The Murray Bridge Discovery Trail

Welcome to Murray Bridge / Pomberuk

The area is known as “Pomberuk” to the Ngarrindjeri people.

A place rich in history, heritage and Indigenous culture. Take time out and explore our region through the Murray Bridge Discovery Trail.  Stories and tales await you, as you walk around town. The trail takes approximately one and a half hours to complete and provides opportunities to extend your walk and discover more.

Commence your discovery with a tribute to the Ngarrindjeri people, the traditional owners of the land on which you walk today.

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Ngarrindjeri History

The Ngarrindjeri people are the original indigenous inhabitants of the lands and waters of the Murray River, lower lakes and Coorong Region.

The Ngarrindjeri were widely known as "outstanding craftsmen" specialising in basketry, matting and nets with records indicating that nets of more than 100 metres (330ft) long were used to catch emus. It was claimed by colonists that the nets they made for fishing were superior to those used by Europeans.

Early European History

The first European into the area was Captain Charles Sturt who, being assigned to solve the great mystery of why so many rivers flowed westward from the Great Dividing Range (often known as the question of whether Australia had an 'inland sea'), rowed a whale boat down the Murrumbidgee in late 1829 and reached the junction with the Darling River on 23 January 1830 and named the major stream the Murray River. He continued down Australia's largest river passing Murray Bridge in early February and reaching Lake Alexandrina, at the mouth of the river, on 9 February, 1830.

Following early navigation of the Murray River, beacons and navigational markers were erected between Goolwa and Wellington in 1852 allowing for safe passage across the lakes. This resulted in the start of the river trade in 1854 and 2 years later George Edwards and his family were to be the first European Settlers in Murray Bridge.

By 1864, a proposal to build a bridge across the Murray was raised in parliament by a select committee. The Bridge opened in 1879 after six years of construction. It was followed in 1886 by the Adelaide-Melbourne railway line crossing the bridge which guaranteed that the city's importance as a vital link across the river was assured.

The original township was laid out in 1883 and was called Mobilong. The land was sold in Adelaide in 1884 under the advertisement “Murray traders, wool-washers, builders and all men of enterprise. Give heed to what is now offered to you.” Later it was called Edwards Crossing, but became Murray Bridge when a new railway bridge was constructed across the river in 1924.

The Ngurunderi Mosaic and Pondi Mural Project

Located in the Local Government Centre is a beautiful mosaic and a mural produced by local Ngarrindjeri artists.

The mural is based on Ngarrindjeri Nga:tjar (Totems) of the Murrudi (Murray River). The design features the Pondi (Murray Cod) as the centrepiece of the mural.

The mosaic project is based on the creation story of Ngurunderi.

Bridge Street

After the opening of the bridge in 1879, the original township was laid out in 1883 and later proclaimed in 1884 as the township of Mobilong.  Murray Bridge became one of the river’s major ports and by 1886 the railways arrived along with a growing population and the need for town services.

It wasn’t until the completion of the Bridgeport Hotel In 1884 when new businesses emerged and established themselves on Bridge Street. Prior to this, services and retail businesses operated from premises located closer to the Railway Station.

Bridge Street housed a diverse range of businesses including, blacksmiths, butchers, bakers, tea rooms, picture theatres, skating rink and ballroom. Industry and retail outlets included chaff stores, general stores, wool traders and tobacconists.

One of the well known businesses that was located at 29 Bridge Street was the Eudunda Farmers Co-operative Society which opened their Murray Bridge store in 1904 and operated as a general store for 82 years before closing in1986.

On the corner of Bridge and Sixth Streets David Bell & Co established Bell’s Emporium in 1906. The Emporium was the place to shop for all your bakery, grocery, drapery and millinery needs. Bells Emporium continued to operate in the same premises until 2001.

One of the oldest remaining buildings was built in 1909. Located at 56 Bridge Street, this timber and galvanised  steel building had many uses including a skating rink, hall with a stage, movie theatre, a hardware store, a chaff store and in the 1930’s, a retail electrical store. It even had Golden Fleece petrol pumps.

