hume Dam was completed it was the second largest dam in the world. Work began on the dam in 1919 after a series of droughts and it was completed in 1936. It was further expanded to nearly double its previous capacity in 1961. The signs along the walk give information on all the locks and weirs along the river and the amount of water they provide for agriculture in the regions, as well as the forests, wetlands and recreation and tourism activities along the Murray’s path from New South Wales, through Victoria and into South Australia.
There are 14 weirs and locks along the Murray River, 2 in New South Wales, 3 in Victoria and 9 in South Australia and their purpose is to provide permanent navigation from the Murray Mouth to Wentworth for recreation and tourism as well as providing water supply for irrigation. Lock 10 at Wentworth is the junction of Australia’s two longest rivers, the Murray and the Darling and each of the locks are operated by lockmasters who live on site.
At the end of the path leading to the barrage is a flag pole bearing the flag of the Lower Murray, the design includes the Union Jack and St George’s cross on a white background, with 5 stars representing the five Australian colonies and four pale blue stripes to represent the four rivers that make up the river system, Murray, Darling, Lachlan and Murrumbidgee. There are two Murray flags, the light blue representing the lower Murray and the blue / grey waters of the lower reaches and a dark blue striped flag for the upper Murray.
From the end of the pathway you can walk out along the barrage and see the pelicans, cormorants and long nosed fur seals that are often lounging about there and you may even see a boat passing through the barrage on its way to or from the Murray Mouth.
You can also now access a new viewing platform and walkway over the lock gates, which allows the public to walk across both sides of the 30 metre long structure and gives a view directly down to the Coorong.
As well as the interpretive signs along the pathway there is a building which contains more information on the important role the river and wetlands play in offering refuge to, and supporting endangered birds. There are explanations for how freshwater and estuarine fish migration is managed, how salinity levels are dealt with, photos of the building of the barrages and the work being done in conjunction with the local Ngarrindjeri people to combine indigenous knowledge and western science in caring for the future of the land, river, birds and animals.