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Barmah, VIC

Only Victorian town north of the Murray River

Barmah is a small Murray River town which is known as the gateway to the superb Barmah National Park which is home to the largest redgum forest in the world. It is the importance of the red gum forest and the appeal of the Murray River which is central to the attractions in the area. 

Location

Barmah is located 253 km north of Melbourne on the banks of the Murray River.

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Origin of Name

It is thought the town's name comes from a Yorta Yorta word 'paama' meaning 'meeting place'. No one is certain this is correct. The brochure on the town's Community Walk says the word means 'place of the plover'.

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Things to See and Do

Barmah Community Walk
Barmah is located on the banks of the Murray River and, not surprisingly, the excellent Community Walk, which starts on the corner of Maloney Street and Schier Street, is broken into four parts and spends much of its time beside the river.
Walk Part One - simply goes down to the river from the corner of Maloney Street and Schier Street along McCann Drive. The solitary attraction, apart from the river, is the canoe tree on the street corner.
Walk Part Two - heads down to the river via Maloney Street and Evans Street, passes Jack Edwards Park and the boat ramp before continuing on past the bollards for the house boats and the water tower. It comes back into town via Tinkler Street and heads back to the starting point along Schier Street.
Barmah River Walk - runs from the southern end of Tinkler Street along the banks of the Murray River.
The brochure can be obtained around town (it has a map and is very useful) or at the Barmah Forest Heritage & Education Centre & Visitor Information Centre, 73 Blake Street, Nathalia.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Barmah National Park
Barmah National Park (28,521 ha) is located on the floodplains of the Murray River north of Barmah. The forest occupies an area which borders the southern bank of the Murray from a point due north of Barmah and stretching eastwards to Morgans Beach, not far from Cobram.
To access it drive north on Moira Lakes Road until you reach the Day Visitors Area. Three main tracks all lead off from this area. The western section is 9 km north of Barmah and is accessed by Moira Lakes Road. After it crosses Broken Creek on Rices Bridge there is a road on the left that leads to a day visitor area where the Murray River, Moira Creek and Barmah Lake meet. There is a boat ramp, a fireplace, a picnic area and toilets. Beyond this branch track Moira Lakes Road becomes Sand Ridge Track. It soon passes another side road on the left which leads to the Dharnya Centre, the Community and Education Centre. 
The combination of the Barmah National Park and the Moira State Park (in NSW) forms the largest redgum forest in the world. It has a World Heritage listing. It is on a major flight path for migratory birds and is an important breeding ground for waterbirds. Some of the trees in the forest are estimated to be over 500 years old and are over 45 metres high. The National Park is also home to kangaroos, emus, koalas
There are a number of canoe trees and ancient middens in the forest. There is extensive evidence that Yorta Yorta Aborigines inhabited this area long before Europeans arrived. 
In winter the area usually floods creating a wetland biosphere which becomes a breeding ground for birds (there are 206 species in the forest). It is a popular spot for birdwatching, as well as fishing, walking, boating, camping and picnicking. 
There is a detailed Barmah National Park - Visitor Guide available for download at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/315732/Barmah-National-Park-Visitor-Guide.pdf.

Lakes Loop Track and Broken Creek Track
The three most popular tracks in the National Park all start at the Dharnya Centre. The Lakes Loop Track, which starts at the Dharnya car park, takes in Aboriginal middens, passes the edge of Barmah Lake, the campground, the day visitor area, and follows the Murray River for a short distance before becoming the Broken Creek Track. When Lakes Loop Track reaches Rices Bridge it offers two alternatives: either follow Sand Ridge Track back to the visitor centre (making it a 4 km return walk) or continue via the Broken Creek Track (making it 5.5 km) . The latter walk follows the edge of a marshland area through river redgum and greybox woodland to Broken Creek which it follows downstream past Aboriginal middens and Rices Weir to Rices Bridge where you can follow Sand Ridge Track (3.5 km) back to the centre or continue along the Lakes Loop Track (5.5 km). Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/barmah-national-park/things-to-do/walking.

