This page provides links to a number of resources about long distance paddling and rowing journeys on the rivers of Australia's Murray-Darling Basin. Further information will be added to this site over time.
The Book: Murray-Darling Journeys
Two hundred years of significant rowing and paddling journeys on the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin: 1817 to 2016
Murray-Darling Journeys explores the history of significant canoe, kayak and rowboat journeys, on the rivers of Australia's Murray-Darling Basin over the last 200 years. This book provides a comprehensive listing of over 430 published accounts covering journeys of exploration, surveying journeys related to the paddle steamer trade, gold rush journeys, depression era journeys, recreational and fund raising journeys. Most of these journeys are on the Murray River with a significant number on the Murrumbidgee River and the Darling River. Some of the most interesting and arduous journeys are those that start on the more minor tributaries such as the Barwon River, the Lachlan River and the Macquarie River. The book brings back to life long-forgotten journeys that are a reflection of the times in which they occurred. Each entry includes interesting facts about the journeys themselves and, where available, information about the fascinating characters involved in such journeys. Also included are a map, a list of river distances, a bibliography and an extensive list of references.
This book will appeal to people interested in a different aspect of the history of the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin. It will also appeal to canoeists, adventurers and those who dream of doing such trips.
Vivid Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-925590-52-4
Flexicover, 288 pages
$32.95 plus $6 postage within Australia
The book is set out chronologically. Chapters cover different periods of time. Each chapter has an introduction that talks about the types of journeys conducted in that time period as well as highlighting some of the more interesting or unusual journeys (e.g. see sample page 91). The rest of the chapter lists the individual journeys (e.g. see sample pages 65, 108-9).
About the Authors
Angela and Mike Bremers are daughter and dad.
Angela loves history. She has written a master’s thesis on the subject of this book. During her research for her thesis, she discovered many interesting stories about real people, past and present, on the rivers and thought that the people and their stories deserved a place in history.
Mike has paddled his kayak along the length of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and parts of several other rivers mentioned in the book. As a dad, over the years, he often took his family along for the camping part of his journeys. He has encouraged many others who have wanted to travel the rivers.
More than a book: Murray-Darling Journeys is a fascinating compendium of the hundreds of river journeys made during the past two hundred years....The list of hilarious, and some not so funny tales, is a long one, and makes the book a fascinating read. The book is bound to make an ideal Christmas present, appealing to a broad range of readers, particularly those interested in the history of river journeys. John D, Mildura Weekly, 27 Oct 2017. Click for the full review part 1, part 2
Mike has collaborated with his daughter Angela to produce a fascinating book which is really a story of a little-known aspect of our history. Jenny H, CBC Newsletter, Oct 2017. Click here for the full review.
I particularly like the way that your list of stories opens out, in a really idiosyncratic and delightful way, to the broader history of contemporary Australia. Through the lens of the many anecdotes of the water-born excursions you give here, one sees Australian history anew, and from a particularly personal angle: from the horror of indigenous dispossession and slaughter –as instanced by poor Tom Pierce and his 6 year odyssey to avoid killing his own and find somewhere in pioneer Australia he might feel safe—to the stories of white exploration; to the goldminers and the depression folk using the river as means of escape; to the war-weary who find in it some comfort. The stories also sometimes give a sense of the tribulations of rural life—as when that group of water police are able to travel for 3 days without seeing land at all on the Namoi river in full flood! And the intimation of domestic brutality you get from the story of the Trezise family peregrinations. Arthur O. Click here for the full review.
Book arrived last week and I read it cover to cover over the weekend. Congratulations, it’s a great read. Bill M., 2017
I lent my copy to somebody and they won't give it back. Bill M., 2019
While very well written and presented, this is not the sort of fireside reading many readers would knock off at a single go, but I do believe it is the sort of book readers will keep coming back to as they ponder various aspects of Australian history since European settlement, and the changing conditions over time faced by settlers and travellers along the rivers. It is also a most attractively presented book that I for one would be very happy to have just sitting on my shelf. Max L, NPA(ACT) Bulletin Dec 2017. Click here for the full review.
It’s not only an enjoyable read but a comprehensive reference work to boot. There are over 430 accounts of journeys from exploration, surveying, the paddle steamer trade, recreation, the gold rush, the Great Depression to fund raising. .... From the humorous to the hair-raising, these journeys are a testament to the ingenuity and determination of our forebears. Often undertaken with little knowledge of what lay ahead, even fewer resources and no fear. Tony C. Click here for the full review.
