Town surrounded by Victoria's desert parks
Murrayville is a tiny rural service town on the Mallee Highway near the South Australian border. It is a tiny settlement in the heart of Victoria's western desert national parks. Its primary tourist appeal is that it is surrounded by National Parks with, to the north, the Murray Sunset National Park; to the east is Wyperfeld National Park; and to the south is the Big Desert Wilderness Park.
Murrayville is located 551 km north-west of Melbourne via the Calder Highway. It is 109 km west of Ouyen and only 22 km east of the South Australian border.^ TOP
Origin of Name
John Murray (1851-1916) was the Premier of Victoria from 1909-1912. The town was named in his honour in 1910.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
The Pine Hill Walking Trail "commences near the old Railway Station and leads north over the railway line. The trail is flat and sandy and not too difficult walking. Allow two hours to complete the 4 km trail and about one hour for the short 1.5 km walk. The Pine Hill Walking Trail is a unique unspoiled example of the Mallee environment and it takes in an abundance of native flora and birdlife."
Other Attractions in the Area
Big Desert Wilderness Park
Big Desert Wilderness Park is 142,300 ha of sandstone ridges, sand dunes, mallee scrub and heath. The infertility of the terrain has ensured that it has not been substantially altered by Europeans. The fauna in the park includes over 300 bird species as well as lizards, snakes, birds, the pygmy possum, the hopping mouse and other small mammal species. Access is by the Murrayville-Nhill Road which runs parallel to the park boundary. It is only suitable for two-wheel drives in dry weather and, as there is no vehicular access within the park, this is as close as you get. You will have to walk from the road through a strip of public land into Big Desert. There are no facilities within the park. However, there are three camping areas with washing water (not for drinking) on the Murrayville-Nhill Rd. The Big Billy Bore is 35 km south of Murrayville, The Springs is another 10 km and Broken Bucket Tank Reserve is 87 km south. Check out http://www.wimmeramalleetourism.com.au/our-towns/big-desert-wilderness-park for more information. It has a downloadable brochure (Mallee Drive) and hot links to the Parks Victoria website. The Mallee Drive provides instruction on driving along Coburns Track, Cactus Bore Track and the Murrayville-Nhill Road which is the closest the visitor can get by road to the Wilderness Park.
Wyperfeld National Park
Wyperfeld National Park, which currently covers 357,017 ha, is one of Victoria's largest national parks. It covers three distinct landscapes - the Big Desert country which lies in the west of the park; the Mallee which lies to the east; and the sand dunes and floodplains which lie to the north. Historically it was a shallow sea 25 million years ago. The park contains a series of lakes which are linked by Outlet Creek, though they are usually dry, filling only when the Wimmera River floods, which is about once every twenty years. It fills Lake Albacutya which overflows into Outlet Creek. European settlers moved into the area in 1847. The first reserve was established in 1909 and as a result of lobbying by naturalists the park was declared in 1921. The park is known for its fauna and flora. It is home to kangaroos, emus and birds which survive in the semi-arid landscapes of sand dunes and spinifex, mallee scrub, heathlands and native pine woodlands of river red gum and blackbox. To access the park from Hopetoun, head west of the Hopetoun-Yaapeet Road. After 31 km the road veers to the right near Lake Albacutya and veers north for another 20 km to Wonga Camping Area where there are camping and picnic facilities, fireplaces, toilets, a visitors' centre, three self-guided interpretative walks and access to the James Barrett Nature Drive. Those entering the park in 4WD vehicles can gain access to Milmed Rock, Chinamans Well and North Callitris Track. There is also the acclaimed Mallee Drive - check out http://www.fwdvictoria.org.au/iconic4wd/mallee.html which has a downloadable map, track notes and information about the track conditions. The Mallee Drive from Hopetoun to Underbool is 126 km.
