Lower course of the Darling River at Menindee
|State||New South Wales|
|Part of||Murray River, Murray-Darling basin|
|- left||Barwon River, Little Bogan River|
|- right||Culgoa River, Warrego River, Paroo River|
|Cities||Bourke, Wilcannia, Menindee, Wentworth|
|Source||confluence of Barwon and Culgoa Rivers|
|- location||near Brewarrina, NSW|
|- elevation||119 m (390 ft)|
|Mouth||confluence with Murray River|
|- location||Wentworth, NSW|
|- elevation||35 m (115 ft)|
|Length||1,472 km (915 mi)|
|- average||100 m3/s (3,530 cu ft/s) approx.|
The Darling River is the third longest river in Australia, measuring 1,472 kilometres (915 mi) from its source in northern New South Wales to its confluence with the Murray River at Wentworth, New South Wales. Including its longest contiguous tributaries it is 2,844 km (1,767 mi) long, making it the longest river system in Australia.
The Darling River is the outback's most famous waterway. The Darling has been in poor health, suffering from overuse of its waters, pollution from pesticide runoff and prolonged drought. In some years it has barely flowed at all. The river has a high salt content and declining water quality. Increased rainfall in its catchment in 2010 has improved flow, but the health of the river will depend on long-term management.
The Queensland headwaters of the Darling (the area now known as the Darling Downs) were gradually colonised from 1815 onward. In 1828 the explorer Charles Sturt and Hamilton Hume were sent by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Ralph Darling, to investigate the course of the Macquarie River. He discovered the Bogan River and then, early in 1829, the upper Darling, which he named after the Governor. In 1835, Major Thomas Mitchell travelled a 483 km portion of the Darling River. Although his party never reached the junction with the Murray River he correctly assumed the rivers joined.
In 1856, the Blandowski Expedition set off for the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers to discover and collect fish species for the National Museum. The expedition was a success with 17,400 specimens arriving in Adelaide the next year.
Although its flow is extraordinarily irregular (the river dried up on no fewer than forty-five occasions between 1885 and 1960), in the later 19th century the Darling became a major transportation route, the pastoralists of western New South Wales using it to send their wool by shallow-draft paddle steamer from busy river ports such as Bourke and Wilcannia to the South Australian railheads at Morgan and Murray Bridge. But over the past century the river's importance as a transportation route has declined.
In 1992, the Darling River suffered from severe cyanobacterial bloom that stretched the length of the river. The presence of phosphorus was essential for the toxic algae to flourish. Flow rates, turbulence, turbidity and temperature were other contributing factors.
The whole Murray-Darling river system, one of the largest in the world, drains all of New South Wales west of the Great Dividing Range, much of northern Victoria and southern Queensland and parts of South Australia. Its meandering course is three times longer than the direct distance it traverses.
Much of the land that the Darling flows through are plains and is therefore relatively flat, having an average gradient of just 16 mm per kilometre. Officially the Darling begins between Brewarrina and Bourke at the confluence of the Culgoa and Barwon rivers; streams whose tributaries rise in the ranges of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales west of the Great Dividing Range. These tributaries include the Balonne River (of which the Culgoa is one of three main branches) and its tributaries; the Macintyre River and its tributaries such as the Dumaresq River and the Severn Rivers (there are two - one either side or the state border); the Gwydir River; the Namoi River; the Castlereagh River; and the Macquarie River. Other rivers join the Darling near Bourke or below - the Bogan River, the Warrego River and Paroo River.
South east of Broken Hill, the Menindee Lakes are a series of lakes that were once connected to the Darling River by short creeks. The Menindee Lake Scheme has reduced the frequency of flooding in the Menindee Lakes. As a result about 13,800 hectares of lignum and 8,700 hectares of Black box have been destroyed. Weirs and constant low flows have fragmented the river system and blocked fish passage.
The Barrier Highway at Wilcania, the Silver City Highway at Wentworth and the Broken Hill railway line at Medindee, all cross the Darling River. Part of the river north of Menindee marks the border of Kinchega National Park. In response to the 1956 Murray River flood a weir was constructed at Menindee to mitigate flows from the Darling River.
Navigation by steam boat to Brewarrina was first achieved in 1859. Brewarrina was also the location of inter-tribal meetings for Indigenous Australians who speak Darling and live in the river basin. Ancient fish traps in the river provided food for feasts. These heritage listed rock formations have been estimated at more than 40,000 years old making them the oldest man-made structure on the planet.
In popular culture
The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
Death and ruin are everywhere;
And all that is left of the last year's flood
Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;
The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
And this is the dirge of the Darling River.—Henry Lawson
- "(Australia's) Longest Rivers". Geoscience Australia. 16 October 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- Sally Macmillan (24 January 2009). "Darling River townships offer historic route". The Courier-Mail (Queensland Newspapers). Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- D. W. A. Baker (1967). "Mitchell, Sir Thomas Livingstone (1792 - 1855)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Publishing. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
- "Blandowski, William (1822 - 1878)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
- "Algal Blooms". CSIRO Land and Water. 28 January 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- Matthew Franklin (9 January 2010). "Wong slaps down critics of $23m Darling River water purchase". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "Surface Water Resources". Murray Darling Basin Commission. 29 October 2006. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
- "The Darling River". Central Darling Shire Council. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "Menindee Lakes". Discovering the Darling. Murray Darling Environmental Foundation. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- Lawson, Henry. "The Darling River". Classic Reader. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
- "The Darling River". Bourke Shire Council. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to
- "Macquarie-Bogan River catchment" (map). Office of Environment and Heritage. Government of New South Wales.
- "Barwon, Darling and Far Western catchments" (map). Office of Environment and Heritage. Government of New South Wales.
- "A river runs through it" Daily Telegraph article - 6 June 2007
- Photos of the Darling/Barwon river between Brewarrina and Bourke, taken over 2003-2006. Flickr