Gilbert River (South Australia)
Bridge over the Gilbert River at Saddleworth
|Origin||Near Manoora, South Australia|
|Mouth||Confluence with Light River near Hamley Bridge|
It trends a broad and shallow valley through mainly undulating country, flowing south through Saddleworth, Riverton, Tarlee then southwest through Stockport and Hamley Bridge. It merges with the Light River just downstream of Hamley Bridge. The Light River continues west to Gulf St Vincent.
Characteristic with many Mid North streams, the Gilbert can entirely cease flowing in summer, yet be a swirling and dangerous torrent after flooding rains. Grain cropping and grazing are carried out along its banks, which are mainly low and open.
The river lies within the traditional lands of the indigenous Ngadjuri people, but their name for the river is unknown. Although there has never been a valid attribution for it, the European discoverer of the river is believed to be John Hill in early April 1839. Hill named it after Colonial Storekeeper Thomas Gilbert who was responsible for all government stores. The first mention of the river is by explorer Edward John Eyre. When he crossed the river in May 1839 on his northern expedition he acknowledged it was already named the Gilbert. The river was a source of fresh water for the settlements that soon followed, scattered along its banks.
The earliest pioneers were obliged to ford the river, but following the founding of the Burra mines in 1846 the Great North Road (later named the Main North Road) between Adelaide and Gawler was extended to Burra. This took over a decade to construct and included the first bridges over the Gilbert, most being built in the early to mid 1850s.
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