Early modernisation of Bridge Street started with road construction around 1890 followed by the installation of footpaths in 1908 and prior to WWI, tree plantings and the installation of the very first gas lights in the town.

One block to the west at the intersection of Bridge Street and Mannum Road is Diamond Park, named to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Original features included a Rotunda which was constructed in 1911, providing headquarters for the Town Band and plenty of storage underneath for instruments and other possessions. The town band played grand performances in the Rotunda and gained quite a reputation. During the Great War they raised over 300 pounds to aid Patriotic funds

Sixth Street

The Murray Bridge Town Hall

In 1906 an organising committee and building fund was established in Murray Bridge with the goal of erecting a hall for entertainment and an institute with provisions for Council office space. The design was by Adelaide-based architects AS & FH Conrad, who were largely associated with designing schools and churches throughout the State.

In October 1910 the first foundation stone was laid by the Hon. Sir John Cowan. The hall was opened by the Governor, Sir Day Hart Bosenquet on 3 May 1911.

The original building was built by Mr GE Lane, a local builder, and constructed of  local limestone and housed the library and public reading room, the Mobilong District Council offices and Council Chamber, a large hall with a prescenium and stage. The building was described at the time as being "architecturally a commanding feature centralising the commercial life of the town".

Extensions in similar architectural style were made in 1929, with a two storey extension to the east along Bridge Street, to accommodate additional municipal offices. The clock tower was erected in 1953.

It was enlarged again in the 1970's when a lean-to abutting the external stage wall was demolished to make way for a two storey, cream brick extension to accommodate banquet and dressing rooms.

In 2004/2005 this extension was upgraded to become the Murray Bridge Regional Art Gallery. In 2010 the Town Hall re-opened after a $4 million upgrade to become a fully equipped performing and visual arts centre.

Murray Bridge Hotel

The site of the Murray Bridge Hotel, located on the corner of Sixth and Fifth Street was once Mrs Cornish’s Murray Bridge Coffee Palace, established in the late 1880’s. It was considered to be one of the most important structures in town and a popular place of residence.

SA Brewing bought the building in December 1913 and a new hotel was opened. In 1920 the hotel was leased to the Leah family who operated the hotel until 1996. The hotel has undergone various renovations and additions over the years including the addition of a single story on Fifth Street in 1926 and a second story and veranda added in 1930.

Early Architecture

Many historic Murray Bridge homes have been constructed with Murray Bridge Freestone, also known as Murray Bridge Limestone. The Stone has been quarried and used as a building stone since the early 1880’s and was initially produced from several quarries in and around Murray Bridge.

The local limestone is featured in a number of prominent Adelaide buildings, including the Art Gallery of South Australia (1936) the South Australian Museum (1908-15), Bonython Hall (1933) and in the spire of St Peters Cathedral (1901)

The stone has been used extensively in Murray Bridge in various residences and prominent buildings including the Murray Bridge Hotel, Railway Station and the Murray Bridge Town Hall.

Railway Terrace

Following the opening of the bridge in 1879, Murray Bridge became a busy railway town and Railway Terrace was a thriving hub of activity.

One of the original buildings, now the Murray Bridge Studio Gallery located at 8 Railway Terrace was built around 1890 and is another fine example of historic architecture. The building housed a general store, millinery on the top floor and bakery at the rear.

A Mr Phillips who ran a general store at Callington bought the building in 1904 and continued operations as a general store until 1948.

Railway Station

The Murray Bridge Railway Station and Refreshment Rooms, were completed in 1886 and this impressive building is typical of architecture from that era.

Located at 3-5 Railway Terrace, the station played an integral part in the early days with Murray Bridge becoming the main locomotive depot and administration centre between Adelaide and the Victorian border.

The refreshment rooms were re-modelled in 1936 and the platform was extended in 1967 to allow the Melbourne Express to stop. By 1983 control of the railway signals and points were handled from Adelaide, and the Murray Bridge transport connection faded into railway history.