My Father is in the book, a great read and well researched!! John R. Comment on post dated 22 Aug 2019 https://www.facebook.com/murraydarlingjourneys/
Murray-Darling Journeys is also available a number of Visitor Centres within the Murray-Darling Basin. The following is a list of Visitor Centres that are likely to have stocks of the book: Brewarrina, Bourke, Balranald, Gundagai, Renmark, Echuca, Rutherglen, Berri, Mannum. The book also is available at Book Keeper Strathalbyn and the Goolwa National Trust Museum.
Captain Francis Cadell was one of the pioneers of the Murray River paddlesteamer trade. In 1852 prior to starting up his steamer business he and four men he recruited from the Bendigo goldfields rowed a canvas boat, the "Forerunner", down the Murray River from near Swan Hill to Wellington (about 1300 km) to determine the navigability for paddlesteamers. After the first day they waterproofed the canvas of the boat with fat from their evening meal. Read more about Cadell and his other rowing journeys on the rivers in "Murray-Darling Journeys"http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/murraydarlingjourneys/
Photo: The "Forerunner" at Cockenzie House, Scotland, Cadell's birthplace, State Library of SA, B 13507
Edward Forde was in charge of a government survey party of the Darling River in 1865-6. Forde's wife Helena, an artist, accompanied the party. Unfortunately both Edward and Helena contracted typhoid fever. Edward died at Menindee on 20 June 1866, 152 years ago today. Helena recovered and died in 1910. For further details of the Forde expedition see "Murray-Darling Journeys" http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/murraydarlingjourneys/
Image: Helena Forde's sketch of the lower Darling River. Note the boats tied to the bank and the horse crossing the shallow Darling River. "Darling River near 'Para', camp 4 looking down river", 9 Nov. 1865, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, FL1105901
In 1895 Dr and Mrs Clark rowed a "canoe" down the Macintyre, Barwon, Darling and Murray Rivers from Goondiwindi on the QLD border to Goolwa taking 8 months for the 3000+ km journey. It was a rough trip down to Walgett with fallen trees, "waterfalls" and rocky bars. Sometimes it was necessary to empty the canoe and "sink it" to get under fallen timber. At Wilcannia they were met by eight of the rowing club's boats and escorted into town. Unfortunately, the Darling River has much lower flows these days so the Clark's journey is an epic reminder of what once was possible on a more regular basis. Read more about this journey in "Murray-Darling Journeys". http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/murraydarlingjourneys/
Photo: The Clarks in their canoe "Snipe" on the Darling River in 1895, The Queenslander, 21 Dec 1895, page 1179
A great Australian from a hundred years ago. George Morrison paddled down the Murray River from Albury in 1880-81 when aged 18. At the end of the journey he walked from The Coorong back to his home in Geelong. A few years later he walked solo from the Gulf of Carpenteria to Melborne, turning 21 along the way. He described this journey as "a pleasant excursion". After more adventures he graduated as a doctor and eventually became a correspondent for the London "Times" newspaper based in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion. He was so successful in this role that the British Foreign Office often received news about what was going on a day or more after the "Times" received the news. Read more about Morrison and his adventures in "Murray- Darling Journeys" http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/murraydarlingjourneys/
Photo: George Morrison aged 19 in 1881, State Library of NSW, PX*D 153/vol. 2, a742002
In the 1890's James and Mary Trevor rowed from Bourke down the Darling River and then up the Murray River - a distance of almost 3000 km. James painted river scenes - this one of Koondrook on the Murray River, State Library of Victoria H37813. Further details of the Trevors and their journey can be found in "Murray-Darling Journeys". http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/murraydarlingjourneys/
Murray River upstream of Tom Groggin. This section of river is very remote but very beautiful. Journeys on the Murray River from the source to Tom Groggin are very infrequent and only a handful of these people have done it as part of a journey from source to sea. Castrission, Jones and Crawley did it in 2000 and Wellington in 2009/16. Moody and Co did it in the 1980's although most of their journey was in motorised craft. The Kenyons also did it in 2003 with some motorised assistance. Hunter and Bremers completed their source to sea in 2017/8.
Mike's Kayaking Journeys
Mike's 2540 km kayak journey down the length of the Murray from source to sea conducted between 1995 and 2017 including hiking and rafting the top 150 km of the river.
Mike's 1000 km kayak journey down the Macintyre/Barwon River during 2022
Journeys by Others and Other links
Ro Privett's guide for those who wish to undertake a long kayak or canoe journey down the Murray River