Broken Creek Loop Track
This circular walk is 3.5 km and takes around 90 minutes. It begins behind the Visitor Centre moves around the Dharnya swamp, passes through River Red Gum and Grey Box woodland to Broken Creek. In the creek it is possible to see pelicans, ducks, egrets and darters. There are also Aboriginal overs (mounds) and a fish ladder which allows fish to travel upstream past the weir. It is possible to continue on the Lakes Loop Track.

Yamyabuc Discovery Trail
The Yamyabuc Discovery Trail (1.5 km return) starts behind the Dharnya car park and explores the natural and cultural features of the forest including the stock yards, a canoe tree and middens.

Detailed information on the three walks is available on the National Parks website. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/barmah-national-park/things-to-do/walking.

Dharnya Aboriginal Centre
The Dharnya Aboriginal Centre has displays relating to the history and culture of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal community, the forest and their association with it. Sadly it was closed because of white ant problems in 2007. There is a very detailed internet page which covers all the problems associated with the centre. Check out https://waynera.wordpress.com/dharnya-centre-page

Barmah Geology
The Barmah National Park is a product of a geological event that occurred 25,000 years ago. An uplift along the Cadell Fault resulted in the Murray River being forced onto a new course for 500 km. The river was forced through the Barmah choke. The uplifted land can be seen today as a continuous, low embankment along the road leading into Barmah from the west.

Kingfisher Wetland Cruises
Kingfisher Wetland Cruises offer a two-hour interpretative cruise of the lakes and forest. The cruises are available on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They depart from the Day Visitors area at Barmah Lakes. The cruises focus on the ecology and history of the forest, the birdlife and its habitats and the Aboriginal significance of the area, tel: (03) 5855 2855. Bookings are essential. For cruise times and more details check out http://www.kingfishercruises.com.au.

Murray River Canoe Trail
There are a number of canoe trails through the Barmah National Park and across Barmah Lake. There is a brochure available at the Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre. Information can be downloaded at https://www.visitthemurray.com.au/natural-wonders/murray-canoe-trails. The website lists four trails around Barmah Lakes:
Picnic Point to Barmah Lakes Day Visitor Area - 17.4 km, one way, 3 hours 30 minutes.
Barmah Lakes Day Visitor Area to Rices Bridge - 2.7 km, return, 30 minutes
Barmah Lakes Day Visitor Area to Barmah Lake - 5.3 km, loop, 1 hour 20 minutes
Barmah Lakes Day Visitor Area to Barmah - 11.08 km, one way, 2 hours 15 minutes.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal people. They lived in the Barmah forest which offered a good supply of food.

* In 1856 Joseph Rice arrived in the area and established the Murray Fishing Company.

* By 1863 the Barmah forest was providing red gum sleepers for the railway which was being built from Bendigo to Echuca

* A state school was established in 1876. Around this time there were around 100 people in the district. A post office was opened in 1876.

* St Michael's Catholic Church was built in 1877 

* The Barmah East Wine Palace, now known as  Moira Lakes Wine Palace, was built sometime between 1876 and 1880.

* The Barmah Common, designed for feeding stock, was established in 1879.

* In 1886 the town was surveyed on ground near the town punt.

* In 1894 the Barmah Village Settlement program brought people to the town.

* Barmah Post Office was officially opened in 1902.

* In the 1920s the town became popular with anglers and campers.

* Flood regulators were established on the Murray in 1959.

* A bridge was built in 1966. It replaced the local punt.

* The Dharuya Centre was opened in 1985.

* In 1993 the Yorta Yorta people made a native title claim on the Barmah Forest.

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Visitor Information

Barmah Forest Heritage & Education Centre & Visitor Information Centre, 73 Blake Street, Nathalia, tel: (03) 5866 2289.

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Useful Websites

A hugely detailed account of the Barmah Forest including an extensive history of both indigenous and European settlement can be found in the lengthy Barmah Forest: A History by Charles Fahey - http://sjegeog.wikispaces.com/file/view/BarmahForest.pdf.

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