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Barham, NSW

Small town on the banks of the Murray River

Barham is the largest town in Wakool Shire. Although it sits on the NSW side of the Murray River (Koondrook is on the Victorian side) and is clearly the economic centre of the two towns, it is much more connected to Victoria and Melbourne than the Sydney and NSW. Barham is a pretty town surrounded by rich river flats. It is a service centre for an area known for its red rivergum timber industry and its citrus growing. People holiday in the area because Murray River is a wonderland for bushwalking, swimming, canoeing and fishing for the Murray cod, golden perch, carp, silver fish, catfish and yabbies which abound in its waters.

Location

Barham on the Murray River is 852 km south-west of Sydney via Highway 31, 857 km via Albury and the Hume Freeway and 307 km north of Melbourne. It is 80 metres above sea level.

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Origin of Name

One of the earliest settlers in the area, Edward Green, named his property Barham which was his wife's maiden name. Green arrived in the area in 1843 and was granted 114,656 acres.

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Things to See and Do

Barham Bridge
The bridge which crosses the Murray between Barham and Koondrook is one of the oldest on the river. It was built in 1904 and was constructed so that the central section could be lifted so that paddlesteamers plying the river between South Australia and Echuca could pass under the bridge. From 1904 until it was mechanised in 1997 the lift section of the bridge was raised and lowered by two men using a system of pulleys and weights. Today it is rarely raised but it is operational. For more technical information check out http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/index.cgi?action=heritage.show&id=4301079

Barham Lakes Complex
Located at the eastern end of Murray Street the Barham Lakes Complex is an unusual recreation area created out of reclaimed riverside land and featuring four interconnected lakes which have been stocked with fish and yabbies. It is a thoughtful development which is spread over 40 ha with native plants, a beach where swimming is possible and a 4-km walking track. If it is a hot day it is a perfect place for a swim or a period of relaxation.

The Koondrook-Barham Redgum Statue Walk
A good reason for exploring the parks and walkways along the Murray River is the unusual Koondrook-Barham Redgum Statue Walk. This is a rustic "art form" which is hugely popular in the redwood areas of the United States - Alaska and the northern Pacific states - but still quite rare in Australia. Barham and Koondrook are trying to correct that. There are now fifteen statues (two in Barham and 13 in Koondrook) including such notables as a Pioneer Woman and a Paddle Steamer Captain, a range of local "characters" and iconic local animals as a Murray Cod, kookaburra and wedge-tailed eagle. The walk was started in 2002 and a new statue is added each year. There is a brochure with details of each sculpture available at the Golden Rivers Country Visitor Information Centre. At the moment the path goes from outside the Visitor Information Centre across the Barham bridge and down the Victorian bank of the Murray to the top of Gunbower Island.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Gunbower Island
Gunbower Island is the 26,400 ha island which lies surrounded on the south by Gunbower Creek and to the north by the Murray River. It is 50 km long and, as such, is Australia's largest inland island. It extends from Koondrook to Torrumbarry Weir and Lock 26. The island is characterised by swamps, river red gums and, on the higher ground, box forest. It is known to have over 200 bird species and it is home to a wide range of native mammals, amphibians, fish (notably for anglers the Murray Cod, Golden Perch and Redfin) and 24 different reptiles. Visitors can canoe down the Gunbower Creek (there is a 5km canoe trail), walk and wander across the island, take a motorbike along the tracks or traverse the island by 4WD.

It is believed the island was originally inhabited by eight clans of the Barababaraba Aborigines. If you look carefully you will still see signs of their settlement. There are mounds and middens of shells and bones and many of the trees are still scarred. Their diet was a combination of yabbies, grubs, fish and flour made from Nardoo and turned into damper.

It wasn't until the 1870s that Europeans realised the value of the river red gums, particularly for railway sleepers, and timber cutters started camping on the island and cutting down the trees and transporting them to the nearby mills. At one point towards the end of the 19th century the population was sufficiently large to set up a school on the island. Today it is recognised as a significant wetland.

Visitors can expect to see grey kangaroos, wallabies and emus. More rare are such wonders as the Barking Marsh Frog, Broad-Shelled Tortoise and White-Bellied Sea Eagle. For drivers the Gunbower Forest Drive (entry from Cohuna) offers an excellent overview. There is a detailed brochure - Gunbower Forest Walks and Drives - which is available at the Golden Rivers Country Visitor Information Centre in Barham. Most of the information can also be accessed by going to http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/ and searching for Gunbower Island.

Koondrook
See Koondrook for more attractions. It is just across the Barham bridge.

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History

* Before the arrival of Europeans the district around Barham was occupied by the Wemba-Wemba Aborigines.

* The first European in the area was Edward Green who, in 1843, was granted the lease on 114,656 acres (46,400 ha) of prime riverfront land.

* After the goldrushes of the 1850s Victorian settlers began to move to land on the Murray  and by the 1870s Koondrook had developed as a service port for the paddlesteamer trade. At this point there was no bridge across the river and consequently Barham was less important.

* In 1904 the lift bridge connecting the two towns was opened. It had a central section which was raised by hand when paddlesteamers, plying the river between South Australia and Echuca, needed to pass through. It is now one of the oldest bridges on the river.

* The economy of the two towns diversified in the early years of the twentieth century when citrus fruit was planted at Barham in 1911. The Barham Packing Co. was formed in 1930.

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Visitor Information

Barham Visitor Information Centre, Barham Newsagency, 36 Noorong Street, tel: (03) 5453 2043.

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Eating

There is a range of eating options in Barham including both Chinese (Chinese Garden) and Thai (Happy Elephant) restaurants and a good club with good club food - and lots of it.

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Useful Websites

Barham does not have its own website but the Visit NSW site offers useful information. Check out http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/deniliquin-area/barham

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