Post Office History

From around 1873 bridge workers collected mail from a workman’s store located on the flats of what is now part of the historic Wharf Precinct. The postal service was moved to the Round House in 1880. Mail was received from Adelaide three times a week either by pack horse or horse drawn vehicle. This increased to a daily despatch and receipt, by coach in 1883. From June 1885, the Postal Office was conducted in a building on the railway platform. By 1887 a mail service between Murray Bridge and Mannum by steamer was established.

Remaining on display is one of the original granite hitching posts used to tether horses.

Murray Bridge Historic Transport Precinct

Murray Bridge played an important part in South Australian rail and transportation history.

Following the discovery of gold in the 1850's, the Murray River became an important trading route between South Australia and the eastern states. As river boats travelled the river, Murray Bridge began to grow.

The first bridge to cross the Murray was opened in 1879, which was soon followed by the arrival of the Adelaide to Murray Bridge railway line in 1885.

In 1886 the Port of Mobilong was declared, construction of the Wharf commenced and the Adelaide to Melbourne railway was completed . It was during this time that a large railway complex was completed including the railway station, refreshment rooms and a goods shed. The complex also supported large railway yards containing engine running sheds, turntables and sidings.

Hundreds of men worked on the railways and wharfs during this time and required much needed accommodation. A Stationmaster’s residence and cottages was built within the complex, with additional cottages and barracks built later in 1910.

By 1910 over 35,000 tons of freight was transferred across the wharf between railway and boats with up to sixteen trains a day leaving Murray Bridge.

As river trade continued expanding the South Australian Railway’s facilities grew and supported it until 1925 when a new railway bridge was built across the River Murray for heavier and more powerful steam locomotives. A 70 metre tunnel was also cut under Bridge Street to avoid the need for a railway crossing.

Eventually the Murray Bridge railway yards were a victim of their own success. The site was constrained by the township, river banks, and cliffs, and further growth was impossible. The South Australian Railways decided to relocate the locomotive running sheds to Tailem Bend in 1926.

The Historic Transport precinct was declared a State Heritage place in 2015 and is a rare example of a Railway complex that contains the following remnants and infrastructure

  • Bridge-keeper's house (the Roundhouse) -1874
  • Refreshment rooms with art deco interior -1880’s
  • Edge Moor Iron Co. of Delaware USA turntable -1883
  • Station Master’s (Foreman’s) residence -1883
  • Disused railway cutting including broad gauge tracks  -1885
  • Timber railway cottage with annexes  -1887
  • Train control buildings with annexes and outhouses
  • Timber SAR Institute
  • SARI tennis courts
  • Stone railway barracks -1910
  • Four stone railway cottages  -1910
  • Three Webb era reinforced concrete railway cottages
  • Railway station building 1915
  • Historic billboards (last ones in SA)
  • Tunnel for new bridge constructed using cut-and-cover method -1920’s
  • Broad gauge tracks along wharf siding and in yard
  • Water column
  • Fences constructed of 1880s rails

The Round House

The Historic Round House was completed by the South Australian Government in 1876 for Mr Henry Parker, superintendent overseeing the construction of the first road bridge to cross the Murray River.

The first substantial building in Murray Bridge, it was constructed of local sandstone, contains 14 rooms, a cellar and outbuildings.

It played a significant part in the early history and development of the township. On completion of the bridge in 1879 The Round House served for several years as a community building, a school, post office, church and council chambers until it was returned to the South Australian Railways around 1986. The Round House remained the property of the Railways until 1988 when it was purchased by the Rural City of Murray Bridge.

Today, this unusual and distinctive hexagonal residence provides spectacular views of the river and bridges.  State Heritage and National Estate listed, this building has been lovingly restored and is maintained by local volunteers.

First European Settlers

In 1855 the region saw the arrival of the first European settlers. Mr. George Edwards, his wife Mary-Ann and seven children settled on a property which he called Coninka.