Eastern Lookout Nature Tour
There is a detailed, downloadable brochure - check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/315826/Park-note-Wyperfeld-NP-Eastern-Lookout-Nature-Walk.pdf - which provides detailed information on the 15-km Eastern Lookout Nature Drive which is suitable for a 2WD. It includes details on the 25 minute return Eastern Lookout Walk which offers views over stands of Black Box, Red Gum, Native cypress-pine woodland and Mallee woodland. The walk also passes through country occupied by Wedge-tailed eagles, black-shouldered kites and nankeen kestrels. The rest of the drive includes lines of Red River Gums; Lake Brimin which has not held water since 1921; stands of Porcupine Grass and Mallee eucalypts; and, inevitably, kangaroos and emus. It is an ideal opportunity for those interested in fauna and flora to study the uniqueness of the Mallee. The brochure explains the special importance of the plants and animals. For further information there is a useful and downloadable brochure. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/315825/Park-note-Wyperfeld-National-Park.pdf.
Murray Sunset National Park
Lying to the north of Murrayville is the Murray-Sunset National Park. Victoria's largest national park (it covers 677,000 ha), it was proclaimed in 1991 to protect local fauna which had been severely affected by the clearing of nearly 65% of the mallee scrub. Today it protects 183 species of threatened plants and animals and offers vast, open spaces which come alive with wildflowers in spring. The park is home to more than seventy significant plant species including Victoria's largest flower, the Murray Lily, the restricted Silvery Emu-bush and the Blue-leafed Mallee. Grasslands, saltbush, buloke, porcupine grass and mallee eucalypts dominate the flat, expansive landscape with pockets of native cypress-pine and Belah woodlands scattered throughout. Murray-Sunset National Park is one of the few regions in Victoria where the red kangaroos can be seen in their numbers. The park is home to a number of threatened species - they include the Paucident Planigale, a small carnivorous marsupial, the slender yellow and green Regent Parrot, and the Millewa Skink. Other notable birdlife include Mallee Fowl, Pink Cockatoos and White-browed Tree creepers. On a warm afternoon Bearded and Mallee Dragons may also be seen. All plants, animals, archaeological and historic sites are protected. The park is arid and fairly inaccessible. However, some 4WD tracks enter the park from the Murrayville area. The most popular entry point (which is accessible by 2WD) is the road from Linga (49 km east of Murrayville) which leads to the remarkable, unusual and beautiful Pink Lakes (12 km north of the turnoff at Linga). The Panitya North Road (30 km northwest of Murrayville) passes through the Bellbird and Boltons Bore area where you will find "The Rockholes", dug out of solid rock by the Aboriginal people, in order to collect water. Just to the north of this point, Pheenys Track heads eastwards to Rocket Lake Campground. Another departure point from the Mallee Highway is the Underbool Track which commences just east of Cowangie. These entry points intersect with other 4WD tracks which enable a thorough exploration of the park. The park's pastoral past is evident in the fences and stockyards of Birthday and Sunset Plains where emus and kangaroos graze, and at the old shearers' quarters which offer basic accommodation in the north-west corner of the park. There are a number of maps of the park including http://www.wimmeramalleetourism.com.au/images/MalleeDrive4WDAdventure.pdf (the Mallee Drive map) and the downloadable brochure - http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/315684/Park-note-Murray-Sunset-National-Park.pdf.
Red Bluff Flora and Fauna Reserve
Only 22 km west of Murrayville is the South Australian border. The border track is a one-way, 4WD road which heads due south along the border, through the Red Bluff Flora and Fauna Reserve to Bordertown. The Red Bluff Flora and Fauna Reserve covers an area of 3,837 ha and was established by Parks Victoria in May, 1979.
Cowangie is a little village on the highway, 19 km east of Murrayville. A gypsum mine, established in 1920, operated for many years but when it ceased operation the area was successful regenerated with native plants. There is a picnic area next to the tennis courts in Lewis Street Park with toilets at the local hall in Lewis Street. The stone building next to the Uniting Church (c.1918) was originally one of Victoria's first Bush Nursing Centres, and the only one still standing. The name "cowangie" comes from the Wergaia Aboriginal word "cow" meaning "white". At various times it has been spelt "cow", "kow", "khaw" and "cowe".
