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River crossings


Could you please give details of river crossings in the first part of Burke and Wills journey, e.g.  from Swan Hill  where did they cross the Murray and what would be the name of the punt and the name of the crossing?

Aileen Howard

Dear Aileen,

Deep Creek at Bulla:
On the third day after leaving Royal Park in Melbourne, Wednesday 22 August 1860, the expedition crossed the Deep Creek at Bulla on the original wooden bridge which had been built in 1859.

Bolinda Creek:
Their next creek crossing was later the same day when they crossed the Bolinda Creek.

Deep Creek at Lancefield:
On 23 August they crossed the Deep Creek again, this time at the original wooden bridge at the town of Lancefield, which was then situated on the northern bank of Deep Creek.

Wild Duck Creek between Mia Mia and Knowsley:
On 27 August Becker described that they marched "via Wild Duck Creek to Matheson’s. With some difficulty we got the Camels through the Creek, they never before went through water worth mentioning." This creek crossing is now flooded as part of Lake Eppalock.

Campaspe River at Barnadown:
On 28 August they crossed the Campaspe at Barnadown via Edmund Kennedy's punt. The Bendigo Advertiser described the punt crossing as "a tedious, if not dangerous proceeding," and it took most of the afternoon to get the men, wagons, horses and camels across. The artist George Lacy painted the scene in Burke and Wills Expedition at the Campaspe near Barnadown, 1860.

Loddon River at Kerang:
On 4 September the expedition crossed the Loddon at the original crossing point at Kerang, which is a few kilometres south of the present town.

Murray River at Swan Hill:
On 11 September they crossed the Murray at Swan Hill and camped on the northern bank. They used the punt which crossed the river where the bridge stands today. Burke's despatch explains that the punt usually cost 2/6 for a horse and 15/- for a wagon, however "the camels and horses were taken over at a reduced charge of 2/ each, the wagons at the ordinary rate."

Wakool River at Kyalite:
The expedition arrived at the Wakool at Kyalite at 8.00 pm on 13 September and the men crossed the river on the punt so they could have dinner at Henry Talbett's Wakool Hotel. It took four hours for the horses, camels and wagons to cross the river on Talbett's punt the next morning. The expedition's artist, Ludwig Becker, sketched the scene and his picture, Wakool River, near Talbets, 14 Sept. 60, shows the punt crossing the river. Burke paid Talbett £9.6.0 for provisions and portage across the river, but he lost the receipt and wrote to a despatch to the Exploration Committee explaining the situation.

Murrumbidgee River at Balranald:
On 15 September the expedition reached the Murrumbidgee at Balranald. At 4.00 pm that afternoon the men, camels and two wagons crossed the river on the punt. The punt was at the end of what is now Mayall Street and Becker described it as "wretched." The remaining five wagons crossed the river the following morning, and the Second-in-command, George Landells, later recalled that some of the stores were damaged by water during the crossing because Burke had "rushed" the wagons across, so it seems Burke gave up trying to get the wagons on the "wretched punt" and hauled them through the river. Landells also mentioned one of the camels had a potentially serious accident while Wills was supervising it disembarking from the punt and he feared for the animals' safety.

Darling River at Kinchega:
On 10.00 am on 14 October, Burke and the lead party of the expedition with the pack-horses swam across the Darling. They crossed from the east bank to the west bank at the river bend below Kinchega Station, just south of Menindee. Landells and the rear party with the camels crossed the Darling at the same spot the following day. The wagons had been left behind at Phelp's Tarcoola Station by this stage, so they never crossed the Darling and never got to Menindee.


Kennedy's Punt by George Strafford

Kennedy's Punt, Campaspe River
George Straffod, Melbourne: George Slater, May 1860, H4955, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Wakool River, near Talbets by Ludwig Becker

Wakool River, near Talbet's by Ludwig Becker.
14 September 1860, H16486, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria.

* Dr Ludwig Becker (Edited by Dr Marjorie Tipping), Ludwig Becker: Artist and naturalist with the Burke and Wills expedition. Carlton: Melbourne University Press on behalf of the Library Council of Victoria, 1979.
* Bendigo Advertiser, 30 August 1860, p.2.
* George Lacy, Burke and Wills Expedition at the Campaspe near Barnadown, 1860 [picture], c.1860, National Library of Australia. View image HERE.
* George Strafford sketched Kennedy's Punt on the Campaspe in May 1860. It was published in the News Letter of Australasia, No. 45, 1860. View image HERE
* Robert O'Hara Burke, despatch, dated Swan Hill, 12 September 1860, Box 2082/1a, Item 7, MS 13071, State Library of Victoria.
* Ludwig Becker, Wakool River, near Talbets, 14 Sept. 60 [picture] / L. Becker. Accession number: H16486, Image b36036, State Library of Victoria. View image HERE
* Robert O'Hara Burke, despatch, dated Balranald, 16 September 1860, Box 2082/1a, Item 8, MS 13071, State Library of Victoria.