Two years after their arrival, George Edwards passed away leaving his wife to raise the family and develop newly acquired land. Mrs Edwards also established a place where overlanders could obtain a meal.

The property was near what is known today as Hume Reserve, just north of the two bridges. Stock swam across the river near the Edwards’ house, and the place came to be known as Edwards Crossing. At the same time, the site was also known as the Turn-Off, because drovers would divert from the north to Adelaide, cross the river, or follow the river south.

The first 25 allotments were laid out and subsequently gazetted on the 19th October 1854, with the first lots being put up for auction in Adelaide on the 16th November 1854.

The Bridges

Prior to the construction of the road bridge, the only reliable way to cross the Murray was via the two punts operating at Wellington, 22 miles south east of Murray Bridge.  Drovers also had the choice of crossing their stock at Thompsons Crossing (Swanport), Woods Crossing or Edwards Crossing (Murray Bridge).

By 1864, a proposal to build a bridge across the Murray was raised in parliament. Both Edwards Crossing and Wellington were considered as favourable sites, however after much deliberation and after the quotation for a bridge at Edwards Crossing came in at half the cost of one at Wellington, Edwards Crossing was eventually chosen.

The Bridge had been ordered before the location was finalised. It arrived in pre-fabricated form from England in early 1868, but it went into storage at Dry Creek for seven years while the deliberation continued.

In 1874 a Bill for a railway to the Murray was introduced into the Assembly. Originally opposed, the Bill was finally passed and the future of the Bridge at Edwards Crossing was assured.

Construction finally began in 1873 and a year later the construction engineer was told that the road bridge was  required to also carry a railway as part of the inter-colonial network. The super structure was then strengthened to cater for the railway.

The Murray Bridge took six years to construct and was completed in March 1879. It was a major engineering feat and the first bridge to span the mighty Murray anywhere in Australia. It is nearly 2,000 feet long (600 metres) and is Heritage listed.

Murray Bridge became a busy railway town and with pedestrians, stock and rail all using the bridge it wasn’t long before the multiple use of the bridge caused problems. These problems often caused long delays for trains, due to accidents and closures.

By 1921, an average of 15 trains crossed the bridge  per day and during wheat hauling periods that number greatly increased, adding additional delays for pedestrians and stock crossing.

Questions were raised over the safety and increased loads crossing the bridge. In 1923 it was announced that a new rail bridge was to be constructed and no longer would vehicles and trains be required to share the original bridge.

Designed, manufactured and assembled in South Australia. Over 500 men were employed to build the new bridge and construction progressed at a rapid rate with it opening in November 1925.

The third or eastern span is the longest, 240ft as against 185ft of the 2 western spans resulting in a different design to maintain the required strength. The longer span passes over the navigation channel – on the other side of the wharf – to give clearance between passing traffic, steamers and barges unloading at the wharf.

Wharf Precinct

The Port of Mobilong was declared in 1886 and was one of the largest and busiest ports in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Port Mobilong took the bulk of the trade from Mannum and became the terminal for shipping downstream of Morgan. Handling around 200 steamers and barges each year, with wool, grain and fruit from up-river unloaded and transferred by rail to Adelaide or Melbourne. In return general goods and hardware were off-loaded and delivered by the steamers.

In 1919 over 35,000 tonnes in freight was trans-shipped across the wharf, with up to 16 trains departing daily.

During the 1920s and 1930s more wheat was moved across the Murray Bridge wharf than at any other South Australian regional port.

At its peak, the port boasted a wharf structure about 350 metres long with two railway lines along its entire length. More than six cranes were used for the transfer of freight, and such was the volume of traffic that up to 16 trains a day would come and go.

By 1930 the river trade had all but dried up. The wharf continued after that date, but mainly for the carrying of milk to the cheese factory in Murray Bridge. Up until 1940 Murray Bridge was home  base for a fleet of government boats and barges. The Wharf was operational up until 1930. It wasn’t until 1983 when structures including the Milk factory were demolished.