Kow Plains Homestead
Cowangie sits on the Kow Plains and the Kow Plains station homestead is just east of the town. One of the few surviving colonial homesteads in the Mallee, it is thought to date from around 1867 and may have been built by two Swedish sailors who jumped ship in Adelaide then headed overland in search of work. Another theory is that two Chinese were responsible. The signage at the front of the homestead complex, however, explains that: "In 1853 James (Piccaninny) Smith commenced stocking Kow Plains during the winters, until he was finally granted a lease by tender on 3 July 1859 for a license fee of £20. Kow Plains run had an estimated acreage of 5720 and was said to have a carrying capacity of 50 head of cattle and 4000 sheep. Dugald Macpherson acquired the Cow Plains lease from James Smith in 1867, and acquired 5 adjoining leases, making a total area of 81,395 acres.
The 50 acres surrounding the homestead was made freehold on 6th June 1879 and the title subsequently sold to Macpherson at the auction in Dimboola. The 50 acre block was purchased in 1962 by Mr Peter Peers who established a quarry in stone crushing plant there from 1962 to 1983. The stone was used for local road making. Following the recognition of Kow Plains heritage value a portion of the former 50 acre block including the buildings, wells and trough was purchased by the Mildura Rural city council for conservation purposes. Conservation of the homestead commenced in 2001 with funding made available by the Victorian Heritage Council."
The homestead is a rough-hewn vernacular building which can be viewed from the highway (there is an identifying sign on the property gate). Contact information about the homestead reveals: "During the first years of settlement the homestead was the focal point for meetings, town gatherings and church services. The homestead is part of the remains of the Kow Plains Station complex first settled in 1859. The homestead has been dated as being built in 1879, and the wells were sunk in the 1860s. The building is a drop log construction of local pine. It is one of the very few remaining buildings of this type, and an evocative remnant of settlement and life in one of the most remote and hostile parts of the state. The last time the homestead was occupied was in 1961, and then in 1962 it was purchased to establish a quarry. The Mildura Rural City Council purchased the property in 1998 and a committee of management has been set up to see to the preservation of the homestead and other historic sites in the town. Since the purchase of the homestead, working bees have been held to clean up the site in readiness for preservation work to commence. Fine wildflower displays are visible from the roadside in spring."
The Quarry at Kow Plains
In 1962 Peter Peers purchased Kow Plains homestead, outbuildings and 50 acres. He was planning to establish a limestone quarry. At the time high quality limestone was being used to surface roads. Peers purchased a heavy crushing plant. The limestone was drilled and detonated and then crushed. The quarry operated until 1985.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Wergaia Aboriginal people.
* By May 1849 E.R. White had been appointed to survey the border between Victoria and South Australia. He tried to develop a road between the Murray-Darling junction and the upper Wimmera.
* Between 1859-1862 annual depasturing licences were being issued but few were taken up.
* By the 1860s cattle was being driven from Kow Plains to Nhill Station.
* In 1887-1888 a vermin-proof fence was erected along the Victorian-South Australian border. It was designed to stop wild dogs.
* There district wasn't settled until the early years of the twentieth century.
* By 1905 the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission was digging test bores to see if there was reliable water.
* Selectors began to move into the area and clear the scrub away for farming in 1909. The area was covered in this drought-resistant eucalypt which proved immensely difficult to uproot and destroy.
* The town was surveyed in 1910.
* Catchment tanks were constructed in 1910-1911.
* The local post office opened in 1910.
* The local hotel was built in 1911.
* A school and a mechanic's institute were opened in 1912.
* The town's first agricultural show was held in 1917.
* St Peters Lutheran church was built in 1923.
* In 1929 an Anglican church was consecrated.
* 1937 saw the local Catholic Church consecrated.
* In 1939 grain silos were built at the railway station.
* The Murrayville Memorial Bush Nursing Hospital was opened in 1954.
* The town acquired a swimming pool in 1955.
* In 1962 the Quarry at Kow Plains was opened.
* The local high school was opened in 1969.^ TOP
There is no Visitor Information Centre in Murrayville but there is useful information at the Mildura Visitor Information Centre, 180-190 Deakin Street, tel: (03) 5018 8380.^ TOP
Murrayville Hotel Motel, 27 McKenzie Street, tel: (03) 5095 2120.
Jacob's Well Retreat, 27 Poole Street, tel: 0418 774 055^ TOP
Murrayville Hotel Motel, 27 McKenzie Street, tel: (03) 5095 2120.^ TOP
There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.murrayville.com.au for more information.^ TOP