Goyder's Line

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Satellite image of vegetation and desert in South Australia. George Goyder provided advice as to the geographic limits of crop growing in South Australia.

Goyder's Line is a boundary line across South Australia corresponding to a rainfall boundary believed to indicate the edge of the area suitable for agriculture. North of Goyder's Line, the rainfall is not reliable enough, and the land is only suitable for grazing and not cropping. The line traces a distinct change in vegetation. To the south, it is composed mainly of mallee scrub whilst to the north salt-bush. In general Goyder's Line represents the demarcation of a long-term rainfall average of 10 inches (254mm).


Approximation of Goyder's Line within South Australia

With barely 30 years' knowledge of this new country to go on, farmers needed reliable information. In 1865 George Goyder, the state's surveyor-general at the time, was asked to map the boundary between those areas receiving rainfall and those experiencing drought. After traversing an estimated 3200 km on horseback (not including Eyre Peninsula) in November 1865, he forwarded his report and map to the state government on 6 December. The map with its line of demarcation indicated areas north of the line were "liable to drought" with areas to the south deemed arable.[1] He discouraged farmers from planting crops north of his line, declaring this land suitable only for light grazing. However farmers were optimistic. 1865 was a year of bumper rains, so many ignored Goyder and headed north, starting farms and planting crops. Just a few years later many had to abandon their farms. Goyder was proven correct and the land was indeed unsuitable for crops. Many farmhouse ruins can still be seen near Goyder's line.

There have been periods of development north of the line, but invariably nature has won out. Entire towns and farms were abandoned when there was a return to longer-term average rainfall. The line has proven remarkably accurate, an amazing feat since it was surveyed in just two months in 1865 by Goyder, then the surveyor-general of South Australia.

Goyder's Line starts on the west coast near Ceduna and goes south-east across Eyre Peninsula to strike Spencer Gulf near Arno Bay. It continues from near Moonta north to Crystal Brook and Orroroo then south-east past Peterborough and Burra to the Victorian border near Pinnaroo, crossing the Murray River south of Blanchetown. Much of the land immediately north of the line is covered by saltbush. Agriculture is possible near the Murray River further upstream only because of irrigation using water drawn from the Murray.

It is possible to see the approximate path of Goyder's Line when flying over this area as the change in flora is very distinct.

Detail of memorial cairn near Redhill, South Australia showing a map of Goyder's Line within the southern portion of South Australia

Cultural significance[edit]

Goyder's Line became a National Trust of Australia Heritage Icon in 2003, joining other South Australian icons such as Humphrey B. Bear, brush fencing, Stobie poles and Penfolds Grange Hermitage wine.

The Goyder Line was also mentioned in the Redgum song "Virgin Ground" from the 1980 album of the same name, and their song "Spark of the Heart" from their 1984 album Frontline.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heathcote, R A (1981). DJ and SGM Carr, ed. "Goyder's Line". People and Plants in Australia (Academic Press). 
  • Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Australian Places. Reader's Digest. p. 538. ISBN 0864383991. 
  • Meinig, D.W. (1970). On The Margins Of The Good Earth: The South Australian Wheat Frontier, 1869-1884. Rigby. 

External links[edit]