Today the wharf is only one quarter of its original length and one crane remans. A railway loading platform and a section of the line are still on site. This area now forms part of a State Heritage Precinct.

Old Steam Locomotive Train

The Rx 160 Steam Locomotive is displayed alongside the Wharf was built by the South Australian Railways in 1913.

The Rx-class locomotive were assigned to both passenger and freight duties until the arrival of larger locomotives in the 1920's, after which they settled in to branch line, suburban and shunting roles. In this capacity they lasted until the end of regular SAR steam operations.

The Rx 160 was among the final members of the class remaining on the SAR books when condemned on 21 August 1969.

The 1956 Flood

Located on the pylon of the railway bridge is a marker that represents the waterline during the 1956 floods.

The largest flood ever recorded in the state occurred due to higher than average rainfalls in Queensland along with heavy rains three months prior in New South Wales. The floods peaked at 12.3 metres in Morgan and the flood waters reached Murray Bridge in August 1956.  The region wasn’t left unscathed, with some areas along the Murray flooding up to 100 km from the natural flow of the river.

Sturt Reserve

Sturt reserve was officially opened along with the unveiling of the Sturt Memorial on January 25th 1930. The reserve was named after Captain Charles Sturt, who was the first European into the area.

Sturt Reserve was home to the wharf precinct, railway tent villages, swamplands, grazing flats and the wharf precinct.

Details of the Riverboat Trail can be found at Sturt Reserve. Following the demise of the riverboat trade many of the old river boat beauties were destroyed, came to grief or left to rest in their watery graves. The Riverboat Trail commences at the lower end of the River and travels upstream.

A popular visitor attraction, The Bunyip can be found 700 metres along the river path. The mechanical creature was built in 1972 by locals wishing to depict the legend shared by Aboriginal people. To the local Ngarrindjeri, the Bunyip is the Mulyawonk. The word bunyip has its origins from the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Aboriginal people of South-Eastern Australia.

The Murray Cods

Founded in 1909 the Murray Bridge Rowing Club is one of South Australia’s oldest and most successful rowing clubs and home to the Murray Cods.

The Cods were the Murray Bridge rowing team that represented Australia in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. The team attached a stuffed Murray cod to the bow of their boat as their mascot. In these early days of the modern Olympic Games, the Olympics were open only to amateur sportspeople. The Murray Bridge team of rowers was made up of men from a number of professions: many worked on the railways, one was a storekeeper and another, a postal worker.

A documentary, Paris or the Bush was released in 2016 and tells the story of the men’s eight rowing team from Murray Bridge that overcame multiple hurdles to qualify for the Games.

1830     The first European into the area was Captain Charles Sturt.

1854     River trade begins                              

1856     George Edwards and his family arrive                                    

1873     The Round House built

1879     The first bridge to crosses the  Murray was completed

1882     Reclaiming of swamplands commences

1883     The original township was laid out in 1883 and was called Mobilong.

1884     The Bridgeport Hotel built overlooking the Bridge and Murray River

1885     The Railway reaches Murray Bridge

1886     Railway Station and Refreshment rooms open

1886     Construction commences for the Murray Bridge Wharf

Port Mobilong was declared  as part of the province

1886     The first Train crosses the bridge

1887     Population 400 Houses 70

1892     The river trade sees 80 steamers and 100 Barges in operation

1897     The Pumphouse built

1901     Murray Bridge ceases as a customs port

1911     Town Hall opened

1914     Record River Low

Milk factory built

The Coffee Palace opens (Now Murray Bridge Hotel)          

1919     New Mill opens and supplies   Electricity to Murray Bridge

1924     The Murray Cods to Paris for Olympics

The township became known as Murray Bridge

1925     The Railway Bridge opened

1930     Sturt Reserve opened

1942     Ngarrindjeri forced off Hume Reserve which was the last permanent camp site

1956     Record flood peaking at 4mtrs

1979     Swanport Bridge opens